Sand, Stones, Beauty, and History in Between…

Hey everyone!

I am back! I completely appreciated the response from my first blog and enjoyed you all sharing your stories and engaging by asking questions. Keep them coming everyone! Well…I wanted to share with you the excursions I have been on thus far.

The ISA group at the entry to the Citadel

The very first weekend we were here we explored the Amman Citadel, which in Arabic is Jabal al-Qal’a. Our tour guide at the Citadel informed us of the rich history of Jordan, as the Citadel is one of the first signs of civilization.  It contained civilizations and empires that prospered for 7,000 years and even has a museum on site. The Citadel symbolizes the birth of the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It has some of the best views of Amman and if you ever sit at a rooftop restaurant in one of the Circles ( There are 7 in Jordan) you can see the Temple of Hercules. It was breathtakingly beautiful and incredible to see how detailed they were able to make everything, even without modern day technology.

The Ancient Amman Citadel
Signs explain the ancient ruins of the Citadel

We kicked off the first weekend of October with a weekend trip to Petra and Wadi Rum. We left early Friday morning and spent most of the day in Petra. Petra is a historical and archaeological site in the Ma’an governorate of Jordan. We walked through the aqueduct system and saw an auditorium, tombs, temple and of course the famous site of the Treasury all carved right out of the stone. The Treasury (of Indiana Jones fame) is beautifully detailed, and the first view of it as we came around the corner at the end of the Sik (or ‘narrow strip’ of the aqueduct) was phenomenal. In the space in front of the Treasury, there were small children there selling postcards and jewelry in exchange for anything materialistic or monetary. It felt as if I was in a scene out of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Past the Treasury, we wandered some of the many stone staircases that allow you to hike all over Petra. There are tons of temples and tombs you can climb up to. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to spend here, but we still managed to take in as much as we could! If you ever go to Petra I would recommend a week here! It is a rare world wonder that will take days to explore or hike if you want to fully take in and appreciate the beautifully handcrafted architecture and history behind the city.

Amazing Petra!
The Treasury at Petra
The ISA Group smiles for the camera at Petra
Bumpy ride, but definitely a memorable one!

Following our visit to Petra we rushed over to Wadi Rum, where we would be camping for the night, in order to see the sunset from the cliffs. We were told by our ISA program director, Mohammad, that we would not be riding camels to the cliffs for the sunset because they were too expensive. THAT LIAR!  We slowly embarked on a journey across a small hill of sand dunes, exhausted from Petra and this trekking through an ocean of sand. As we came over the top of the hill, to our

surprise, 14 camels awaited us and we rode them off into the sunset. The ride was in my roommate Kate’s words, “The best and most terrifying thing ever!” The camels felt clumsy as they pulled up off the ground. All in all, it was an unforgettable rocky ride.

Riding camels off into the sunset

Once we reached the cliffs, we climbed up one of the cliffs for a better view. The sunset was so beautiful; we were left speechless, proof that is was absolutely amazing.

Mohammad, the ISA Resident Director, watching the sunset in Wadi Rum
Isn't it beautiful??
Walking off into the sunset
Sunset from the cliffs in Wadi Rum

By the time we climbed back down and rode the camels back to the camp, we were ready to feast. Mohammad again tricked us by telling us we would only be having falafel sandwiches for dinner. Falafel is fine, except that is what we typically eat in town on a daily basis, so needless to say, we were a little tired of it. However, after unpacking our things in our tents, we received the call for dinner and were once again surprised! Instead of falafel, we were fed lamb and chicken that had been cooked in a special method by burying it underground. I am a vegan but from everyone’s reaction it was the tastiest meal they have had during this trip. After stuffing our faces, we practiced dancing the dabkeh and learned a little bit of bellydancing from Ghadeer, the other ISA program director. After the festivities, many of us crashed and others went on a starry night walk out into the desert til 2am.

Making our delicious dinner in the desert!
All I have to say is yum!
Dancing the dabkeh after dinner

The next day consisted of a truck driving tour through the desert and surrounding cliffs. We stopped every now and then for photo ops, to climb cliffs, view ancient scriptures and for tea at a little tourist camp site where many goods were sold. After the truck tours were through, so was our time at Wadi Rum. We were all excited to head home to sleep and take a shower after two days of non stop physical activity and sweating (we were really gross). We were so excited to go home but our trip was delayed as we received a sign that the desert enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed it: we got a flat tire not five minutes away from the camp. We made the most of it and decided to make sand angels and act as if we were dying in the desert to pass the time until the tire was replaced.

