“Jordan in scents and colors”, a titillating journey, e-book
“Jordan in scents and colors” this e-book, is brought to you by Jordan Desert Journeys, in collaboration with some of our guests.
With Jordan Desert Journeys you will experience Jordan intensely. Whenever possible, traveling ecologically.
In search of the soul of the nomadic Bedouin life.
- JDJ specializes in desert tours and retreats through the Wadi Rum, with horses, camels, on foot or by 4x4wheel.
- Are you looking for Jordan’s highlights and undiscovered gems? With a tailor-made trip, you can put a journey together according to your wishes and budget.
- Would you like to be surprised and join us on unique trips, then also take a look at the group trips with guest hostesses who organize a one-of-a-kind trip together with us.
- At JDJ you can choose from 16 different themes, which you can incorporate into your journey.
- JDJ offers examples of individual trips for small groups or individuals that you can sign up for.
- Or you can put together your own group and organize a tailor-made trip for the specific wishes of your group.
- Do you prefer to travel alone, and do you want to organize your trip well? With the exception of group travel, each travel option on the website can be made individually.
A small team makes every trip personal.
Through contacts with the population you naturally see the real face of Jordan.
Why travel with Jordan Desert Journeys?
Abdullah Al Zwaydeh is the connoisseur of the desert. Born and raised in the desert, he takes you into this vast desert, the Wadi Rum and around it and into his Bedouin life. Pure, basic, really like the Bedouin life in the desert. With great love for his animals.
Brenda van den Brink has been coming to Jordan since 2003 to settle there in 2009, in a tent in the desert. Now in a house with many stray animals around her.
In 2010, Abdullah and Brenda found each other to create and provide desert tours with guests. As of 2015, the website has come online and more types of travel have emerged organically.
Brenda has fallen in love with the desert, her passion is animals with the noble horse in the first place. Soon the elegant camels have been added and now even stray dogs that can walk with you through the desert. Animals can tell you so much in a telepathic way and through their behavior. They are also used during the retreats if it appeals to you. The therapies she already gave in the Netherlands are even more effective in the desert, which has an energetic effect on people. Bedouins who spend most of their lives in the desert have gained their wisdom through the silence and basic life in nature. The trips with Abdullah and Brenda arose out of that love for pure life and animals. And they are happy to share that with you. Often far away from the tourist routes.
Home in the desert
Do you feel at home in this “setting”, feel free to contact us to get acquainted before your trip through Jordan, or be inspired by the examples on the website.
Love from the desert,
Team Jordan Desert Journeys
Why this Jordan travel book?
To give you an impression of why other travelers choose Jordan. And especially to enjoy how they share their personal Jordan experiences in scents and colors. Their Jordan journey depicted and told in photos and stories.
You can follow in their footsteps or put together your own unique journey. With a smile on my face I enjoyed all the stories and relived many adventures.
To many questions that are regularly asked, you immediately get an answer about how someone has experienced this, such as:
- What is it like to spend more days in the desert.
- Can you travel alone to Jordan?
- The story of a mother-daughter journey.
- A retreat, how do I imagine that in the desert.
- Is Jordan a photogenic country?
- The experience of an overnight stay under the stars.
- Coming into contact with the women of Jordan.
- How can I imagine a horse or camel trip?
- Is Jordan worth diving?
- What is it like to travel through Jordan during Ramadan.
- How are animals treated in Jordan?
- And waste?
- Can you make a pilgrimage in Jordan?
- Volunteering as a mission.
- Can you really find the silence in the desert and relax there?
- How is Jordanian cuisine?
- Is your question not listed? In the FAQ Jordan you can read the frequently asked questions with answers.
The Jordan Desert Journeys team wishes you a happy reading. If you immediately feel like coming to Jordan, you can always contact us for all your questions or for travel advice.
– Co-Founder Jordan Desert Journeys, desert trips and retreats-
Table of contents in chapters
- Jordan in scents and colors – Brenda van den Brink
- Arabian Therapies in Jordan – Arjan Mulder
- Wadi Rum memories – Lisan Traas
- Reset with camels – Nynke Laverman
- The expectation and the pancake – Anika Redhed
- Christians and Muslims pilgrimage to the footprint of the same saint – Mariëtte van Beek
- Lord of the castle – Ada Rosman Kleinjan
- Diary fragments – Imke Ligthart
- Diving in the Red Sea – Debby van den Helder
- Afterglow factor 30 – Astrid de Bruin
- Nothing and yet everything – Dyenne Borst
- Sense Jordan – Hemera Margrieta
- Quest – Tamar Malinoff
- The taste of Jordan – Brenda van den Brink
1. JORDANIË IN SCENTS AND COLORS – BRENDA VAN DEN BRINK
A titillating journey
Let me start by expressing my gratitude to all those people who have made a candid contribution to this “travel book”. Everyone comes to Jordan for a different purpose and looks at the country with different eyes. Experience the country in your own unique way. You always hear a different story, one goes into details, the other puts something special in the light and yet another gives a global overview. This book is unique, written by several travelers who have been to Jordan.
In “Jordan in scents and colors” all these people form a beautifully colored palette. With different brushstrokes they create a diversity of Jordan experiences. Brought together into a colorful whole in the form of a book.
Each place has a specific scent that brings back a memory when this scent hits your nose or taste buds again. Because taste is a prominent sense for retaining memories, a few recipes are included at the end, to recall these specific smells and flavors at home again. Of course herbs and spice combinations play a major role in this.
The colors and scents and the combinations play an important role in memories. Actually all senses, including taste, sight, hearing, touch. Smelling lavender scent brings you back to the lavender fields, or to your wardrobe. A certain music that was once your favorite song on the radio takes you back in that time.
It’s the same with travel, you’ll be back in no time if you experience your journey with your senses in the “on” position.
Or you take Jordan with you in your heart to never lose the experience again.
Writing a book about Jordan together is a challenge and at the same time a connection of beautiful people who often do not know each other yet. One complements the other to create a versatile book about Jordan with multiple aspects that may appeal to you. Connection is certainly the key to the future in this special time. Unknown people on the street with whom you suddenly have an interesting conversation that immediately touches a depth where otherwise pleasantries are exchanged. The collaboration touches me deeply, all those people who have a warm heart for Jordan and without having to think about it immediately pick up the pen to share their experience and journey with you.
Versatile nature in Jordan
When you travel, you often spend more time outside than at home. Nature attracts and you definitely want to be in the sun or the warm climat. As a desert country in the Middle East, Jordan has a lot of both, while most cities have such a truly Arab atmosphere.
The country is rich in diversity. Every desert is different. From lovely red and yellow deserts in the south to dark black basalt deserts in the northeast. The mountains are different everywhere and mark an area. In old Moab you mainly see round yellow/beige shapes with deep valleys, speckled with green dots. You will also find many natural waterfalls and watercourses in the gorges. Moab borders the Dead Sea, the deepest point in the world with a lot of height difference. Edom, of which the current Petra was once the capital, has different colors, jagged almost impassable mountains. Where red, yellow and black are the main colours. Ammon, with Amman as its capital, is the most populous area of Jordan.
Outside of these areas you can see the green fertile north east of the Jordan River. To the south near Aqaba is the Red Sea, shrouded by the high and impassable looking purple mountains. And a beautiful color of corals and fish in the sea. Ahead of you, over the mountains to the south, you’ll find Saudi Arabia. West across a small strip of land lie Israel and Palestine. Southwest across the Red Sea is the Sinai Peninsula, which belongs to African Egypt. The mountains on either side hold the secrets that the Great Rift, of which the Dead Sea is a part, has already experienced. Will we ever find out what really happened here?
Jordan is like an old patchwork quilt. Although the country is “only” a bit more than a hundred years old, all colors, all patches are part of a larger whole that no modern border can stop. The original Bedouin tribes that lived in this area or roamed the deserts with their animals are still an important part of the population. In the course of hundreds of years, countless other peoples have settled in this area, designated as a safe haven, all of which have earned their place in Jordan’s society. Today’s Jordan is a colorful whole of peoples who live there for shorter or longer periods and who give Jordan a unique place in the world as a peaceful country next to Israel, which is labeled more as a western country in the midst of the Arab people. These words create a division that has been felt for more than a hundred years and continues to bring great suffering to the oppressed Palestinian population on a shrinking patch of land. Based on a few strokes of the pen over 100 years ago that changed the history of part of the earth. Jordan lets in anyone who has to flee their own country and welcomes people from all over the world who come to Jordan to work for a while or who want to stay longer. We now live in a time where history is ripe for rewriting. Although we don’t know the actual history yet, it will probably reveal a lot. My ideal is a peaceful future for all peoples who now live on this earth in the land where they feel at home.
Like we live in a different kind of society. People have always been very helpful here, but in these unprecedented times where much, sometimes yes, sometimes not, is possible, you notice an even greater helpfulness. Ultimately we will be able to achieve more together than alone and you are currently seeing all kinds of community initiatives all over the world popping up like mushrooms. Much is shared and exchanged so that more people can continue to lead their lives in these special times. I feel that a change is coming that will create a different worldview, worth not being able to work like before for over a year now. For me a lot came in return. Out of nowhere, stray dogs and cats were shown the way to my house. I can now say that I have a cat hotel with some lovely “watchdogs” right outside the door. I’m happy with them and it’s mutual.
