Oh, Jordan. As you may have seen on Instagram, Amanda, Jessica, Julika and I could not have had more fun on our #GirlsGoneJordan campaign. While a lot of bloggers complain that press trips are awkward because they're traveling with strangers, for us it was more like a work-trip with friends.
Photo credit – Sateless Suitcase
Before jumping into more in-depth posts about Jordan, I wanted to share my favorite moments. Because there's so much about my trip to Jordan- countless meals, laughs and just good old-fashioned travel moments- that I don't want to forget.
Visiting Amman Citadel
I'm a sucker for ancient ruins, so I was stoked to visit the Amman Citadel on our first day in Amman.
Standing there, staring over the city, I realized that this was the first time in too long I had a. seen something older than 200 years old, and b. even touched my DSLR. That first day on Amman Citadel, I felt more like myself than I had in a long time.
But anyway, back to the citadel. The citadel dates back to the Bronze Age, around 1650 BC. Considering the amount of conquerors who have set foot there, it's remarkable that it still stands: it was conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Muslims.
Random fact- did you know that when the Greeks conquered Amman in 331 BC, they renamed the city, “Philadephia?”
I loved being able to see Amman in all of its sprawling, sand-colored glory, as well as spot the Raghadan Flagpole, one of the tallest flagpoles in the world.
And my favorite part of the citadel was this lone hand. And all of the spring wildflowers.
All in all visiting the Amman citadel was the perfect first day and a good introduction to the city.
Taking Camel Portraits in the Desert
Guys, I think I’ve found my calling- camel photography. Honestly I enjoyed taking photos of camels more than riding them- is that normal?
I’ve always enjoyed portrait photography more than landscape or still life, but it had never occurred to me to apply human portrait photography techniques to an animal. Or a camel, specifically.
My favorite shot was this camel “portrait.” I took a tip from Steve McCurry to square the eyes in the center of the frame and I think it worked. In fact this photo was my most liked Instagram photo ever!
Having Kohl Eyeliner Done by a Bedouin Girl
The Bedouins traditionally wear kohl eyeliner for aesthetic reasons but also practical ones- to protect the eyes from dust and bright sunlight. Similar to why football players wear eye black.
And as we had seen Bedouin men and women all over Jordan with their trademark kohl, I was excited to visit a Bedouin family and learn how to make it ourselves.
Photo credit Sateless Suitcase. And props for for retouching my skin so expertly, ha.
To make the kohl, all you do is burn black cotton and olive oil underneath a pan for about 10-15 minutes.
After the kohl was finished, the teenaged daughter applied it on all of us. It looked beautiful and kind of Jack Sparrow-esque.
It was especially beautiful on Jessica and Julika because of their green and blue eyes. Amanda looked straight-up like a Bedouin girl and well, I just looked like a white girl with eyeliner.
Drinking Mint Tea with a Diplomat’s Wife at Dana Biosphere Reserve
After a leisurely hike in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the girls and I took a tea-break with a knowledgable and sweet Englishwoman. Her husband was a diplomat in Amman, and she had been living in Jordan for three years.
It was so interesting to chat with her and get a woman’s perspective on gender relations in Jordan. She told us that while Jordan is a relatively liberal country, in most parts traditional values run deep. She also told us that homosexuality occurs obviously but isn’t accepted, and that most sexual education is next-to-nothing.
And as we chatted and sipped our sweet mint tea, we watched the sun set over the desert. Not the ugliest thing I've ever seen.
Sigh, I would love to be a diplomat’s wife.
Floating (And Near-drowning) in the Dead Sea
When we drove up to the Dead Sea I was shocked- the Dead Sea is beautiful. The sea is navy blue, surrounded by salt-stained white cliffs. I guess the name “Dead Sea” doesn’t conjure a beautiful image- but that's just bad marketing.
Once we made our way down to the beach I was surprised again- the Dead Sea was rough that day, with three-foot tall waves crashing to the shore. I had pictured myself floating in a flat and tranquil sea, not frantically swimming against the current.
The third surprise came once I entered the water- the Dead Sea was so much saltier than I had imagined. While floating on my back I turned over to wet my hair- big mistake. I was instantly blinded and my mouth tasted like burnt turnips.
I tried to compose myself and wait for the burning in my eyes to subside, but I realized it was getting worse and called for the lifeguards.
Realizing how ridiculous all this was (I swam on swim team for seven years), I couldn’t stop laughing as two lifeguards pulled me to shore. Once we reached the sand one lifeguard held me up as the other doused my eyes with water.
After that… interesting experience, I covered my body in black mud from the Dead Sea. Being… me, I was a bit overzealous with the mud application and even put it on my lips. This photo will illustrate that:
Don’t I look just like Goofy, the Disney cartoon character?
And although I ruined my bikini, my skin did felt quite soft after I took off the mud.
Lessons learned: the Dead Sea feels like contact solution, tastes horrendous and is actually quite beautiful. And black mud is no friend to bikinis.
Smoking All the Shisha
As a high schooler who grew up in Metro Detroit, I smoked a lot of shisha. So I was excited to smoke “hubbly bubbly” as they say in Jordan, in the Middle East.
The first night we smoked shisha with our guides. I was pleased to find that our guide and I had the same favorite flavor, double apple. The other girls got lemon and mint.
We spent the next several hours failing to take cool pictures of each other and smoking shisha to the point of nausea. Also I gave the girls a smoke-ring blowing lesson, and they believed me when I said I could blow out a ship. (Gandalf reference- anyone?)
But this wasn't our only shisha experience. On our last night in Jordan we all sipped Planter’s Punch and smoked shisha while watching the sun set over the Dead Sea. Needless to say it was a wonderful moment.
Why have an apartment if you’re not going to fill it with exotic souvenirs?
In Jordan I bought a ton of souvenirs: spices like sumac and za’atar, a traditional red-and-white Jordanian headscarf, salts from the Dead Sea, blue and white Palestinian pottery, kohl eyeliner and essential oils to wear as perfume: Jordanian rose, yellow musk, and camellia.
But my favorite souvenir (and most expensive) was this silver necklace that all four of us bought with our names in Arabic. Whenever I wear it everyone assumes I’m Middle Eastern.
Having Fun with My Girls
In Jordan I laughed more than I had in months, and it was so nice to spend the week with fellow travel addicts who understand my life.
Photo Credit – Sateless Suitcase
And it was so much fun to brainstorm and learn from each other. I learned a ton about social media and photography, and finally learned how to shoot manual and edit in RAW.
Whether we were playing poker with cigarettes and coins or coming up with puns for Instagram like “petra-fying” (Get it?) we were having a blast. And probably making fun of each other.
Visiting Petra at Night
This moment was so beautiful and surreal it deserves a post of its own, but walking to Petra under starlight was one of the most incredible moments of my life.
Have you ever visited Jordan? If not, would you want to?
I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.