Sand angels & flat tires
Even though we had a flat tire, we definitely made the best of it!

Overall, this was definitely an incredible weekend. It was amazing to be able to fully engage in the experience of all this ancient history: climbing into tombs, onto cliffs and touching scriptures without it being policed. In the States, most of this would likely be taped off, guarded and only appreciated from a distance.


Up close and personal with ancient scripture
Me rubbing the nose of an ancient carving. Maybe it will bring good luck!

32 thoughts

  1. Salam… what a wonderful experience and you described it all so beautifully. Your post made me want to step right into the experience as you shared your experiences and the great photos. To be able to touch the ruins as well as see them is priceless, as you really were touching history. The food, the dancing and the ancient scriptures and carvings.. awesome.. Your post provoked me to search the three monotheistic religions references to Jordan. There are quite a few. I really enjoyed your post. Thanks, Pam Ives

  2. WOW! It sounded like you had a blast! I can say I am jealous of your time there! I cannot wait to be able to travel again, this time to the places you mentioned. It sounds like your ISA program director has fun tricking you! It was very entertaining to read about all your experiences, and especially about your camel rides! I can honestly say, even though your roommate said it was the best and terrifying thing ever, I still am going to do it!

  3. Hey Salam, its Carla!
    wow all i can say is i havent had falafel in a while, so i would appreciate to even have that right about now. lol
    i want to ride a camel! i never have.. maybe someday :)
    Your ISA director sounds a little bit like my cousin back in lebanon, hahah so that seems like fun. and it cannot get better than dabke and belly dancing on beautiful warm nights!! i envy you for that :) ahhh its great to read your posts, really. i enjoy them and live them with you.
    Waiting for the next one !
    Stay Safe :)


  4. Hi Salam,
    sounds like you’re having a great time! I love the pictures you posted, beautiful scenery and yummy food.
    Keep us posted with more exciting things you experience in Jordan.
    Have fun,

    Farah Rassas

  5. Hi Salam,
    The pics are awesome and show pretty good detail. It’s amazing how early civilizations utilized cliffs and sides of mountains for some of the first architecture. It boggles the mind just thinking about how they did all that work without the technology or the resources that we have now.

  6. Hello Salam,

    It looks like you had a good time on this adventure! I am sure the color of the sun reflecting on the stones is an unforgettable site. I would also imagine it is pretty humbling to be around so much history, wondering how much and what was taking place is probably pretty surreal.

    As for the getting a flat tire, no adventure is complete without the “bumps in the road!” Glad you made it back safely with some sand angels in between.

    Looking forward to the next blog! Take care.

    Michelle Svoboda

  7. That is amazing that you were able to ride the camels to go and see the sunset thats not something you get to do everyday. Also that is awesome that you were able to really learn the history of where you are what a great experience.
    Can’t wait to hear more.

  8. Hi Salam,

    It looks and sounds like a great trip so far! You are so descriptive in your blog and it makes me feel as if I was there as well! I love looking at the pictures too. I thought it was interesting how you mentioned The Treasury (of Indiana Jones fame)! So many Americans (and other individuals throughout the world) have enjoyed the fame of the Jones series however not too many of them are able to see the originality of it! What a great opportunity, it is crazy to see The Treasury pictures and bring TRUE meaning to it-not just what is seen in Hollywood!
    I also was wondering, you mentioned you are a vegan. Is it harder or easier to be a vegan there?

  9. wow, that is very interesting…quick question did anything in you body hurt after riding the camel? because i rode a horse and i was sore for days after i rode it. I hope you can teach us belly dancing when you get back.

  10. Salam Merhaba:),

    I think this experience is something amazing that you are doing and it will definitely enlighten and enrich your view point of life and the world. Thou you have Arabic ethnicity, you are still American by culture and it is very good to experience different cultures and the best way to do it is through living the culture for a while which you are doing. Since i am Turkish and i go back and forth to oversees a lot i can understand your excitement and i bet the food, you are probably craving it everyday, even the taste of simple things like fruits and all is way more natural than the ones we buy here in grocery stores. I would definitely recommend a visit to Turkiye too if you get a chance, because has Middle Eastern background with European and Balkan touch to it too. That being said I think you made a great decision for studying abroad, just please tell us about the people, how did they greet you and others because your background can distinguish you from other Americans that do not come from Arabic background? Do you go out to social places, where regular people in the society interact, movies, theaters, coffee houses, sisha lounges and etc.?