This book is provided for free by Jordan Desert Journeys, it tells the different story about Jordan, through people who have visited the country. The heartwarming stories make me write with a big smile. I hope you enjoy reading the personal stories that Jordanin scents and colors puts on the map.
Love from the desert.
Brenda van den Brink
2. ARABIAN THERAPIES IN JORDAN – ARJAN MULDER
A beneficial environment, wonderful treatments, healthy food and people around me who make me feel completely at home. What else could I wish! Thank you Brenda for making me feel reborn!
I met Brenda for the first time in 2010. I did read her incredible story and I wanted to meet her in person. Because: which Dutch woman leaves her well-organized life behind to settle in the desert of Jordan? She had a successful beauty salon in the Netherlands, but then changed for a Bedouin life. I know a similar story from the books of the New Zealand women Marguerite van Geldermalsen, who lived with Bedouins in the desert city of Petra. Brenda’s story is just as special…
My first day in Wadi Rum, Brenda takes me into the desert right away. The car is stuffed with wellness items, a mattress and a stack of white towels, and we settled somewhere in the shade. November is still very hot in the desert. During my treatment Brenda explains it all: “For this Kasaath Hawa massage I use inverted glasses made vacuum over a fire. It is an ancient Arabic technique stimulating blood flow and my “Bedouin mother” taught it to me. The Khiaahh Milhh massage is done with stamps of unbleached cotton that are filled with Dead Sea salt and warm almond oil. Then I stimulate trigger points on your head, face, neck, shoulders and back.” When the sun has almost set we make a final pot of sage tea on an open fire in the desert, and we finish with a honey-Jade stone massage. How beautiful…
As a former wellness journalist I was always looking for unique treatments. Brenda specialized in Arabian therapies and it is wonderful to experience them in their original environment, here in Jordan, here in the desert. But it is soon clear to me that this environment and Brenda’s caring attention are at least as beneficial as the treatments themselves. How wonderful is this environment and this personal attention! As a bonus Brenda even takes me to Ma’in, where King Herod once enjoyed the thermal spring water.
Retreats in the desert
It’s December 2017 when I visit Brenda again, also to see more of this beautiful country of Jordan. Brenda arranges a tour with a local guide-driver. What a good choice! This is my third visit to Jordan with its countless antiquities, and surely not my last. My tour ends with a dessert retreat in Wadi Rum. As a preparation for the loneliness and harsh environment, I spend two nights in the freezing cold in the deserted mountain town of Dana, where Christmas dinner means falafel, humus and a salad. Enduring the howling cold winds at Dana makes me long for my desert retreat at Wadi Rum soon to come…
The hot desert of Wadi Rum will warm me quickly the next few days. The sun is burning as we prepare the camels for our journey. Brenda and the camels will take me into solitude for a few days and nights. We will be walking during the day and then sleep under the stars. It is the kind of experience that you will never forget: cooking on an open fire, first collecting the wood, hearing the sounds ánd the silence, looking at the stars for hours, philosophizing about life, in between learning all about nomadic life. A desert retreat is truly back-to-basic and a great source of tranquility. I wish everyone could experience this once in his life!
Zen and the art of camel riding
Brenda is just one with the camels. She can sense their mood and alines with it. Not forcing anything, just aline. For me they are just stubborn animals that could use a little guidance. But not for Brenda. We therefore ride in a caravan, where the animals are linked with ropes, Brenda leading from the front camel. When for a moment I try to walk the camels myself I notice how stubborn they are and I quickly get back in the row. It’s like in zen: sit still, don’t think, swing along with the animal and accept that Brenda and the camels are in the lead.
After three days of emptiness and nothing but sand and rocks, I can tell you how soothing a trip like this is. My thinking stopped, my senses completely opened and time did no longer exist. I-just-am. No thinking, les and less talking, just nothing. Just moving with the ship of the desert. Left, right, left, right — like the waves of the ocean. Such an authentic experience! Brenda, you are amazing. I’ll definitely return to Jordan and to you.
Tips: my desert adventure with Brenda also appears in my book ‘De dag dat Boeddha lachte’ (‘The day that Buddha laughed’ in Dutch)
And on the website of Reishonger.nl (Dutch)
3. WADI RUM MEMORIES – LISAN TRAAS
I was kind of born for adventure and my love for deserts started around the age of 22 when I volunteered in the Negev desert in Israel.
When my dear friend Brenda asked me to take care of her dog, horses and cats at her home in a desert village in the Wadi Rum for a few weeks, I didn’t have to think twice. What a wonderful prospect! An opportunity to see the Wadi Rum and to care for a Saluki, a beautiful dog that is still very close to its natural roots. A wonderful challenge… tasting the real desert life together with the animals.
Dependent on each other
No sooner said than done and after my arrival I was alone with Wurad the next day, whom I later renamed Prince Wurad because that was him. A real prince..
We were friends from the start and depended on each other. A daily walk in the morning where we explored the area and in the evening a walk of about an hour to get his food in the camp, and usually an hour back. (Sometimes we got a lift back to the village.) Straight through the desert and all alone always knowing that Wurad was close to me.
He knew the way and waited patiently for me, especially in the beginning when I was still adjusting to the heat and the sand dunes we had to clamber over. Wurad was my buddy with whom I shared everything for three and a half weeks. Even the bottle of water on the way…
I had put my bed outside because of the heat at the hottest time of the year. Wurad slept next to me and he preferred to crawl into bed with me, which he secretly did sometimes. In any case, he made sure that I only had to reach out my hand to know he was there. And vice versa…
Go through fire and water for each other
A pack of wild dogs lived close to home and after Wurad assured them that it was all right and that I belonged to him, they always let us walk through without any problems. Even when there were puppies I was allowed to get close and sometimes the puppies would be waiting in the morning for us to arrive. The presence of many wild dogs and other desert animals was a challenge in itself. Wurad and I went through fire and water for each other and so it happened that I once had to intervene for him in a fight with wild dogs and held him on my lap for a while until he had calmed down somewhat. Just in the middle of nowhere. There was a bond for life and afterlife…
Another time, when the pack close to home had a new male dog, Wurad made sure nothing could happen to me by standing between us. Just like that… quiet…, waiting for me to pass safely. The language of the dogs among themselves has fascinated me a lot. Beautiful to see. The wild dogs (Canaan dogs) are very intelligent but because they are not treated very nicely by humans they are reserved and wary which is understandable. Once you have won their trust they will walk through fire and water for you. They are very sensitive and at the same time free animals.
The dog in Jordanian society
People and wild dogs; a story apart in the hard life of the desert. On the one hand, they throw stones at the dogs and the interaction with animals cannot be compared with the way we know here in the rich west. On the other hand, leftover food is put out in the evening for the wild animals so that they can eat. The law of the desert is that you always take care of each other anyway. I thought that was very nice.
I once confronted a group of young people when I accidentally ended up with Wurad in the village during one of our wanderings and they started throwing stones at us. That made me so angry that I started throwing stones back. I was furious!
In the evening, on the last short walk with Wurad, I was stopped by some of those boys. I was immediately alert. It turned out that they wanted to apologize for their behavior. Wurad was wary but relied on me and when I asked the boys if they wanted to pet Wurad, he let it go. The feeling this gave me cannot be expressed in words. A first small step towards connection between humans and animals. However small; it was one step!
Communicating through the dog to yourself
I can tell hours about the time I experienced there. Together with Wurad and the cats who came for dinner in the evening. Every day was a gift and gave me more insight into life in the desert and the animals that live there. The harshness of existence, survival, the language between the dogs and the feeling that somehow I had to earn the right to be there, to be tolerated in their lives, their world. And with that I also learned much about myself.
I learned to go back to basics, Be, being… It’s hard to put into words. It’s like learning to communicate again on a different, deeper level. The level of feeling, respect and justice. Towards yourself but also to the world around you with all the hardness and beauty that is available.
Wurad is still a little bit with me. Sometimes I can still feel his presence. Very special…
Return to Jordan
Two years later I went back to the Wadi Rum. This time while on holiday with my daughter. I really wanted to see more of the country now, but definitely also back to the Wadi Rum.
I will never forget the first sight of this beautiful wild landscape again. Overwhelmed by emotions and tears welled up in my eyes. The feeling of coming home. In retrospect, I think it was like coming home to myself, to the things I learned there. And that seem so far away when you have to go back to the not-so-merry-go-round of daily Dutch life. In Wadi Rum I rediscovered real life again. The value and meaning of our existence and the insignificance of everything we care so much about…
Camel retreat, having nothing and yet everything
This time I spent 4 wonderful days with Brenda and another Dutch woman on a camel trek. Camels are animals that have always fascinated me as well. Maybe I recognize something of myself in them. The stubborn character, the imperturbable, the indestructible…
Beautiful desert creatures… They don’t give up easily. And that’s beautiful…
Sleeping under the starry sky at night, on or next to the camels during the day; together and on a journey of discovery. A journey of discovery into yourself, the universe, history and the true existence of having nothing but at the same time having everything you could possibly imagine.
