Grab Your Running Shoes – Jordan
Where will your running shoes take you this year. Recently my wife and I took a trip to Jordon and Israel. These marking the 33rd and 34th countries I’ve run in. That’s how I see the world. Through running, I’ve run in some of the most amazing settings.
Getting to Jordan
Depending on where you are in the world access to Amman, Jordon is rather easy. We took a direct flight from Chicago on Royal Jordanian. We started our trip 5 days earlier by flying LA to Chicago but once on our way to Jordon it was one flight. There are two things that I really liked about that flight.
- Service – In general I find airlines outside the USA offer much better service. The service on Royal Jordanian was impeccable. The only issue I had was water delivery. When they brought the carts through like any airlines, water was available. Most airlines will also deliver water on a regular basis during a 10 hour flight. With this flight you had to walk back to the galley and pour your own. I get up often but it’s still better if they walk through the isle with water.
- The Boeing 787 Dreamliner – It’s hard to find a better plane right now. Any chance I get I seek this plane out. The direct out of Chicago flies the 787 and that’s a huge bonus. The atmosphere in that plane is simply superior to other planes. No offense Airbus because your planes are really good, but the 787 is tops.
Before you go buy a Jordan Pass. With this you get your entry and exit visa as well as entry into every sight you want to see. The visa and one day in Petra pays for the entire expense of the Jordan Pass.
Amman is a great place to enjoy the culuture and to get used to the time change. It’s a very international city. On the streets your just as likely to hear something other than Arabic then you are the official language. As with most of the rest of the world, English is taught starting in 3rd or 4th grade so virtually everyone speeks English.
If you’ve never been to a Mosque, the King Abdullah I Mosque is the one to visit. There are many good museums in Amman as well as Roman and Greek Ruins.
I was taking a small break from running so I didn’t run in Amman. If I were to have run I would have done it either early morning or planned to be in Amman on Friday. Friday is the holy day for Muslims and you would get open roads on Friday morning. Sidewalks are there but not for running. Most of the sidewalks are in bad shape. The only place to run would be in the street. A good run would be to head into down town and hit the Roman ruins and if you planned it right watch the sun rise from the top of the Citadel. You can see the entire city from the Citadel.
Be prepared for hills. Amman is built on 7 surrounding hills. There is very little flat ground. You are either going up or going down. Neither of which are mild. The hills are steep and rather long.
We walked everywhere we went in Amman. If you can’t do that and need transportation ask the front desk of your hotel to organize it. Directions are better given in the native language and your hotel can do that.
We took the Jett bus from Amman to Petra. Many folks will go to the Dead Sea before Petra. You can get a Jett bus there too. We chose to skip the Dead Sea knowing we would see it on our ride to Jerusalem in a few days. The bus to Petra leaves at 6:30am and fills daily, so make sure you have reservations.
There are plenty of hotels in Petra if you plan to see it in a couple days. We were there one day and then moved on after our visit.
Running in Petra. You could easily see Petra while running. Bring your trail shoes and water because it’s going to be a long one. The main trail is in the range of 4 miles round trip but the real adventure is the trails to other culture spots that take you up and down steep single tracks. It would be a very fun run. Another running option would be to go in September and run the Petra Marathon.
Everything you’ve heard or seen of Petra pails to being there. It’s one of the 7 new wonders of the world and delivers on all of the hype.
Wadi Rum National Park
This is by far a top 10 destination for us. Getting there was not easy but once there it was amazing. We had a car pick us up in Petra after our long day. The weather was terrible. Dense fog and heavy rain in the mountains. An accident detoured us and what was supposed to be 90 minutes turned into 3 hours. We got a really good sense of the Arabic culture on that drive. More than once our driver got out of his car, had a lengthy conversation with other stuck drivers and then got back into the car. Everyone was helping everyone else. At one point the cars around us all moved out of our way so the driver good get to Wadi Rum using a different route.
We got to the park entrance where we were met by our Bedouin host. There, we climbed into his 4×4 and headed into the dark desert to the Bedouin Camp we would be staying in. We were treated to a Bedouin style dinner with the other campers and we slept in a tent on a bed. The tent was so dark and so quiet that we both had the best sleep of the trip to that point.
We woke up to a crisp clear cloudless sky. The sun was shining and the breakfast served was fantastic.
The camp offers a few different ways to see the natural beauty of the park. You can take a 2 hour Jeep tour, an all day Jeep tour or you can hop on camels and see the park. We chose to hike out on our own. The risk of doing so is getting lost. It’s really easy to get lost in a desert. The best story from the entire trip was this:
We were hiking down a massive sand dune when a Lexus 4×4 pulled up to us. The driver got out and as is the case in Jordan he was super friendly. He asked where we were from and told us he was a Bedouin from Oman. He had driven from Oman through Saudi Arabia to Jordan. He stopped to talk to us because he was looking for a goat herder. You see, he wanted to buy a goat, take it back to his camp for lunch. That’s right he was going to turn a live goat into his lunch. Unfortunately for him we had not come across any goat herders that morning.
By mid morning I was ready to run. I put on my Altra Superiors and went running.
We stayed one more night in Wadi Rum and then continued our adventure.
Our plan was to cross the boarder into Eilat, Israel. The camp had organized a ride for us. It was a very enlightening ride indeed. Our driver was Bedouin and had taught himself English only 2 years ago. We talked politics and culture. He was driving us to Israel. History and our media tells us that the relationship bewtween the Muslim world and Israel is contentious. Our driver said this (paraphrase) “People make up the world not governments. We have no problem with the people of Israel. We love them. You only get to live this life once, there is no reason to hate yet there are many reasons to love.”