  11. Hello Salam!
    Thank you for posting pictures, it looks like a very active few days from your last post. I saw the ones of the food and it looks really good, I hope it tasted as good as it looked. And as for the camel I’ve always wanted to ride one! How hot was it there by the way? Was it humid at all because from the pictures it looked like the sun was bright but very humid. Keep us updated and I can’t wait to see what else you experience. Safe travels!


  12. Hi Salam!
    Wow, everything is so beautiful, I am so excited to hear that you have been having a wonderful time :-D How has camping been? I am amazed that you are getting to do that, even though it must be difficult. I am always curious, when people encounter the kids selling stuff on the street, did you buy anything? I akways feel so badly about their situation :( Wow, you are vegan? That takes sooo much discipline :) How is the tubooli?

  13. Hello Salam,
    That sunset is spectacular, what an experience! Did you learn anything about how people were able to carve such impressive structures thousands of years ago? Are the carvings still in good condition after all these years? I would expect that after so many people looking and touching they would have a good bit of wear but the pictures don’t see to support my hypothesis! What kinds of food do they typically eat there? Is it as difficult to find vegan food as it is here?
    Looking forward to your next post,
    Joelle Mestemacher

  14. Hi Salam!

    Looks like you are having an amazing time! Thanks for your descriptive blog! I felt like I was there with all your pictures! Did you feel weird being able to experience and touch such ancient things? It is amazing that they don’t block it off and keep those things away from the public. Do you think that they eventually might become more like the US in that they will protect their ancient things from the public? Or do you think that it is part of their culture to be free to experience and engage with their historical things intimately?

  15. Hey Salem,

    The picture of the Treasury of Petra looks amazing and really captured my interest. It must have been amazing seeing ancient ruins like that carved into the stone. Was there anything at the Treasury that captured your attention the most?

  16. Hey Salam!
    I am so jealous of you and what you get to do! Everything you are doing sounds so amazing. I can’t believe you got to ride a camel, go camping, explore the desert, and climb in tombs and on cliffs without having anything roped off or monitored. I especially love all your pictures, they are absolutely beautiful. I like the one of the guy reaching for water! A few questions about the food?: What exactly is falafel? And what types of food do they usually eat in Jordan? And have you had a hard time finding vegan alternatives to alot of it?
    Looking forward to your new posts,

  17. Hi Salam,

    The pictures are a great touch because they bring your story to life. It must be really interesting visiting a country with such rich history. Seeing as you have roots to Jordan do you feel closer to them now that you are living there and experiencing some of the ancient ruins? Also, while San Diego is hot, how has it been adjusting to the heat of living in a desert?

    Daniel Nagel

  18. Hi Salam,

    This trip sounds amazing so far. The culture there is so interesting, and I hope someday I can visit there, as well. To ride a camel is seriously one of my dreams in life. I’m sure the food is delicious, as well. I’ve had food where it is cooked while buried under ground, and it was so flavorful. I imagine that visiting these historical sites helps you to really appreciate and understand the experiences even more, while probably retaining the historical knowledge that much more. Thank you for sharing. Continue to enjoy your trip, and stay safe.

    -Hannah Brown

  19. do you know how old the carved scriptures are in the stone? i think it is magnificent how such things can last for hundreds of years and still be able to have a story to them. do you kno wwhat they were about ? or who put them there? the treasury of petra the whole place was made out of stone but does it also reside inside a mountain?

  20. Oh my gosh that excursion looked amazing! I am so jealous that you got to ride a camel! The treasury looked amazing, almost as if you were on a set of a movie. Were you allowed to go inside? Also it looked like it was carved into the side of a mountain, was that the case?
    -Stephanie Warshaw

  21. Hey Salam!
    Wow this entry was alot! thanks so much for sharing with us! I’m sorry but when I saw the picture of you guys on the camels all I could think of was the girls from sex in the city! anyways the ruins were absolutely gorgeous. Did you feel any emotion when climbing over and through them! The sunset was absolutey perfect! Was the sand different for the desert sand here thicker? More like clay it is pretty how orange it is! Is that common for people to camp were you guys stayed to visit the ruins and sunset ?