Freedom, love of man and animal. Living in the now and with the elements. With what is available. An incredibly rich existence.
Horse life in the desert
I haven’t mentioned the horses yet. Because I also visited the horses every day during my first visit to the Wadi Rum. Because it was so hot then I couldn’t do much for them other than give them attention and make sure they had enough to eat and drink.
Elegant strong animals that are used to desert life. This too cannot be compared with the green meadows in our rich west and the way in which they are treated here.
Looking back, I think that the animals here are so spoiled that a part of their individuality is lost as a result. Maybe I’m asking for trouble with this, but I don’t mean it wrong.
Because the animals in the desert have to do with what is available, they focus on a different way of life. Other values are important and each has a different place in the chain of life. So is man. Every living creature in the desert needs each other in one way or another to survive. That gives another dimension to existence.
It would be nice to have a closer look at this.
Who knows… in the future.
Those who know the heart of the desert always want to go back…
The desert has brought me closer to myself and to the other values of life. Including being able to choose for myself and give vent to the things I carry inside me.
Like working with clay, that is now a journey of discovery for me. As my teacher told me: the clay gives back what you put in it, how you feel. And it really is!
The energy from your hands flows to the clay and so the whole process is a kind of mirror. But that works actually the same with everything? My website: www.kilntreasures.com
4. RESET WITH CAMELS IN THE WADI RUM – NYNKE LAVERMAN
My name is Nynke Laverman, I am a singer/songwriter and I come from Friesland. The year 2019 I took a gap year to brood on a new step to be taken. A reset. What is really important, where am I now and where would I like to be in a few years. Not only in my profession, but also as a mother and as a person.
In March of that year I went out on my own, for a (too) short trip through the desert landscape of Jordan, where the Bedouin traditionally live. Perhaps literally a journey into the void, to be filled with something again. Only ten days, because I found it difficult to miss my young children any longer. I have traveled a lot but had never been to the desert. Through an interview in the newspaper I saw that Brenda provided Dutch retreats in the Wadi Rum. Her way of living immediately appealed to me: following your intuition and not shying away from adventure. Warm and sober at the same time. I booked straight away.
An enchanting landscape. Mighty, ancient rock formations in all kinds of shades of red and orange against an endless blue sky. In the calm rhythm of the camel with whom I walked day after day across the sands, I included the desert in me. The first day, after a few hours, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of happiness that you can have when everything seems to come together for a while: nature, the peace and silence, the wonderful weather and myself walking in the middle of it. What a beauty, what a wealth!
It was great to stroll through the desert with Brenda and Mansour for a few days while being treated to different types of massages, meditations, delicious food and special encounters with Bedouin families, among others. We even sang an evening by the fire!
The retreat has also put me on track for new songs, just maybe in a different way than I expected. At the end of each day we looked for a place to sleep; a gorge out of the wind where the sun would wake us in the morning. I was shocked that every canyon we walked into was littered with plastic waste, coming from tourists. Every day we would fill a number of garbage bags as a ritual for setting up our camp. I think Brenda and Mansour have already carried a lot of bags out of the desert! Man. Although I did my best to focus my attention on the nature around me, which was really overwhelmingly present, it was the human being who took possession of my thoughts again and again. Who are we actually? Why are we so careless about our environment? Although I had intended not to talk about this on my new album, it became clear to me again that I could not ignore it.
When I stayed for a while with a nomad family on the steppes of Mongolia in 2007, the seed for this topic was already planted in me: as Western people we have lost the connection with our natural environment. “You can never take more than you give” is for nomads a simple fact by which you live. That wisdom. Where have we left her?
2019 turned out to be a year of rest and reflection, a sabbatical. It made me look for another tone, another language. I realized that I wanted to speak out and strangely enough I started to sing softer, use fewer words, do less. Much is coming our way in the near future. A climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis, pandemics. How do we deal with that? Plant, the new album that in the end emerged from the retreat in the Wadi Rum, is a hopeful protest about changing our way of thinking, about changing ourselves. Do we dare to leave familiar roads, to break through familiar patterns, to allow the silence? Do we dare to allow ourselves not to know?
We are facing a challenging time that will demand a lot from us. One thing I have learned from the past period is how essential it is to take time in such a situation. “If you don’t have time, you have to take time,” said film director Pieter Verhoeff. A paradox, but a truth. Even though we don’t have a second to lose with the climate crisis just around the corner, we still have to slow down in order to be able to make the right choices based on peace and reflection. On a personal level, the year of rest in 2019, which kicked off with the retreat with Brenda in the Wadi Rum, has meant a lot to me. In addition to ‘just’ a new album, it has worked through all kinds of radical personal choices (waste-free living, organic & vegetarian food, less consumption, etc.) with the central question: how do we pass on a liveable planet to our children?
I hope that people will be able to enjoy the overwhelming plains and rock formations of the Wadi Rum under the inspiring guidance of Brenda for a long time to come. And that they will get cleaner and cleaner over time. Because we will realize that nature can do without us, but we cannot do without nature.
Weidum, May 2021.
‘Your Ancestor’: https://nynkelaverman.nl/slowrelease/your-ancestor-podcast-roman-krznaric
‘Tree Tree’: https://nynkelaverman.nl/slowrelease/tree-tree
Read more about Plant: de songs, podcasts, tour & tickets on: www.nynkelaverman.nl
5. THE EXPECTATION AND THE PANCAKE – ANIKA REDHED
After landing we entered a small hall. There were Jordanians, a group of tourists from a tour company and us. We got our visa at a wooden counter:
‘Welcome!’ said two officers, looking at us with curiosity.
It was 2007 and my first time in Jordan. The hall is now much bigger and the customs officer is in a shiny cubicle. Last time I was woken up by the muezzin almost daily, several times a morning, because different mosques have different times. It was like he was always right next to my bed.
With a megaphone.
This year I hardly hear them anymore.
There is also more waste, but it may be that I notice it more now. On my first visit I had hardly any expectations, because I knew little about the country. Jordan mesmerized me so the second time my expectations were high.
Maybe too high.
But the country can still conjure.
This time we drive through the country with a rental car. That is easier than by public transport and as a result I now visit places that I do not know yet, such as the baptismal site of Jesus (impressive!), the ruined village of Dana (with beautiful views) and Madaba (mosaics).
Ramadan begins during our trip. When we’re on the road, it doesn’t bother us much. We can buy anything we want at gas stations and shops. Then we walk or drive to a deserted place to eat and drink unseen. Only the last day in Madaba is difficult for us. We have already checked out and the flight does not leave until late at night. Then you want to be able to rest somewhere every now and then. In the city itself everything is closed.
Just outside the city we find a restaurant that mainly lives from buses full of tourists. There we can sit on the terrace in the shade and have something to drink and eat.
In the South we noticed much less of Ramadan, perhaps because it is more touristy there. In both Aqaba and Petra, many restaurants were open during the day and we also saw many Jordanians eating, drinking and smoking there. The advantage of this time is the surreal experience: every evening at sunset people go to have dinner together, so that all the streets are deserted, just like the shops whose doors are open and all merchandise is on the sidewalk.
One such afternoon in Madaba we walk past a bakery where they bake sweet pancakes. We stop to look at what they’re doing and are offered one. I want to taste right away, but remember in time that that is not neat. The men laugh and gesture that I can eat it already. It is by all kindness an extra sweet pancake.
In any case, you will not necessarily find the best meals in a restaurant, especially if you are sensitive to atmosphere. In the right setting, a bone-dry, pre-packaged cake can taste like sweet, juicy oranges.
Early in Petra
In Petra I always want to get out early to avoid both the heat and the crowds. At 6 o’clock in the morning I’m eagerly waiting for the gate. Many hotels in Petra provide a breakfast package. That’s a big word for a cookie, cake, a carton of juice and sometimes a bag of chips. Next, climb to a higher point and enjoy your snacks with a view of the stone facades below. Then it tastes delicious. At another top breakfast, I ate a baguette that a Frenchman wouldn’t eat if he starved to death, between the pillars of Jerash.
During my first trip to Jordan I got sick in Petra. I lay in my dark hotel room for a few days and went from my bed to the toilet and back again. After that there was no more time to go to Wadi Rum. Luckily this time!
Wadi Rum, the best meal in Jordan
I’m not a foodie, and often I’m fine with skipping meals all day. But I do seem to enjoy eating food. In Iran I discovered that I am a dipper: give me a piece of bread and a plate of baba ganoush in a courtyard with a splashing fountain and I am perfectly happy. Jordan’s best meal I eat in the desert.
Far from civilization.
In the dark.
We are in Wadi Rum for two days, together with Brenda. First we drive around for four hours in a jeep. Then we have tea break before we mount our horses. Brenda had convinced us to sleep in the open air instead of in a tented camp. From the Netherlands, in the shelter of our warm, clean house with running water, that sounded very attractive. Now it’s getting exciting, because a toilet is quite nice and who knows what kind of creatures will crawl in my ear when I’m sleeping in the sand.
