By Jumana Khatib
April 19, 2017
The summer of 2014, I got to take a life-changing trip to a part of the world very near and dear to me. I visited Jordan and got to get a taste of what this life really has to offer. Many people don’t get the opportunity to travel, whether it’s because of time, money, or just location. People should not miss out on any opportunities and this leisure has made me determined to travel more and meet different people in different cultures and eat different foods. Growing up as an Arab-American, I do not get to experience my culture and customs as traditional Arabs in the Middle East. Jordan is where my parents were born and grew up and getting to visit the streets they played on and the restaurants they used to hang out in gave me a sense of a part of the world that is pretty misunderstood. People may think that Jordan is a third world country and is not very industrialized, but it’s actually on the contrary; Jordan has many tourists destinations and activities people can do and visit. Some excursions that I got to experience consisted of taking a Turkish bath, going to the lowest point on Earth via the Dead Sea, and visiting one of the the seven wonders of the world, Petra.
The Turkish bath is a method of cleansing and relaxing the body which became popular during the Victorian era. I was a bit hesitant at first because of the recently nice sun-kissed tan I got from the Jordanian sun and didn’t want it to rub off, but I went to the bath anyway hoping for baby soft skin. The first part of the bath routine was to change into bathing suits and then take a quick shower, after which we jumped into a hot tub for ten minutes full of bubbles and neon blue lights. After that, we went directly into a steam room/sauna. It was one of the hottest things I’ve ever experienced. The steam room was very hard to breathe in but was necessary to open up all pores. After the steam room came the fun. We laid on a circular, marble table, which about five people can fit on, and very intimidating women came with their luffas to do the scrubbing. They scrubbed every inch of the skin very rough, rubbing off all dead skin and dirt. It was quite disgusting. After the scrubbing, you could see all the rolled up skin and dirt on your body. Next was the rinse off. We rinsed off quickly and then jumped back onto the table for the next part of the scrubbing. This part was much more soothing; the women had large black fabric bags which they opened up, ran through the air and then placed it onto our bodies and squeezed out a whole bag full of bubbles. They then smoothed our skin with it and then we washed off again. The last part of the bath experience was the massage; this took place in a candle lit room and the women rubbed oil on us and massaged all the knots and kinks in our back. It was so relaxing I began to fall asleep. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, so we took our final shower, got dressed, and drank our last cocktail. The result of the bath was of course the smoothest skin you can ever imagine. It was quite the experience that I recommend everybody try at least once. My next goal was to take an authentic Turkish bath in Turkey and get the full traditional experience.
Another exciting activity that I was fortunate enough to do was visit the Dead Sea in Jordan. Coincidently, this too was great for the skin, A popular routine that I got to do was rub the Dead Sea mud all over my body, let it dry and then wash it off in the sea, the aftermath a riveting glow that lasts for weeks. We stayed at the Dead Sea Spa, which had four pools and the sea was right behind the resort. One of the first things my family and I did was go into the sea. The sea has no living creatures in it at all, hence the name. It is the saltiest sea and burns any cut you have, which unfortunately I had. The vast amount of salt in the sea forces you to float, which was quite relaxing. Animals like horses would occasionally escape from their owners, run into the sea and just drift away to the other side because the water is so dense with salt. My cousins had found a water bottle while swimming, filled with salt crystals that crystallized over time.
As many know the sea is disappearing. In 1950, the sea was about 50 miles long. Today, it is about 30 miles long. Water levels are falling at an average rate of three feet per year. The sea needs an infusion of 160 billion gallons of water annually to maintain its current size but gets barely ten percent of that. The sea is still a huge tourist attraction despite the receding water.
One of the most memorable experiences that I encountered was going to one of the seven wonders of the world, Petra. My family and I walked about half a mile through a mountain, retracing the footsteps our ancestors made some 2,000 years ago. Man had built these structures and built a path in the middle of the mountain. At the end of the alley through the mountain, a huge carving inside another mountain faces you with the most beautiful detailed designs and a room inside, which was unfortunately closed off. This phenomenon was so advanced, it was hard to believe that man had done this with basic tools. We continued our voyage through the mountains, rode camels and horses, and looked at more carvings and steps in the mountains.
After Petra, we hopped on bus to go to Wadi Rum and sped away into the beautiful desert. We raced with other pickups down sand dunes and finally reached our destination to a beautiful black tent where Bedouins, also known as sand dwellers, served us traditional tea. We then climbed up more sand dunes and onto a mountain where we watched the sun go down and there was not one cloud in the sky. We then drove back to a camp where we had tents set up for us, and in the middle of the camp were cushions around a dance floor where we sat and watched the Bedouins perform their traditional dances all night. After all this, around 12:30 a.m, the entire camp cut off all electricity. We then laid on the softest sand and watched the stars. There were thousands of stars that we could see and we used our laser to point at them. It was an experience that words cannot even describe.
The next morning we drove to Aqaba, Jordan and went to the Red Sea. We tanned on the beach and went on a banana boat, cruising through the salty sea and looking at the surrounding cities such as Eilat, Israel which was right across the sea. Unfortunately, Aqaba was our last stop and we had to head back to my Aunt’s house. These destinations were one of the best experiences in my life. To be able to even visit these places was a blessing in itself.
Having so many life changing experiences in the span of five weeks was remarkable. I encourage people to make it a goal to visit a country you are interested in. I feel complete wanderlust from this remarkable leisure. It motivates me more to make this a lifestyle to experience the most of what this earth has to offer.