  22. Well first off, I cannot believe you rode a camel, on sand dunes, through a sunset. You describing your experience with the camels painted such a vivid picture for me. That is definitely something I need to do in the future. As for the food, it all looked so delicious. I’ve had chicken and lamb cooked from the middle east before, but never cooked underground. I couldn’t imagine the flavors you were tasting from all the delicious food in Jordan. Lastly, I have always seen pictures of Petra, but for you to actually experience it first hand and explore the ruins is mind blowing. How hot does it get during the afternoons on your trips, and how is the desert life at night? It would seem so calm and peaceful, with all the stars above. I’m so happy for all the wonderful new things you are experiencing and am envious of your trip.

  23. Hi Salam,

    I remember reading this blog before, but never commented. I just wanted to say that I think that all of this is an experience of a life-time for you. Historians would just die if they got the opportunity to see such ancient ruins as Amman citadel. Did you ever picture yourself riding a camel? The water photo looks kind of desperate. It’s very funny! Anyway, I hope you are having the best of times in Amman and I wish you safe travels on your way back to USA! You are coming back at the end of the semester right? :)

    Take Care,

  24. Wow! Sounds like an exciting little weekend trip you had. The pictures you took of the architecture and the sunset makes me want to visit there pretty badly. Your ISA director is pretty cruel tricking you into thinking you were going to ride camels or eat anything other than sandwiches that day. The idea of walking across that desert makes me want to crawl on the ground for that water bottle too. Hope your having fun and learning a lot.


  25. Hello Salam,
    Those pictures of you guys riding the camels are awesome! That must have been such a fantastic experience, I would love to be able to do that one day. As always, your pictures are a perfect depiction of how much fun you seem to be having. I especially love the ones of you and you friends in the desert. The deserts in Jordan seem to be postcard worthy-the sand and skies look beautiful. I’ve personally never been to a desert before, but was it really hot over there? I think it’s also great how you were able to touch those parts of history, that would definitely not be allowed here in U.S.

    Judy Chan

  26. Salam,

    The Petra is so beautiful. I can’t imagine how much work went into making it, and into its upkeep. I had never learned about the Citadel before, but as a history nerd was very excited to live vicariously through your post. I might even have to watch Indiana Jones again to do a little brushing up on your trip… heh, heh.

    The pictures of the sunset are fantastic, as are all the photos of the things that you have seen on your trip. It’s hard to put my American bias aside and not imagine all of Jordan as desert, but this obviously is not the case (or I’m assuming so?). I have to wonder how comfortable it is to ride a camel.


  27. Hey Salam ,
    Your information on the Citadel and Petra was great, I learned something new today from reading your blog! The pictures are always great they really help put a visual to your stories! Riding the camel must have been scary yet fun and exciting at the same time! I could only imagine what a beautiful ride that must have been, riding off into the sunset! That will defiantly be something you will remember forever! I love that you were able to have a meal that was cooked underground, not something that many people get to experience, and I’m sure it tasted amazing! Also loved the funny sand angle pictures! Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip!

    Savannah Reeve

  28. Sounds like you had a lot of fun. I really liked all the pictures you put up, especially those of the citadel. The scupltures are beautiful and it’s amazing that they are still around after all this time. It’s incredible that the civilization was around for 7,000 years! The fact that three different religions came out of the citadel really makes me think how similar we all really are. It would be interesting to study how they became so different over the years. Your trip sounds like a lot of fun, hope you continue to enjoy it as you have so far.

    -Mireya Tinoco

  29. You have a decent appreciation of history. Sometimes it is good to explore such historical
    sites to appreciate the world in which ancient men/Victorians lived in. Those monuments/
    carvings are really awesome.

  30. The pictures you posted are beautiful! All those places are gorgeous and the pictures just makes me wish I was there. I’m jealous that you get to experience all this. I don’t know if I could do that to my dinner, though.

    It looks like you’re experiencing something so amazing. I’ve always dreamed about riding on a camel’s back in the desert. The sand looks so soft; it makes me want to lay in it!

    Take care and enjoy!

  31. Something that has always truly fascinated me about middle eastern nations and in this instance, Jordan in particular. is the immense amount of history that their cultures were founded upon. Seeing the citadel that is thousands of years old, or the foundation for three incredibly prominent religions is truly fascinating and i expect truly humbling. Petra sounds like it must have been a blast. To be able to see ancient tombs and archaeology must seem immaculate. To see such elaborate and intricate toms and buildings all hand carved out of stone without modern technology I imagine would be awesome. To see such rich and ancient history is so awesome, to see the foundation for peoples culture that runs so deep and has been around for thousands of years is something that I personally would love to see. The pictures you posted are AWESOME as well, it’s great to get a visual with the description of the places you visited. Also the camel rides and site seeing you participated in must have been truly beautiful.

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