Two hours later, when I jump off my horse with a saddle sore, I see our ‘camp’: a windbreak around a pair of comfortable mattresses. We get tea and after that it soon gets dark. A colleague of Brendas took care of the fire and he puts a large frying pan with dinner in front of us with fresh bread.
Eating on a mattress under the starry sky of Wadi Rum, with sand in your hair, in your ears, under your nails and probably also in the pan, the aubergines and potatoes taste like you’ve never eaten them before.
I did not enjoy the starry sky for long. Once I lay under my duvet and the lamp was turned off, my light also went out.
The next morning I was awakened by the sun. Still sleepy, I sip the tea and eat bread with fresh, soft cheese, olive oil and herb dip. The blanket over my legs, the sun on my head, good conversations and a view of red mountains. I keep eating.
Sometimes when I ride a horse through the desert
Almost everything in Jordan is impressive enough to write something home about, but the highlight of this second trip was our horseback ride through Wadi Rum. In the midst of an eternal silence in which you only hear the hooves sloshing through the sand. Between blue sky and red earth. At a pace in which you can absorb everything extra well.
I am always hungry for knowledge. The meaning of the flag, the depth of the Dead Sea or the history of Lawrence of Arabia; I always thirst for knowledge and Google is my best friend.
But sometimes knowledge adds nothing.
Sometimes it’s enough to be and watch.
Sometimes, when I ride a horse through the desert.
Writer of travel books about various countries, including Cappuccino in Jordanië (Cappuccino in Jordan in Dutch).
Publisher of travel diaries of many countries. There is also a reisdagboek voor Jordanië (travel diary in Dutch), for people who like to write themselves during their travels.
6. CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS UNDERTAKE PILGRIMAGE TO FOOTPRINT OF THE SAME SAINT – MARIËTTE VAN BEEK
Jordan is a major destination for religiously motivated tourists. It was said that Abraham and Moses, as well as Jesus and Mohammed, passed through this area. Much to Westerners’ surprise Christians and Muslims meet each other at many pilgrimage destinations. They share considerably more heritage than they thought. Anyone who takes a walk along the Jordan Trail will automatically hear the stories from Muslim and Christian families.
Sunday in Madaba
It’s impossible to sleep in. The bells of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George already started ringing before seven in the morning and my bed is in the church guest house. There is no escaping getting up. Earlier I had been awakened by the call to prayer from a mosque a little further away. “Praying is better than sleeping”, the muezzin sang. Well, go ahead then. I dress up and attend Sunday Mass. Unlike in the Netherlands, the church is also packed on an average Sunday. After mass, like many parishioners, I go and have a chat with priest monk Innokentios. He presents chocolates on a tray and tells how Muslims and Christians live together peacefully in Jordan.
Crusader Castles and Petra
Of course, it wasn’t always peace and quiet in the country. Only the crusader castles testify to that. The tourist on an average Jordan trip usually just visits Kerak Castle, but in any case it would be a shame if the history of religious struggle and domination continues to predominate in the holiday memory. The area that is now called Jordan owes its unique character to a mixture of influences. You’ll find a very clear example in Petra, the famous rock city in southern Jordan, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1985. The Nabataeans lived in the midst of the burial chambers of their ancestors and worshiped their gods on the High Place of Sacrifice. Roman temples and churches followed in later centuries. Visitors will still find plenty of remnants of all these imposing structures.
South Arabian gods
In the coastal city of Aqaba, in the middle of a sidewalk, are the ruins of what is considered the oldest Christian church in the world. With the spread of Christianity, an important change gradually took place in the religious experience of the peoples in the area. From polytheists they became monotheists. The Nabateans worshiped rocks and originally South Arabian gods; the Romans had largely borrowed their pantheon from the Greeks. The Christians brought the word of Jesus and the one God, the Muslims spread the message of Muhammad and Allah. Many centuries of religious history resulted in quite a few pilgrimage sites in Jordan. But those who, like me, grew up in a Catholic or Protestant family in the West, are especially surprised about the diversity of pilgrims that they meet at a number of touristic hotspots.
Let’s take Mount Nebo as an example. It is supposed to be the mountain where Moses first looked out over the Promised Land. The weather is often clear so you, as a visitor, can just enjoy this same view as he did. While doing so, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in the midst of a busload of Christians from India and a school class of Muslim students from Jordan. The prophet who is called Moses by the first group, is Musa for the second. Jews, Christians and Muslims have a common patriarch: Abraham (Ibrahim). The same scene is repeated in Bethany, the baptismal site of Jesus (Isa) near the Jordan. Lesser-known shared pilgrimage sites include the cave of Lot (Lut) over the Dead Sea (near Safi and the ruins of the cursed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah), the well of Moses (Musa) at Wadi Musa and the burial place of Aaron (Harun), the elder brother of Moses, on top of a mountain in Petra.
Footprint of Saint George
Meanwhile, there is also something peculiar about Saint George, the saint who, according to Christian tradition, defeated a dragon and is always depicted as such. Madaba’s most famous church, the one with the ancient mosaic of a map of the Holy Land, is dedicated to Saint George, but in fact he gets much more attention in Salt. On a boulder in the equally Greek Orthodox Church of St. George there I saw nothing less than the footprint of the holy horseman himself. The footprint is carefully covered with a display case to protect it from pilgrims who are eager to touch such sacred spot. Salt, like Madaba, is a multi-religious city. You will find places of worship for everyone. Saint George’s footprint doesn’t only attract Christians but also Muslims. But, and here it comes, Saint George isn’t just named differently by Muslims, he’s identified differently.
Saint George is traced to the famous Islamic mystic Al-Khadir, who also plays a role in the Koran. He is not mentioned there by name, but was later referred to as such by Islamic scholars. According to them, he had an interview with Musa (Moses). Not everyone agrees that Al-Khadir is the same person as Saint George, but because the origin of Saint George himself is also shrouded in mysteries, religious fusion is understandable. Moreover, a believer doesn’t need to understand everything. The tomb of the Islamic prophet Yusha (the Biblical Joshua) just outside Salt makes this clear, too. It is a mega long grave, because the story goes that Yusha was a giant of ten meters. No one who visits him doubts that statement. Whoever follows the Muslim pilgrims will come across many other important Islamic shrines. They partly belong to companions of the prophet Muhammad or to martyrs, pious people who died because of their faith.
At the people’s home
Always curious about stories, I prefer to visit people at home. Luckily, the Jordan Trail provides excellent opportunities to this end. This long-distance hiking trail leads through all of Jordan and is said to be the path that Moses, Jesus and Mohammed followed in these regions. The different stages can be conquered seperately, but multi-day trips make it more interesting. You can alternately stay overnight with Christian and Muslim families in the area and get to know their beliefs and traditions while talking and eating. That’s real life in Jordan.
Mariëtte van Beek is Arabist, travel journalist, writer of the Dominicus reisgids voor Jordanië, (a well-known Dutch travel guide to Jordan), compiler and editor of the collection of short stories Te Gast in Jordanië (Guest in Jordan) and tour guide with a passion for religious cultural heritage and pilgrimages worldwide. She’s busy planning a multi-religious pilgrimage through Jordan in collaboration with Brenda van den Brink. Have a look at www.facebook.com/Mirakelzreizen.nl/ and www.mirakelzreizen.nl
7. Lord of the castle – ADA ROSMAN KLEINJAN
“Here you have the key, then you can open the castle yourself,” says the police officer and pushes the key of Qu-sayr Amra in Jan’s hands.
It is also very early when we sign up to this jewel of a castle. The day staff is not there yet and the man doesn’t feel like walking all the way to the castle, something he has undoubtedly done many times before. Well, we are looking forward to it and I follow my lord of the castle at an appropriate distance, who opens his castle for me with the necessary flair.
This castle is truly a beauty with its bulbous domes and soft sand colors. We enter the building completely unprepared and are deeply impressed by the stunning frescoes. It is absolutely right that UNESCO has put this building on the World Heritage List. Opinions are divided; what exactly was this building once? One tends to a tavern, a khan. If this is true, this castle is the first Islamic inn in the world. The frescoes are nice and spicy and daring for that time. After all, Islam does not allow images. The naked woman with the firm, round buttocks leaves nothing to the imagination and is still colored after centuries. The building is not called for nothing a highlight in the Eastern Desert. Qusayr (small castle) also had its own bathhouse with a well, which is no less than twenty-five meters deep. We peek carefully over the edge and can’t see the bottom of the pit.
I think these frescoes are appropriate for a tavern; they are challenging with lots of wine, lots of women and lots of fun. The frescoes are currently being carefully restored by Italian craftsmen. In Italy they know what a good fresco must meet. It all looks promising.
Pistachio trees once stood here and there was enough water to provide the dusty traveler with sufficient bath water. How special to see so much beauty in this endless nothingness. After our tour, Jan carefully closes his castle, returns the key to the day staff who have arrived in the meantime and we pay the entrance fee. Even if you are lord of the castle, everyone has to pay. Castles are expensive to maintain and one simply cannot distinguish…
We continue to our last desert castle: Qasr Al-Harrane, which is quite beautiful, but completely fallen into insignificance by Jan’s castle. The castle looks more like a fortress than a castle. We arrive just before the day trippers and walk through the castle with thick walls and sturdy stairs. It most resembles a large, square box with attractive, rounded corners. A nice place to drink a cup of coffee and eat an often melted stroopwafel.
