Yes, I know people who keep reading on cities and countries and after months they sigh and mutter, ‘Let me do some more reading… I’m still not prepared to take this journey.’ This is ridiculous. One doesn’t really need to know and expect everything that a new place has to offer… let it take you by surprise. There is a certain thrill in seeing what you are not even aware of. This is precisely the mind-set with which I decided to prepare for my trip to Jordan a couple of months back.
This trip was won in the #GrabYourDream contest and the itinerary was one of the options from the large travel repertoire of gAdventures. All I knew was that the trip had the potential to open my eyes yet wider to the magic of travel… something that the planners at Cox and Kings informed me. Well, I think I agree with this notion of travel revelations and so in this post I am going to tell you of three ways in which amazement visited me in Jordan.
Walk with the past
Ayman, our gAdventures CEO (Chief Experience Officer) knew the great secret of lasting travel because he told our group of 15 that we will keep moving and interacting with the country all the time because the secret of learning is in seeing things by initiating a conversation with them before moving to the next. The truth is that it is the journey that must flow unimpeded and without a break. Well, even Lao Tzu has written: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Let me explain this concept… as we walked the Roman ruins at Jarash, we paused often to listen to what the ancient excavated rocks had to say. Ayman encouraged us to touch a column and feel the vibes that the past was eager to pass on. We listened to the stories that had happened over centuries and gasped when confronted with the proof of the Roman shift from the Gods they worshiped to the churches they embraced… the past was still swirling there and one could feel it all.
It was a similar feeling at Petra as we trudged our way from one spot to another climbing hundreds of stone steps and carefully walking over mountain rubble. Meeting the past can be a pleasure in Jordan… and one can connect with the Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks, the Moslems and the Christians. The moments spent at Mount Nebo and Madaba have a charm that makes the trip memorable… but only if you are willing to walk with the past.
All you need for such an experience are the two magical words: “Let’s go!”
Taste the adventure
A good and worthy traveler never says no to an experience… and I know of people who refused to bungee jump and later regretted it. Well, we did not bungee jump from the heights at Petra, nor did we mountain biked our way to the Dead Sea… but does this mean that Jordan lacks adventure? No, not at all. There is snorkeling and scuba diving in Aqaba and this is something that none from our group missed. We got the opportunity to smear our entire bodies with black clay-like mud that is said to be therapeutic, a chance to walk more than 21 miles to discover our past and to immerse in the visions of the past during a night walk in Petra, there were donkeys and camels and horses to ride… and one adventure that will remain in my memory is the night hike in the desert.
Let me add here that these opportunities come only if you seek them. For instance, there will always be those who may refrain from getting their bodies smeared with black mud but they will surely miss out on this adventure. The secret is to say yes to all the options… I mean I said yes to even a Turkish massage and bath and loved the attention of my new friends. I rode a donkey up a few steps in Petra and discovered a great tale during that ride. You can read about it on my blog. The secret is to see with the intent to discover… and G K Chesterton has said, “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” It is so simple – do not travel with pre-conceived notions and you’ll soon evolve into a great traveler.
To taste adventure, all you need are these two magical words: “Let’s go!”
See and then eat
Aha! Food is a part of any travel adventure. If you’re not the sort who seeks an Indian restaurant in a foreign locale, you’ll know what I mean. Marcel Proust has written: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” What he means is that many times it is the same veggies and the same masalas… but everything is done in a different way and, therefore, tastes different.
So taste the difference as I did in Jordan and loved the Jordanian Falafels, and Hummus at Hashem’s in Amman where they know how to perfectly balance the chickpeas and olive oil. We had Maqluba, which means upside down in Arabic, in Petra… and is a dish where meat, rice and fried vegetables are layered and cooked in a pot then turned over onto a platter. I tasted my first Schwarma with shaved meat stuffed in a warm pita with hummus, salad, tahini, and spice on the last day and wanted to carry one back with me. We had Zarb, a Bedouin barbecue in a restaurant in Petra after our long day of marching up and down and loved the meat and vegetables dish that is cooked in a large pit underground. Yes, Harissa or the densely gooey semolina cooked with honey, butter, yogurt, and almonds is unbeatable. Kanafeh is the sweet, sticky Arabic pastry that has a mix of ricotto cheeses and mozarella in sweet cream butter… and is the only thing that I missed having because I was too full after a dinner where I had Mensaf or a lamb dish cooked in a broth with jameed or fermented dried yogurt.
What I loved was first watching the dish and imagining the taste and the flavour and then eating… and this is something I always do and recommend. Good food loves to be flirted by your eyes first and obviously, do not forget the “Let’s go!” formula that I have talked about.
“Let’s go!” isn’t just a set of two words but a motto that will help you evolve as a traveler.
Published in the Cox and Kings blog on 03 September 2015
10 September 2015
Post written on 04 August 2015
Published in the Cox and Kings blog on 03 September 2015