Desert Highway

Desert Highway

Before I could leave Amman, I still had to do some things. Coincidentally, I discovered the office of Tropical Dessert in Jabal Amman. They organize climbing tours throughout Jordan. They spontaneously invited me on a trip to Ajlun. For the first time in a long time, I had the opportunity to test my climbing skills again. Cycling is definitely about using different muscles than climbing. I felt that very clearly the day after. Without training, nothing works!

The temperatures here in the north of Jordan slowly dropped below 10 ° C during the night. Before the winter finally comes in, I tried to get to the south. My original plan was to drive north first and then through the desert from Azraq to Ma'an in the south. The area is not exactly safe.

This left me just 2 alternatives. Either take the Kings or the Desert Highway. I used to drive the Kings Highway with my mother 2 weeks ago by taxi. I like mountain landscapes very much. However, the Jordanians definitely have no idea how to build mountain roads. Slopes under 10% slope are a real rarity. That's why I chose the Desert Highway. Already at the first gas station in Al Jizah I was able to set up my tent right behind the building. The staff looked after me wonderfully.

A few miles further, I decided to take the turnoff to Umm ar-Rassas. Umm ar-Rasas was a walled settlement and contains ruins from Roman and Byzantine times as well as early Islam. So far, only a small part of Umm ar-Rasas could be excavated. This includes a Roman military camp of 150 x 150 meters, whose outer wall is reinforced at the corners with towers.

From the Byzantine period, the remains of a tower used by the first Christian monks, as well as some churches, date back to the time of their death. Among them is a church dedicated to St. Stephen with mosaics from the Umayyad period. They show city views from Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. These were by far the most impressive mosaics that I have seen so far in Jordan. Since 2004 Umm ar-Rasas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The tourist police allowed me to spend the night in the visitor center. I was about to set up my tent in the courtyard when the officers stormed out of their office in horror. I can not sleep outside. Too cold was their reasoning. I had to laugh inside. They then let me sleep in the museum. In a World Heritage Museum, I do not believe many people have spent the night so far.

This should not be the most exclusive place to sleep by far. Back on the highway I was repeatedly invited by truck drivers to Schei (tea) or coffee. As in Turkey, I had more black tea in the evening than water poured into me. But also many people stopped spontaneously to talk to me. For example, the Cycling Jordan team that specializes in cycling trips in Jordan.

I was surprised to find so many trucks here. Due to the many conflicts in the Middle East, this highway is one of the less secure connections between the Red Sea and the north. The highway is specially monitored by a special police unit. The so-called Highway Patrol. At intervals of 50km you can always find a police post from them. In Sad as Sultani, I immediately asked if I could pitch my tent at one of these posts. The station manager immediately told me that I was a team member tonight. I got a mega delicious dinner and was allowed to watch movies with the boss in his heated office. His people had to control vehicles while out in the cold.

Unfortunately, not much is invested in the maintenance of the road. This would take revenge for me pretty soon. Especially at the roadside, where I had to drive with my tractor, were all sorts of scrap metal around. One day I caught 3 plates 1km in length. Fortunately, people here do not understand Swiss German. I cussed what was wrong. The most exclusive sleeping place I got this evening.

 On arrival in Al Husayniyah, my map showed me that now for a long time only desert will follow. So I asked spontaneously at the first big house, if it has a place for my tent. Again, I got a room to sleep right away. The host and his eldest son immediately invited me to dinner. The traditional food of the Bedouins. His father apparently worked closely with the King of Jordan (Abdullah II bin al-Hussein) and his father is said to have stayed in the same room as me. Not bad!

The hospitality did not settle the next day either. A strong headwind almost drove me to despair on that day. Completely exhausted, I reached Al Muraygha that day. At the first building, I immediately asked for a campground. This turned out to be a small hospital. I got a mattress and was allowed to sleep in the waiting room. I also got falafel with humus and fuul. One of my favorite food here in Jordan.

The senior doctor studied medicine in Kiev for 7 years and spoke English very well. So I learned a little about the impact of the unsafe situation here in the Middle East on the population. Rents, especially in the cities, have increased enormously in recent years and wages have fallen at the same time. Most people have to keep afloat with 2 or more jobs to feed their families.

I did not want to miss the famous Wadi Rum and then took this branch under the wheels. Unfortunately, you have to pay 5 Dinars (≈ 7 Euro) entrance fee at the entrance of the valley. Without a Jeep or Dromedary you will not get anywhere. Actually, I first planned to spend a few days in the valley. Rum, the only village in the valley, was a bit too touristy for me. After one night I like to drive again towards Aqaba.

Aqaba is located directly on the Red Sea. On the descent from Wadi Rum to Aqaba, the temperature increased steadily, reaching almost 30 degrees in the end. Here you can set up your tent on the beach for free. I decided after 2 days to take the ferry to the Egyptian mainland. Unfortunately, at customs at the port I still had a negative experience. The officials pointed out that only one month valid stamp was printed on my entry. However, I have a 3 months valid visa in the passport. They did not want to accept that. I totally did not care about them. Finally, I had to pay a penalty of 16 dinars. The miserable officials have unfortunately tarnished my picture of Jordan at the end a bit.

Nevertheless, for me Jordan has been an absolutely positive surprise. I have never experienced such hospitality on my travels. At this point, I just want to thank all people for the unforgettable time, which I was allowed to spend here.