De Zuilen van Jerash (only Dutch, The pillars of Jerash)
traveling through Jordan
© Ada Rosman-Kleinjan
8. DIARY FRAGMENTS – IMKE LIGTHART
October 26, 2019
Nothing happens in Jordan without tea
The next day I wanted to go for a coffee and I felt very aware of me being a woman. The difference between man and woman is quite big and on the street as well in the coffee houses I saw mostly man. But I found a place, had my coffee and continued my travel. At the bus station I met my travel companion with who I would spend the next 7 days together, 6 days on horses in the desert. We could sit next to each other in the bus although we really had to ask for it since men and women mostly don’t sit next to each other. The moment we arrived it was dark but suddenly we were in the desert!
I went to Brenda her home, the woman with who I will stay for a month. Brenda is the mother of my friend in the Netherlands, she’s somehow the reason I’m here. My friend told me 3 years ago about her, his mother who lives in the desert with horses. This always stayed in my mind and this year I had a strong feeling to meet her, to visit the desert, to be around horses. When I contacted her she told me that I am welcome as long as I want. She motivated me to come earlier to join a travel of 6 days in the desert on a horse. So here I am living the bedouin life in the desert.
Six days as a Bedouin in the desert with the horses
First we went with 2 horses, Brenda, the tourist who’s name is Omar and 2 bedouins Feisel and Abdullah who came with a jeep to transport all our stuff; water, food for us and the horses, cooking material, our bed’s. After 2 days the setting changed into Brenda, Omar, 3 horses and Abdullah and Abdullah. And me of course.
The first 2 days I shared a horse with Brenda, a full Arabic! Quite exciting, I have to say, quite a horse. Later I rode on the 3rd horse that came, a young mare, very wild and who really loves to race. She’s compared with a ferrari and not for no reason. Pretty exciting for me since its 15 years ago that I was riding. I was quite nervous but Brenda trusted me on the horses, that gave me faith.
The moment we really entered the desert on the horses is hard to describe. It was above all my expectations, bigger than my dreams.
Brenda left with the jeep and suddenly it was only me and Omar alone in the desert. They pointed us a direction about where to go and the moment we didn’t know where to go anymore we saw the jeep far far away so we knew which way to head. How could I ever expect to ride an Arabic horse without guide in the desert. My imagination was that a desert landscape must be boring, but now I know that this desert must be one of – or maybe it is the most beautiful place on earth!
The changing light, the immense rocks, the far view, the sand; then red, purple, pink, yellow, white, grey or sometimes black, the ever changing landscape that never looks the same. I would never get bored of this. We even saw some flowers and plants, some birds and camels of course.
We live eat and move like Bedouin, nomads in the desert. Bedouins are veryyy generous. They take such good care of us! We get big breakfast lunches and dinners. They will always cook plenty more so no one feels short. And tea. Again I have to say that nothing happens without tea. Small cups, all day long. 4 different pots on a fire. One with sugar, one without, one stronger one with sugar, one with just water. Sometimes also a pot of coffee with cardamom inside. We sleep under the stars, on a mattress and with enough blankets to be warm in the cool nights. Our toilet is the desert, where ever you prefer. As well as the shower what means a bottle of water to rinse yourself with. We sleep early and wake up with the sun. The horses are around us, some on a line, and maybe one just loose. They love to roll in the sand. The names are; Barq, Sarah and Theeb.
We all get along very well. Omar loves to translate all the conversations for me. We have a lot of fun and share everything that’s unusual for us and we laugh about ourselves. Brenda is now after 10 years one of the bedouins. She is a strong but very kind woman who gets a lot of respect from the other bedouin, a special woman with a big story and a lot of wisdom.
Abdullah number 1 is the companion of Brenda, they work very close together, they don’t need words to communicate. He’s the king of the desert, knows the desert as his home. Besides that he trains the horses. It’s beautiful to see how he works with them, loves them and gives them a lot of faith. Abdullah is also called Abu Lana and luckily speaks some English.
Abdullah number 2, an older man but full with humor who loves to play. I think he drinks 100 cups of tea a day. Abdullah of the tea speaks only a handful of English words, but we become friends and understand each other in the language of the universe.
Today, day 6 of the desert journey is one to mention, its the last day and we’re returning back home. I woke up at five, way too early for me but Abdullah was making tea on a fire and smoked me out. Kind of a funny situation actually, but after a while I just went up a sand dune to chill, and I found myself waking up with a beautiful view. After breakfast, some horseback riding, lunch and making some videos we let the horses run free to their stable. This was the cherry on the pie of an incredible trip. It started quite gentle, but the closer we came, the more speed they got! Beautiful to see them free after those 6 days. One horse we let free later and we saw why, I didn’t know they could go so fast. I was happy to sit on the jeep.
Time to say goodbye to Omar. From tonight until the end of the month, Brenda her house will be my home together with 5 cats, 2 dogs and 5 puppies.
After a long day cleaning before the next adventure, we are walking in the dark to the village for a take away and some groceries. It’s dark early, sunset is around 4.30 pm. I’m enthusiastic because I love to do grocery in forein countries. Once again there I’m getting very aware of me being a woman and soon I notice also here doing groceries is a different experience then in other countries I have been. There are no womans to see on the streets except for us. Also I’m figuring out why we take a take away and don’t sit in. We are in a very traditional village. We’re not in the restaurant, it’s just not something women do in the village. When we’re in a supermarket one of the first questions the owner asked her if I’m moslim. No was the answer but it was okay. The whole village knows that Brenda is alone and that she wants to keep it like that, so the man don’t try anything. We return home and eat delicious shawarma with fries.
I joined Brenda to the woman’s cooperation in the village where we went for help with translation from Dutch to Arab. Arriving at the cooperation we meet a Dutch man of 75 years old who’s a pottery maker. He’s on a mission to help women in the village, to teach them a skill, give them something to do and let them start their own business in pottery. In Kenia, Bolivia,… It was a success and now, he won’t have much time anymore because of serious health problems, helping those women is his last wish.
Slowly, one hour later then was planned 4 women arrive, 3 in burqa and one older lady with a hijab. We start with tea and then the man start to tell about this mission. The woman seems enthusiastic, they are happy that something is happening. As one of them tells us: She wants to be here because it gives value to her life. She’s strong and doesn’t want to stop coming here. At the moment we’re sitting in the cooperative a building where the electricity is cut because a man is trying to keep his wife at home. What the woman’s say is that they really have to fight for initiatives like this, long and hard. Most women don’t even get this chance and are at home, living the traditional life. I would like to photograph a woman, but that seems impossible for now.
Joining a three-day retreat and trek with three camels
Four Dutch women (Brenda, two guests and myself), Abdullah and Abdullah and the car.
I am fascinated, almost obsessed with the camels. Brenda told me before that she thinks that camels are descended from a distant past, one of our ancestors, belonging to the Dinosaur. I realize that for the first time in my life I am really getting a closer look at a camel. What an animal! I can’t quite place it because it’s nothing I know. It seems to me that it is indeed not of this time. The legs are long and thin with extra knees and large calluses, wearing a gigantic body, too big for the legs. The camel’s feet are soft, no hooves which is quite unexpected but also logical. A neck then hangs from it, three times as long with the bend in the opposite direction than a horse and at the end a head with geometric shapes but at the same time mischievous and funny.
The sounds the camels produce don’t seem to be from this time or planet. Its like if they talk to our ancestors.
On the camel’s chest is a kind of large hard round flat hump.
When I asked about this part on the breast I got to hear the following story:
Camels have an everlasting memory. When a person has ever treated a camel (very) bad, the camel won’t forget this his whole life. There was a man who treated a camel bad once, a long time ago but it happened that he reunited with the camel in a camp. He saw that the camel was watching him all night, and he got a bit frightened. When the camp went to sleep the man made his bed but in the night he sneaked out and slept somewhere else. The next morning he found his bed totally smashed. It happened that the camel broke free to harm the man, he could have been dead when he would have stayed in his bed. To get back to this piece on his chest, it’s a veryyyy strong muscle like a muscle ball and if the camel wants he can smash anything he likes with it.
We went for the tour and I got my experience sitting on a camel back. We walked piecefully in caravan together with the other 2 Dutch woman and Abdullah. A nice rhythm in the wide desert on a camel back is one to experience. I felt a bit afraid like always on the back of an animal while the other two women were more in a meditative state.
The next day I decided to walk together with Abdullah and his camels. I enjoyed this feeling so much! Next to the beautiful creatures, Abdullah in front while the camels follow him in the wide open desert. I felt like a real desert woman, my steps heavy in the sand but with the intense feeling of being connected to earth.
In the evening the bedouins told me they have the feeling they know me from long before and they closed me deep in their hearts. It has given me a beautiful feeling of pure acceptance and being loved for who I am, since we don’t speak much in words.
We slept under a full moon in a canyon of immense giant rocks with the soft bubbling sounds of the camels referring back to dinosaur times.
