I have a very special place in my heart for Jordan and to date have never felt so welcome in a country as a photographer. My then Fiancé (now husband) and I arrived New Years day to a land of great majestic beauty and when wandering the sands of Wadi Rum or canyons of Petra I found it hard not to feel like I was in one of the last untouched frontiers left in the world.
I was raised in a generation of Steven Spielberg. Movie magic was being discovered and directors were taking their fans on hair raising adventures with friendly ET’s and Archeologists named Dr. Jones to all corners of the world. My parents had their first date at a showing of Raiders Of The Last Ark and after growing up on movies like the Goonies, and Jurassic Park and spending nights under the covers with a flashlight and Nancy Drew I’d say I was born into adventure. For those who have experienced similar childhoods and were just as captivated by the movie sets and story lines of cinema then I think you should visit Jordan. I can’t promise you will find any dinosaur remains but this country has had many movies filmed here and in fact served as the set for Laurence Of Arabia, Transformers, and Red Planet.
Kent and I choose to spend a week in the country and rent a car in order to have full freedom to go off-roading for photo opportunities. Given that all the obvious must-see sights (Amman, Dead Sea, Aqaba, Petra, and Wadi Rum) are on opposite ends of the country; our little car was a must!
We start our adventure in Amman, a busy city who’s locals have mastered the art of making Shawarma. According to my husband Kent: “You won’t find a better Shawarma then in this region of the country.” I agree with him as food rolls around in my mouth and I order a third sandwich with lamb for us to share. Amman like any capitol city holds an abundance of urban delights. High end hotels, restaurants, lounges, tea houses, outdoor markets, ruins, and antique shops all with interesting design can all be found within the city.
We cut our city visit short for the time being though and drive south the following day heading for some relaxation time by the Dead Sea. Staying in another high end hotel on a cliff overlooking the water, I quickly realize why so many european tourists enjoy visiting this site. The water is warm and salty. Well in January during Jordan’s cold season, the water is not so warm but I prefer to remember it as not freezing. The Dead Sea is also 8.6 times saltier then the ocean. It’s high solidity also makes for your easiest swim and float ever. Thinking ahead, I had grabbed a Arabic newspaper the night before and was ready to prop for my greatly anticipated “floating and reading photo.” Kent takes over the camera while i swim out and assume the position with the newspaper. Click……click click click…..Just like that and forever I am to be in half a dozen foreigners family vacation albums.
That day we also take advantage of the sea’s minerals by applying ourselves with some of the mud that gathers at the edge of the water. The mud is said to be some of the best, most naturally enriching treatments for your skin in the world. Deeply grey in color and puddly like this Dead Sea mud is the best face mask I have ever felt. We could have scooped it up and jarred it on the spot as the cool, smooth oily texture seemed ready for serving in any expensive NYC spa. We naturally cover ourselves from head to toes and bask in what is left of the day’s sun.
The next few days we spend in and out of our car taking photos. Kent is a saint for putting up with my constant plee to stop the car for just one more photo. “Oh look there’s some camels! Oh look at that funny sign! The color of that sand is so amazing! Oh I love that empty road leading nowhere!” Kent knows my comments all too well and doesn’t even wait for me to followup with “pull the car over” before he has already switched on his turn signal.
A friend, Patrick, joins us for the middle of the week and we are all set for another day of exploring. We arrive in Wadi Rum late in the day but still eager for a quick safari tour with a local guide and open air jeep. Our Guide Muhammad (also the poster boy for this article) stops for gas at a friends house in a local village before we leave the road behind and drive strait into sand. The wind is blowing my hair in every direction, our jeep creeks and bumps over rocks and dips in the sand as we speed off as fast as we can to a good location to watch the sunset. The village quickly disintegrates into a dot in a sea of red and orange sand as we drive forward into the largest expanse of untouched land I have ever seen. There are no roads, houses or lakes. Large mountains provide a reminder of just how small we are in this area of 280 square miles of protected park land. The wind picks up the sand and throws it at our faces but I do not care as this feels like such a unique opportunity that only a few get to experience. We laugh in between sand bursts and can’t contain our smiles.
We drive for another hour through Wadi, also known as The Valley Of The Moon before we reach our sunset lookout location. Things grow still in the desert with only two or three cars seen in the distance with trailing dust paths left behind. Muhammad points out a natural rock bridge called Jabel Umm Fruth Rock Bridge and urges the boys to climb up. I stay on the ground eager to catch their silhouettes against a darkening sky. Our voices eco against the rock as we tryout and decide different poses for my pictures.-
I think In the end we found the right pose as it encompasses exactly the way we all felt that day in that moment. Total freedom.