Since our arrival in Amman, we haven’t witnessed a single drop coming from the sky. But the dry and pleasant climate of the city is nothing in comparison with the drought we saw on our way to Dana Nature Reserve and during our 6-hour long hike.
We decided to leave on Thursday afternoon, right after class, to arrive in time to find a place to camp and to enjoy the sunset. Trying to save on costs we settled for an unofficial camping site just off the road and overlooking a valley of mountains. The view was breathtaking! More interesting was that these mountains were none else than the West Bank, and through the darkness of the night we discovered several illuminated Israeli settlements perched on their summits. We then discussed the significance of these settlements and shared our knowledge about them and their inhabitants, hopeful that we would eventually get to visit them ourselves.
The night was memorable! We first cooked some meat and veggies in the dark over a fire set by our very own Jesus (Mike: notice the long dark hair and beard on the pictures).
Then, as the British and the Americans got excited about Lawrence of Arabia and his lifestory, we heard a few cars full of Palestinian young men heading our way, who eventually stopped and camped about 50 meters down the hill from us.
We were afraid to get in trouble once they would notice our presence, but shortly after we heard some 50 cent and Jay-Z music coming from their spot, a few of them came to meet us and engaged in a looooong discussion with our Jordanian friend, Fadi. We then retired to our “bedroom” consisting of a bed of rocks and sand with nothing but a few blankets and a sleeping bag for seven people. The nights get pretty cold in the desert and cuddling was a must. After a short night of sleep we woke up sore and dirty, but to an amazing sunrise.
We then proceeded to walk towards some Bedouin tents we had noticed the previous night where goats, chickens and donkeys roamed in the hills. Our Jordanian friend started screaming “Hi” which made us all somewhat uncomfortable, but eventually the elder of the family came out and welcomed us for tea and goat cheese and entertained us with his stories, which our friend later translated. The Bedouins are very welcoming; it is ingrained in their culture to welcome passersby for tea, for a meal or even for the night as one day they may be passing by your tent and will need your hospitality. I heard that many travelers owe their lives to Bedouins who rescued them after they got lost in the heat of the desert. They seem to enjoy a very self-sustainable and simple life.
After cleaning our campsite, we headed to the village where we got some fresh falafel and hummus to stock some energy before hiking.
Our trail began in the village of Dana, where a spring of water allowed for some vegetation like big beautiful fig trees. We then went down into a large canyon following a rocky trail for two hours and then walked along the dry river bed in the valley for another hour, desperately hoping to discover water.
We knew we were walking toward the Israeli border, but somehow we were hoping for an ocean behind each hill we mounted. Also, we came across a few bedouins on their donkeys (and their arabic music screaming from their phones) who assured us there was water up ahead, but we discovered that their sense of distance differed from ours. At that point, the sun had reached its highest point and we were standing in the middle of this immense canyon with only a few trees to provide us some shade to rest before beginning our journey back to the village.
Looking back, we realized that we went too far…Our Jordanian friend could not make it up the hill. After smoking a pack of cigarettes on the way down and burning under the sun without sunscreen, carrying nothing but his phone, he was highly dehydrated and had to be rescued by the Reserve’s patrol and brought to the hospital by ambulance. The funny thing: when we reached the hospital, we found him wandering through the hallways with the syringe of the IV still in his arm, searching for a bottle of water. Ahhh, Fadi…
Following his discharge, we considered going back to Amman, but a four-hour drive was not very appealing as the sun was about to set and we all had had a very long day. Thus, we decided to head back to the village and spend the night on the Tower Hotel’s rooftop, under the stars, but with mattresses this time.
Everyone had a great night of sleep except for Peter, who was the first of us to get sick. Was it the Bedouin goat cheese, the water, the meat cooked on the fire? Who knows, but 4 of the 7 got sick. Real camping it was!
As great as it was, we are planning for a quieter weekend this time. It should allow me to see a bit more of Amman and write about our daily life here besides our weekend adventures.
Sophie and Kasia