Today I’m walking as if I’m a real desert bedouin woman while the camels are following me. The moment we left one camel got a bit funny and Abdullah gave me the other 2 camels to guide. After a camel kiss the camel trusted me and followed me by every step while he was breathing in my neck, his big head close behind me. I figured out that he stinks, quite a lot, since he was bubbling in my neck with cute dinosaur sounds. I couldn’t be bothered much, the experience of having the trust of this dinosaur in a landscape that doesn’t look from this planet while the sun stands high, makes me feel small but strong. Many steps follow in silence, I’m tired and thirsty but in a state of extase.
I learn more and more about the culture and it keeps surprising me each time more and more. I have a big respect for Brenda, the woman who’s hosting me, for her decision to move here and live here on her own. The culture is complicated, and surely much more for women. Still I’ve seen no woman outside of their house.
I’m in love with the desert. The beauty isn’t to describe and the landscape is so big, I wanna breath it al. I cant breath it all because I’m too small but the wish for more of this desert stays present.
Yesterday at one of my lonely desert walks with my camera in my hand, where I saw no one except for some lost dirt blown to corners of the desert coming from camps with tourism, I came to a more busy touristic part in the desert., I got invited already 3 times (by men) to drink tea. I didnt accept their invitation since they were with only men (a big family) and it makes me kind of angry to realize their womans wouldn’t be welcome and most probably will stay home, always.
They love to have westerns over, it’s a status thing and we seem interesting for them, but also hospitality is deep in their culture. I hope to take this home, the Dutch culture can learn big time from this. Or at least my family and myself also.
I got away with the excuse it got dark.
Winner SO Award, Dutch Photographers 2020
In 2020 I was nominated for the Dutch photography award (SO Award, Dutch Photographers) and won the first prize with the series ‘valley of the moon’. The project I made during my journey in the desert.
In this project I travel to the Wadi Rum desert, literally translated as ‘valley of the moon’.
With small interventions I document traces that we leave behind. Globalization, rapidly growing tourism and a consumer society are subjects that I subtly portray, while the desert serves as a contrasting backdrop.
From a spiritual point of view I went into the desert to stay here for 4 weeks and lose the sense of time. After living as a nomad for 3 weeks, I picked up my camera and started recording my findings in an intuitive way. Where in my environment sometimes everything seems to revolve around subjects such as time, status and money, etc. I wanted to look for the opposite: becoming one with the elements in nature, the silence and with that also myself.
The beauty and silence of the desert are in contrast with the hungry society in which we live. The desert is primitive and here you are on your own, you live instead of being lived.
I live like a modern nomad and without a permanent place to work or stay I move on, looking for a place that nourishes me. I went into the desert for a month to learn from the Bedouins. The size of the desert made me realize that I am human, small but affecting this world. Where there is virtually nothing, you will find almost everything. My images are reflections of findings and thoughts. “A drop is an ocean in itself.”
Imke Ligthart: https://imkeligthart.com/valley-of-the-moon
9. DIVING IN THE RED SEA – DEBBY VAN DEN HELDER
A mother-daughter holiday in Jordan
Jordan has made a deep impression on us, we have done and experienced such special things. In the hot month of August you can see and do quite a lot.
Dana, unexpectedly green
We traveled straight from the airport to Dana. The color contrasts in Jordan are enormous. Red rocks, yellow and red desert, and unexpectedly a lot of green.
Dana nature reserve, high in the mountains, how green was that! A completely different environment than the desert I had in mind.
Petra, was special, very hot, so getting up early (5am being there) was really necessary. Make sure to bring plenty of water, because if you go all the way up to the “Monastery” you’ll end up wrecked at the exit on a hot day.
To the desert to learn how to ride a horse
After Petra we were taken to the desert where we would meet Brenda. We have known each other for a long time because we have worked together as a beautician and massage therapist in the Netherlands.
We came to the desert to learn horseback riding in 2.5 day. Both my mother and I have never ridden a horse before and it was quite exciting.
Horseback riding, just sitting on a horse for the first time! What will always stay with us is sleeping in the middle of the desert under the beautiful starry sky, the Milky Way was magnificent visible! So cool.
The people we meet during our trip have left a deep impression. The Bedouins, in the villages, in the desert, by the sea, in the city! Soooo sweet and fun.
I came to Jordan to dive
But what I came for was diving in the Red Sea. Clear blue water! Since it was a quiet period, I had my own private guide. Normally you go in groups of 6 or so. So that was my luck. I can really enjoy the beautiful underwater world! So many different colored fish, different corals. On a dive site, unfortunately I forgot the name, they sank a war tank. It’s nice to see objects that are normally not so peaceful in that nice quiet environment. Now, they have sunk many more, several tanks, jeeps and even a real plane.
And not a little one, because you can get through it! So I’d say the Red Sea at Aqaba is really worth it. A very small downside, if one has anything from waste, they leave it behind on the beaches and picnic spots, so you came across that underwater. I think that’s a lot less now because I come across pictures of underwater clean-ups on the internet. So they also realize that they have to preserve the underwater world!
What was also special for me and my mother in the Red Sea is that she went diving! Really so tough. Because she always said I’ll come with you when you dive but I’m not going to do it myself and she was very firm about that.
On the way back we passed by the Dead Sea. Don’t forget to float in the Dead Sea! So crazy you don’t sink! Be careful with cuts and shaving! You will definitely feel that with all that salt. Around the Dead Sea in the north there is more water such as the Wadi Mujib, a canyon with a waterfall, to trek through the water, but we were too late for that. We did stop at another river, but unfortunately that was also heavily polluted. Fortunately, everything was clean at the Dead Sea.
Recently we saw the pictures of our Jordan trip again, enjoying! Beautiful memories!
Of all we’ve seen and done in Jordan, the desert stays with me the most. Truly something magical that cannot be compared to anything.
Debby van den Helder
10. AFTERGLOW FACTOR 30 – ASTRID DE BRUIN
Creating something makes me happy and international inspiration gives me a long afterglow factor. The inspiration from my journey through Jordan in 2018 is still alive three years later. I wanted to see Wadi Rum with all its color shades and real creativity, no touristy frills.
Brenda van den Brink, of Jordan Desert Journeys, with whom I traveled through the Wadi Rum desert for a few days, made creative contacts for me that I could visit. One of those contacts is just outside Wadi Rum. In Disi there is a low building with outbuildings attached to it. No frills, a shop window or a makeover every season as is customary in the Netherlands. This building has simply and with a special purpose in mind been occupied by The Disi Womens cooperative. Beautiful ceramics are made here by local Bedouin women. By order or for the artistic market ‘Souk by the sea’, every Friday in the city of Aqaba. The women earn a living with these ceramics.
I say: Salaam aleikum! Ismie Astrid…and then I have already made friends with the women in Disi. It is, after a bit of uneasiness, cozy. No men are allowed here, inside the black burqa face covering went up and we had fun despite the few words we had in common. With facial expressions, hands and drawings you can have very nice conversations. Jordanians are incredibly hospitable, they really take care of you.
Immediately shay (tea) is offered, I never say no to tea, but definitely not here! Strong black tea with sage and lots of sugar. The Dutch say: ‘No, don’t bother, I’ll be leaving in a minute/oh, I just got tea home!’ Or ‘well, one then’. But that is not done here. Survival in the desert depended on food, drink and shelter and so it is an innate trait of the nomadic Bedouins to not only care for their own people, but also to offer hospitality to any stranger. I love those cultural differences and luckily there are differences, otherwise I don’t have to travel.
The women get their inspiration from nature or from the Petroglyphs on the rocks. Earlier on the trip I had fallen so in love with those Petroglyphs that, like a young, supple goat, I climbed the rocks for a close-up. Especially for this beautiful thing I had brought baking paper from home and a conté pencil. With the drawing stuff in my mouth I climbed up to these magnificent Petroglyphs. And even on shoes that I had tied to my feet with strips of a red/white Bedouin scarf, because the sole came loose and started to flap.
That camel in the rock (with only one hump…) was the most perfect specimen I’ve seen. Bigger than two hands. So beautiful that I was already moved on the way up….with plastic in my mouth muttering ‘Oh how beautiful this is’. I felt the relief with my finger. I touched something made by a prehistoric man!
I copied an ibex next to the camel. It just fit on that piece of paper. Is it perfect? Not mine, the original does.
In the studio of The Disi Women’s cooporative I stuck antelope stickers on small ceramic bowls before they got the glaze treatment. The contour of the antelope thus remains free of enamel. I counted each jar out loud in Arabic (I hope I’m pronouncing it right, before you know it you’re saying something completely different… The words for camel and beautiful are also very similar).
Jordan with her relaxed ‘everything will be fine’ attitude is in my heart. When I want to go back in my mind for a while, I drink a cup of black tea with real Jordanian sage (without sugar again…).
Astrid de Bruin
11. NOTHING AND YET EVERYTHING – DYENNE BORST
How wonderful is it to slip away from reality every now and then and musingly think back to a holiday? In my case that is staying overnight in the desert of Wadi Rum. More than once I think back to this great travel experience. Where I slept under a thick pile of blankets in the open air and was awakened daily with the prayer of Abdullah, who was also so kind to prepare freshly made tea and dates for me. After breakfast, we got on our horses and continued into the desert. On to the next fantastic place where we would set up camp.
