Off the Beaten Track in Jordan – Part 1: Beyda

By Bev Taylor

I have had so much fun getting off the beaten track in Jordan this week!

I arrived in Jordan a couple of weeks ago to spend some time with my daughter and her family, with the aim of exploring Jordan in a different way – i’ve been coming here twice a year for the last 10 years, but I am still discovering new places to explore.

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My first off the beaten track experience in Jordan was when Shuayb, (a brother of my son-in-law) and I went out to grab a few photos. Our mission: to find Bedouin tents, goats, sheep, make ‘fire tea’ and get pictures of the above!  It was all unplanned and that’s how it often is here! It was a serendipity experience and that made it all the better!

“Risk-taking, trust, and serendipity are key ingredients of joy. Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises.”

Rita Golden Gelman

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An Illinois Farm Girls experience

My Sunday afternoon ‘risk-taking, trust and serendipity’ experience was found in the middle of a section of beautiful Beyda. We drove for around 30 minutes outside of Wadi Musa, Petra before turning off the main road onto a dirt track. Shuayb decided it was time for me to get used to going off the beaten track in Jordan – Petra style, driving his 4×4! He offered me the wheel and once I said “yes”, I found that in spite of my nervousness, I had a natural instinct for off roading. I realised in the middle of my drive that I was borrowing from my experiences as a young farm girl in Illinois. Way before we could take driving lessons in High School (17 is the age in the US), I learned to drive using a small red tractor – getting used to gears early on and taking off around our family farm. The views may have changed a bit but the thrill was the same! OK, my off the beaten track in Jordan experience wasn’t the vertical sand dunes of Lawrence of Arabia but it was ‘my’ off road driving experience and I loved it!

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A family off roading experience – ahhhh peace in the desert

On Tuesday we started off in Little Petra, a spot 15 minutes outside of Wadi Musa. We walked through the site and climbed up to see a beautifully preserved Nabatean fresco with cupid and Isis very clearly situated amongst the design.  Then it was time to get off the beaten track in Jordan once again – we began by heading to the archeological Neolithic village, just 5 minutes drive from Little Petra. At the site I discovered that when the villagers built their round houses they went underground as well as overground.  And they did it for perfectly good reasons – when you are underground in the winter it’s warmer and in the summer it’s cooler.  A perfect solution for when you don’t have central heating or air conditioning. And that’s a solution that is dear to my heart right now as its regularly 34C each day during July and August and the winters are cold here – very cold.  So cold that snow is very common. And because I intend to be here for much of the winter and am far from happy when being cold – I care about how ancient people dealt with the extreme temperatures!  Lots to learn!

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As the evening drew closer we continued off the beaten track in Jordan by heading into what felt like the middle of nowhere.  Mind you, I’m learning that you can never go far in Jordan without encountering a wild looking area that has some evidence of it being inhabited, for dotted around were flocks of goats, camels and donkeys … oh and there were quirky goat houses tucked away into the sides of the mountains. They don’t call them mountain goats for nothing! Each construction was slightly different, and quirkier then the last.

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Getting off the beaten track in Jordan is quite an experience and you don’t need to go far.  It’s so great that we were only 15 minutes from the main Petra site, which makes it doable if you fancy something different after your Petra visit.  I love the Petra site.  It’s full of amazing mysteries (did you know that they found a new monument a month or so ago!) and I am always in awe of it all.  But it is busy.  And sometimes it is good to just get away from it all – to think great thoughts in the quiet (well almost quiet – the kids made quite an echo!) – in the middle of ancient rock formations. These are the sites that most tourists never see. My Tuesday off the beaten track in Jordan experience gave me the time and space to be in awe of nature and marvel at how mankind – both ancient and modern – has learned to work with it.

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‘Outdoor cooking’ (BBQ) may not be the road to world peace but it’s a start.

                                                                                                                     Anthony Bourdain

My off roading experience was perfectly rounded off when all the children (big and little) climbed into the truck bed of the 4×4 and we headed to a little secluded spot to make supper.

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Outdoor cooking is a popular pastime in Jordan and one I always enjoy. It’s a worldwide thing that when you eat outside the guys take over – and they are good at it – yes! There is nothing like eating galiah (fresh tomatoes, onions and herbs) cooked on an open fire and flat bread (meshrua) – topped off with fire tea (strong sweet tea that is a staple of this country).  Dessert … completely not necessary!  Everything was perfect.

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And the perfect end to a perfect afternoon and night was when the full moon began to rise just over the sandstone rocks.  Peace.

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