Detailed review of 7 days Jordan/ Israel tour 10/2011
and 5 days camels- East Sinai
’Perhaps I can tell you something of what I’ve seen in these years of wandering;
but I shall never be able to tell you the grandeur of these mountains'
John C. Van Dyke. The Desert 1901
We just returned last night from a 2 week tour to Israel and Jordan of which part was booked with Desert Eco Tours. In retrospect, I wish we had booked everything with DET (Desert Eco tours) as the experience was so great. We started with DET for our last day in Israel that included trips to the Dead Sea, Masada and Eilat en route to Jordan. The Israeli guide was prompt, knowledgeable, and everything went smoothly. We stayed in Eilat overnight and did the border crossing into Jordan the next morning; very quick and easy. We knew ahead of time about the $50 per person border tax so no surprises there.
For the next 6 days in Jordan we had private tours (there were 3 of us for 2 days then just 2 of us for the last 4 days). We stayed at the Moevenpick in Petra which we booked on our own and which was terrific; in retrospect, I think it would have been less expensive to book all hotels via DET.
On our first day in Jordan we were picked up by a Bedouin guide, Mohammad Halilat who was phenomenal. The day was perfect (we heard the next day was a sand storm!) and the ride through the desert sands of Wadi Rum were breathtaking. Mohammad cooked us a delicious lunch right there in the desert, we had a camel ride, hiked and drove through the sand for hours. It was a perfect introduction to the kindness of the people and the beauty of the land in Jordan. On day 2, we had a different guide (also named Mohammad) who gave us a great tour of Petra in the morning. In the afternoon, we went back with him for an extra part and hiked to see the Monastery, a vigorous hike but well worth it. We did part of the hike up on donkeys which I found harrowing, as it was steep, narrow, and often on sheer stones. I couldn't help but worry about the donkey slipping or losing its footing but of course, this didn't happen! For the reverse trip down, we skipped the donkeys. and hiked down ourselves. It was a strenuous but wonderful day.
On day 3 in Jordan (day 2 in Petra), Mohammad #2 took us up a different route that is only recommended with a guide and we spent 3-4 hours hiking up and up and up, going to the high place of sacrifice with the best views of the Jordan Valley. It was a tremendous amount of hiking but well worth the effort and quite moving in its beauty. The silence was amazing. We hiked down a different route and then took a donkey ride back to the hotel on level ground so no worries!
Day 4 in Jordan would take us from Petra to the Dead Sea and we were picked up by Mohammad #1, the Bedouin guide for Wadi Rum. He drove us through the spectacular Nimla and Arava Valleys that had views to die for. Then we went to an incredible place called Al Hisa Canyon en route to the Dead Sea. This was not even on our itinerary but was one of the highlights of the whole trip. Here, we hiked into a magnificent canyon with lush foliage, beautiful boulders, gorgeous colors, and clear, rushing water from a mountain stream. We rolled up our pants and waded for about 2 miles back and forth through the stream getting quite wet from the waist down but enjoying every minute. The water was warm and in places, felt like a Jacuzzi with the swirls and whirlpools. We passed a few other hikers along the way but like so much else in Jordan, basically had the canyon to ourselves. It was another glorious day with sun and temperatures in the low 80s. Mohammad made us a simple lunch on a rock and we enjoyed the beauty of everything around us.
We spent that afternoon and the following day at the Marriott Dead Sea, a 5-star hotel that was one of the nicest hotels I've ever seen with 3 levels of gorgeous pools and easy access to the Dead Sea. The abundant buffet breakfasts and dinners were included in the price. Rooms were gorgeous and the spa was lovely. We had massages and facials that were very nice after several days of vigorous hiking. Though expensive, I would stay there again without hesitation.
On our last day in Jordan, we were picked up by another Mohammad who drove us to the top of Mt. Nebo (where Moses looked across to the Promised Land), the beautiful church at Madaba with mosaics, and finally, to Jarrash in the north of Jordan. This huge archeological Roman site rivals Ephesus in its grandeur and is probably larger. It is a hidden gem that we again, had to ourselves. A guide and lunch were included with the package and this particular guide was excellent. Jarresh was truly magnificent and well worth it if you have the time. It's an easy drive from the Jordanian Dead Sea area and about 1 hour north of Amman.
Note: Tourism is down 80% in Jordan due to the "Arab spring" and fears of travel to the Middle East (as well as recession); we felt completely safe at all times (except on that donkey ride.....)
Final recommendations: I would definitely use Desert Eco Tours again (note; most of the actual guides came through Jordan Desert Tours but were facilitated by DET); I would have DET book all the hotels; I would always plan on 2 days of hiking minimum in Petra; I would return next time in March or April to see the hills and mountains in bloom; we are already planning to go back in spring 2014....
5 Dats camels East Sinai
Hi, Ellen. Here are my comments about our trip--at the end of this message. If you want me to add or change anything, just let me know. Let me also say that Deser Eco Tours did a marvelous job of organizing what is a very complicated trip internationally and politically and culturally. I'm very impressed, by the vision and execution. Is there any way I can send a letter of thanks to Rashid and Amer?