My travel experience in Jordan seems like a dream when I think about it. The colors and scents, the diversity of nature, being one with nature and your horse. The silence you experience. Swaying in the rhythm of an age-old culture. I had once read about horse riding in the desert, and the click I had with Brenda in the first contact gave me immediate confidence. A certain hospitality, openness and purity which I was able to experience during the entire stay. My experience in the desert was an accumulation of special moments. During the day with the horses I was amazed how the desert changes during the ride.
You expect an unchanging landscape, but every hour I imagined myself in a new environment with the most breathtaking views and rocks. Every hour was a new painting. A campfire was lit and tea was made several times a day. And I was surprised what goodies you can get served with a simple pot, a pan and a kettle!
Before I crawled under my thick mountain of blankets, there was really good cooking, Brenda translated Abdullah’s jokes and one evening there was live music with flute and Arabic songs. There is nothing in the desert, yet everything is there. We even danced.
The last day we went riding on camels, how special! From the tent where I slept that night I saw them trudging to us. Their rhythm, the height, a completely different seat – a wonderful variety and closure.
My freelance life allows me to travel often and get the chance to soak up different cultures and landscapes. So I like to do this. Certainly not to put the well-known check marks or to radiate ‘look at me’ to my environment, but purely because I want to build a connection with the country. And because I take all these travel experiences with me in my daily doings. To be honest: it took some getting used to, the silence and peace, no wifi. Especially if you are staying in a busy city a few days before.
And the further we went into the desert, the fewer tracks we saw, the more we were on our own. It can give you a certain uneasiness that you have to surrender to…
because in the end time is something that doesn’t count. But it’s the connection with nature and culture what it is all about. Brenda, Abdullah and the horses allowed me to sympathize, taste and experience up close what it is like to live in a desert. Thanks to them I have a magical rich experience. Wadi Rum is a dream place. Thank you.
A few years ago I came into contact with the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tse. It was the beginning of my search for the essence of his 81 life lessons. My book ‘The Paradise of Lao Tse’ takes you through this age-old wisdom and shows how it can be read from a modern perspective. The Tao turns out to be surprisingly rich and topical. The unity of all is the nature of man; so teaches the Tao, but how do we become aware of our nature? Like my journey in the desert, my book is an invitation to discover and embrace your true nature.
12. SENSE JORDAN – HARMA MARGRIETA
“This is not going to change”
In February 2007, during another night of insomnia, I sat at the edge of my bed and I realised “this is not going to change”. In the years before, I had been trying to squeeze myself into a job that was not matching. I was burned out, stressed out, and had severe sleeping issues. In a third attempt to make it matching, a new department, another position, the penny fell in place. I called in sick (again) yet this time I opted for leaving.
Later that year, in July, after the deal was settled and I was out of it, I said to myself the magical words, “so and now I am going to do what I want to do“. I kicked out the television and booked my first trip to Jordan. Six weeks later, I saw myself sitting in the backseat of a taxi driving through Amman on my way to visit the Citadel. This first holiday, a 10-day group tour through the country, was an immediate life-changing hit. The next year I went again, this time Syria combined with Jordan. One leading into the other, I got the bold idea that I wanted to live in this part of the world, so in September 2010, I took the first step and spent 3 months in Amman. In the 3 years following, I have been going back and forth between the Netherlands and Jordan, eventually selling my house with the intention of staying in Amman permanently. I spent my years living there, learning the language, getting to know the country, and building up a social life. That all worked out, except for one crucial piece, finding a way to make a living. Eventually, I ended up with an empty treasure chest. Reluctantly, in debts, I returned back to the Netherlands with nothing to nothing. After a year of wandering around, moving from one place to the other, I eventually found a more permanent place to stay.
“So let it be black”
When I settled down, the frustration and anger flared up. Everything went so differently than I expected. All I wanted to do was paint wildly with black paint, with the idea of “If it is all black, then let it be black”. An advertisement on the local supermarket message board brought me to the right spot, and here my first creative project was born: “inner expression, an exploration of the dark”. A whole new chapter opened up, one of which I had no idea I had it in me. One leading into the other, for the last 5 years, I have been busy exploring the depths of newly discovered creative artistic talent while working through the 6 layers of the Soul Art Certification. I also discovered that art and creative expression support the grounding of deep traumatic pain and it helps to change it into renewal and expansion. The certification is almost complete and my home has become an art-studio wherein the creative projects have been taken over the space. So, currently, I am exploring how to take it “next level”, by making a business out of it.
Since I am back in the Netherlands, my Jordan experiences often feel so far away. As if it has happened to someone else or like playing in a movie. When Brenda asked me to be part of this e-book project, I had this alienating awaking dream wherein I saw myself driving through Irbid, late at night, on my way back from Umm Qais to Amman, when suddenly a new awareness kicked in: “I have been there, I have been driving there”. Many of Jordan experiences are woven through with these deep layers of surrealistic inner connections and sensory awareness.
Below 6 of my favorite spots to sense Jordan:
- Umm Qais. I love this Ancient Greek-Roman city in the northern hills of Jordan close to the Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian border. Standing there, it’s feels so controversial. On one hand, it is quiet and peaceful with a view over the Golan Heights and Lake Tiberius. At the same time, no matter how close it may be, it’s impossible to get to the other side. Closed off borders, military check points, sometimes gunshots in the distance. Welcome to the middle-east. Yet it is striking to see how friendly Jordanian soldiers always are.
- Jerash. The first time I visited this ancient Greek-Roman city, I remember so well : “these stones I walk on, they are over 2000 years old and the same stones where the Romans walked on”. Surrounded by the pillars, temples, and other ruins, for a split second, I felt catapulted back in time, actually being in ancient times itself, as if then and now had become one.
- The Dead Sea. A visit to the dead sea is an experience in itself. It already starts with the ride going down, descending into the depths of the lowest point on earth. Once you get out of the car, a blanket of hot air wraps around you, holding the heavy silence which and deep ancient wisdom from within. Floating in the Dead Sea is an experience of effortless. It is all going by itself, you don’t have to do anything for it.
- Kings High Way. The Kings High Way is the road to travel from Amman to Petra. Passing Madabah, Mount Nebo, Karak with the Crusaders’ Castle, Shobak Castle and other hotspots. My favourite part is winding down and curling up through “the grand canyon of Jordan”: the Wadi Mujib. It’s an experience of diving deep and rising high at the same time.
- Petra. Petra is without any doubt the “must see” of Jordan. Twisting and turning through the siq, when finally in a glimpse the treasury appears, you enter the grand openness of this ancient Nabataean city. My favourite spot is at an outside corner of Petra, high up on a hill behind the monastery. Standing there, gazing into the depths of the abyss of the wadi Arabia, it’s the pristine beauty of savage rough rock formations that stand out. It’s a reflection of true self and true nature, the essence of being.
- Wadi-Rum. There is a lot to say about the wadi rum, it’s colours, the desolate “out of this reality” dream landscape. The one thing that jumps out to me is the deep deep silence. On my first trip in 2007, spending one night in the rum, late at night when the generator (for power supply) was finally turned off, an ear deafening silence fell over me. It was BAM and WOW at the same time. I had never experienced this before. On a later journey when I spent a full night in the rum, in the stillness of the early morning I could hear the movement of the wings of the birds flying in the air.
Silence is the source of creativity. Silence is also the core foundation of deep grounding that I especially experience in the Wadi Rum. Those two come together in creative-transformation retreats in the wadi rum. Organising my first one in fall 2022 would be a dream come true.
13. QUEST – TAMAR MALINOFF
Jordan attracts me again and again because I love the desert. I have also visited other places in Jordan. My camera is my main travel attribute to capture everything I come across and intrigue me. During walks I capture street life or Bedouin life with the animals in the desert. Sometimes a detail, sometimes an overview. Fascinated by people and colors, I usually let the photos tell the story.
I have now been to Jordan four times and it will not be the last time.
On the road in Jordan
Madaba Mosaic, well, Madaba Spice shop on the way
On the way to Ma’in Bathing in Ma’in Colors, patterns Madaba
En route Next to Lot’s wife’s pillar of salt, Dead Sea Arab women on tour in the desert
Desert stories, Wadi Rum
Enjoying the view and the flock of sheep View with face The intense colors of the Wadi Rum
Tea in the desert Experienced camel rider Camel love
Fun with the horses
Horse Barq and dog Wurad, race with Bedouin Theeb washed and brushed in the desert Barq grazes alone in the desert
Barq runs alone through the desert Spontaneous still life in the desert Fully packed car for 3 days of horseback riding in the desert
With the Bedouin, living in a tent in the desert
Baking abud bread in the desert With the Bedouin in the desert With the Bedouins, shepherd with his flock
Milking for the sheep cheese Little kids with the herd The beautiful Wadi Rum
14. THE TASTE OF JORDAN – BRENDA VAN DEN BRINK
You will not be the first to bring all kinds of herbs and spices from Jordan as a souvenir. The spices “displayed” into beautiful mounds in all kinds of colors make it even more attractive. The abundance, the specialized spice shops that usually offer different types of coffee in addition to the spices. Many “natural” jars and bottles and yes snake oil is also available, but I prefer the Nigella or black seed oil. It is always a feast for me in the herb shop and many others.
Provided with a delicious cup of tea with herbs during my search for beautiful natural products, I often come home with delicious soaps, herbs, linseed, honey from the beekeeper and some oils for salads or for my skin. And do not forget that the herbalist has a remedy for all kinds of diseases. Flowers, bark, leaves, plant roots or the whole dried plant of which you usually make tea at home or use the herbs in another way.
Jordanians are proud of their cuisine that you can call Mediterranean. Many dishes are also available in neighboring countries. Every house has its own “secret” recipe and usually this is due to the spice mix that they compose themselves. In Jordan, you can say that meals prepared with love at home far exceed the cuisine in the restaurants. Most dishes are composed with simple ingredients. The spices complete the dish. Most dishes are not hot and spicy but very tasteful due to the delicious blend of herbs and the amount thereof. Below you will find some easy-to-prepare recipes to taste the scent of Jordan or to reminisce.
Although hardly exported, the pure Jordanian olive oil is the only real one for me. Most people in the village have a number of olive trees in the yard. The olive harvest is in October/November. Some of the olives are preserved at home for the rest of the year and the rest are taken to the press in the village. Large cans of about 16 liters are taken back home. The olives only get a first pressing, so what you eat is the extra virgin olive oil with all the healthy properties of the olive.
A real Bedouin breakfast consists of zeit zeitoun and zatar (olive oil and thyme mixture), which you can dip and eat with preferably freshly baked bread. The thyme mixture consists for most part of (wild) thyme with some sesame seeds and some salt and herbs. There are different types of mixtures for sale, but it is also made at home by drying home-picked thyme and adding the herbs and sesame seeds to taste. Thyme promotes concentration, so many children eat it for breakfast before going to school.
The women make yogurt from goat and sheep milk. By allowing the yogurt to drain further, a kind of cottage cheese is created. The longer you let the yogurt drain, the thicker it will become. Balls are made of this which are preserved in olive oil and eaten.
For the last step, more salt is added. This substance is used to make balls the size of a tennis ball. These are sun-dried in the desert, on top of the canvas of the goat hair black Bedouin tents. This is how you get the real jameed (dried yogurt balls). You can now also buy ready-made liquid jameed in a pack or bucket in the store). They also churn the milk, resulting in a salty buttermilk and butter with or without salt.
You can find all these variants on the breakfast table. Along with the flat bread.
The salty buttermilk that ferments at some point is also drunk to break the fast during Ramadan, along with dates.
Sheep’s cheese is made from sheep’s milk. Hardly ever for sale except on the Bedouin breakfast table in the desert.
A variant that is available in cans is the salted sheep cheese, also delicious. To make the cheese softer in taste and to get most of the salt out, leave the cheese strips in water for a while.
Often some slices of tomatoes and cucumber are served with it.
In hotels you usually get a buffet breakfast often supplemented with western customs and articles.
Lunch is the most important meal of the day. Usually the whole family joins. The Bedouins serve the meal on a large flat dish that everyone sits around, often on the floor. Many eat with their right hand, sometimes there is a spoon. You eat from your own “corner” to the middle. Often “bridges of rice” arise between the participants. Usually much more is cooked than necessary because guests can always join. The leftovers are eaten later. At parties, the women usually take a pan or bag of food home for those who stay at home. Sometimes the rest of the meal is distributed to the less fortunate in the area. And if it really isn’t eaten, it is put on the street next to the waste bin for the stray animals.
This is the traditional Jordanian dish that you should try once. We love it, you can’t compare the taste to anything. The soup that accompanies the dish is made from dried yogurt. In the meantime, the packs of ready-made jameed have been replaced by many families, but I like the mansaf best with the soup made from real yogurt balls.
For 4-5 people
-4 pieces of zrak bread or flat bread such as pita bread, to cover the large bowl
-2 ½ kilos of lamb or chicken with the bones still on
-1 kg liquid jameed yoghurt
-1 ½ kilo small broken rice that sticks a bit
-2 liter lamb- or chicken broth
-5 g turmeric
-20 g whole cardamom
-3 bay leaves for the lamb
-salt to taste
-a bunch of parsley
-unroasted peanuts or peeled almonds or pine nuts
- Cook the lamb or chicken with the bones together with the coarsely chopped onions and the whole cardamom seeds and for lamb also the bay leaves.
- Mix half of the stock with the liquid yogurt jameed and bring to boil. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for half an hour.
- Add the meat or chicken and let it cook together for another 15 minutes.
- Prepare the rice with the other half of the stock and add turmeric and salt to taste.
- Fry the peanuts, almonds or pine nuts until golden in a little oil.
- Finely chop the parsley.
- Serve the rice on the zrak bread in a large flat dish.
- In the middle the pieces of meat or chicken.
- Put the soup in a bowl to add extra to the rice to taste.
- Garnish with the peanuts or nuts and the parsley.
Famous desserts are the Baklava (puff pastry with nuts and honey- or sugar water), Kunafa (sweet soft cheese dish), Hareeseh (sweet semolina pastry sometimes with coconut and almonds), Um Ali (cooked dish with bread cooked in milk and cream or puff pastry with raisins and sometimes with almonds). You can often find fruit in hotels as well.
Dinner usually consists of bowls of different mezzes that are served with the flat bread.
Hummus (chickpea paste), Foul (cooked dried broad beans), Falafel (although this is also eaten as a late breakfast). Baba Ganoush (eggplant paste), tomato slices, cucumber, a can of tuna or sardines, cheese, olives, pickled salty fermented cucumbers, rettich, cauliflower and carrot. But also warm snacks such as galaya (tomato and onion dish).
Recipe baba ganoush (aubergine dip)
-olive oil extra vierge
- Grill the aubergine on gas or in a wood fire or in the oven until fully cooked.
- Remove the skin and finely chop the aubergine. Either with a fork and knife or with a blender.
- Add sesame paste to taste.
- Crush the garlic and add.
- Add lemon juice to taste.
- Serve in a flat bowl and smooth with some grooves (for the olive oil) with a spoon.
- Pour over some olive oil.
- Serve with pita bread for dipping.
Recipe shorba addis (lentil soup)
For 3-4 people
-250 g orange lentils
-1,5 liter chicken broth
(or the vegetarian version with 1.5 liters of water, tablespoon of thyme and ½ tablespoon of turmeric)
-100 g onion
-15 g garlic
-a little oil to fry the vegetables
-3 g pepper
-salt to taste
-15 g cumin powder
-lemons to taste
As an extra (especially for the vegetarian version) you can add a small potato, 3 carrots and 100 g tomatoes to the soup.
- Peel and wash all vegetables.
- Wash the lentils several times.
- Fry the vegetables in a large pan in some oil.
- Add the lentils and mix all ingredients.
- After 5 minutes, add the chicken stock or the water with the thyme and turmeric.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer until everything is cooked through.
- Blend the soup with a stick blender and add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, the cumin powder.
- Serve with (lots of) lemon juice and pita bread.
Of course the Jordanian cuisine is much more extensive, this is only a very small selection of the meals. Jordan is a journey for the taste buds, try as many different meals, treats and delicacies as possible from the country. Then you get an idea of how tasty and healthy the Jordanians can cook. They can talk for hours about the cooking, the meal and the ingredients. They have fun cooking which is taught to all children. Although the men hardly ever cook at home, they do so on their terrain, the desert. And at parties.
Usually not available in restaurants are the stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, potato, eggplant and stuffed rolled cabbage leaves.
A delicious snack in between is the Fatayer, filled (puff) pastry rolls with cheese, spinach, potato and more.
Jordanians are real tea lovers. Especially sweet tea, although you can now see a tendency to reduce sugar. What makes the tea special are the herbs they put in it.
Sage (meremia), mint (nana), thyme (zatar), cinnamon (girfe), fennel (jansoen). And sometimes a spice mixture with sage, cardamom and cinnamon. Tea is usually served in small glasses.
For coffee lovers, usually you will come across 3 types of coffee. The Turkish coffee in the beautiful jugs. With a lot of sugar (helwa), with medium sugar (wassad) or without sugar (sade). Cardamom is often added, which gives the coffee a delicious taste. Available in many brands. Do not drink the last of the cup/cup, that is the coffee that sinks to the bottom. It is a tasty coffee.
Arabic coffee is light in taste and hardly resembles coffee, although coffee beans are used for its preparation. These are burnt lighter, traditionally in a kind of frying pan with a long handle and of course on a wood fire. Then the roasted coffee beans are pounded in a heavy mortar and finally cardamom and sometimes cloves are added. This coffee is standard served at many official parties, but also at weddings and funerals.
And offered in government offices and other agencies. There are many traditions surrounding this coffee, so if you get the chance, try participating in a ceremony. The coffee is served with the left hand from beautiful jugs made for this purpose in special mini cups without ears.
American coffee is made from instant coffee. The Jordanians do drink instant coffee, but with much powdered milk, a little bit of instant coffee and a lot of sugar.
Be surprised and also take a journey through the flavors of Jordan!
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