In search of sea glass on the shores of the Red Sea


We were done with our floating in the Dead Sea and walking through the historic site of Petra in Jordan. We arrived in Aqaba, wanting to have a little rest before we venture out to breathtaking Wadi Rum.

(I highly recommend staying at the Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay hotel when you’re in Aqaba – it’s a beautiful resort, a little outside the city and Aqaba is a great base if you intend to visit Wadi Rum as it’s less than an hour away by car.)


One of the activities my daughter and I really enjoyed while we were in Aqaba was spending time walking along the shores of the Red Sea, in the private beach resort of the hotel we stayed. It was winter when we were in Jordan in December 2016 and though Aqaba is relatively ‘warmer’ than say, Amman or Petra, it was quite chilly in the mornings (and evenings).

This was where I introduced my daughter Pristine to sea glas because I am fascinated by them.


Every now and then, walking on the beach, Pristine stops, reaches down and plucks a piece of smooth glass out of the sand. We would spend at least an hour just looking down. Who knew collecting sea glass can be an incredibly relaxing activity! Walking down the beach will clear your mind and finding a sea glass is such a delight, like finding a little treasure – I mean, it’s not everyday you get to pick up one from the Red Sea, right?

What is sea glass?

Sea glass is weathered glass, actually fragments of broken glass tossed/ended up in the ocean where wave action and salt water are the forces that give it its frosted look and a satiny feel.


sea glass 2
sea glass 3

I’ve read somewhere that it is also called beach glass and even mermaid’s tears. I don’t know about mermaid’s tears but it sure sounds fairy tale like. I like it.

Sea glasses are man-made, nature-perfected – pieces of glass from broken bottles, broken tableware, or even shipwrecks that are rolled and tumbled in the ocean for years until all of their edges are rounded off, and the slickness of the glass has been worn to a frosted appearance. So cool, no?

We collected a lot and kept it. It felt good in our pockets, like worry beads.

Ever since I spotted a piece of sea glass on the sand, I have been in love with it. The thought of a broken shard of glass tumbling in the waves for all those years and transforming into jewel like pieces with bits of history as each piece came from someone whose story will remain unknown is intriguing, mysterious and I think, precious.

red sea beach 9

Now, here’s to collecting more sea glass from different parts of the world!

Is Wadi Rum worth it?

Wadi Rum 6

When Ridley Scott was directing the blockbuster film The Martian, he knew he needed a landscape that closely resembled Mars in order to keep the film as realistic as possible. He settled on filming in the Wadi Rum desert region of Jordan.

I have not seen that movie but when I got to Wadi Rum myself, it’s easy to see why this location was chosen.

Initially, Wadi Rum wasn’t in our itinerary because given our very short time in Jordan (fly in Friday morning and fly out Monday night). We covered the Dead Sea on our first day (Friday) and Petra on the second (Saturday). We rested on the third day spending just a few hours strolling through the shores of the Red Sea, visiting the city center at Aqaba and hunting where to eat the traditional dish mansaf and just chilling at our very fascinating accommodation at Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay. On our last day (Monday), we checked out at 9:30 am and headed to Wadi Rum.


Wadi Rum lies in the south western corner of Jordan 58 kilometers north of the coastal town of Aqaba. It can be reached easily by main roads from Amman (3.5 hours), Aqaba (1 hour) and Petra (1.5 hours). Car-hire and bus tours can be arranged through hotels and travel agents and taxis can be negotiated from Aqaba and Petra.

* We had a private van arranged by Amani Tours for the entire time we were in Jordan, including to Wadi Rum


Wadi Rum 1

The first stop to Wadi Rum is at the Visitor’s Center. It overlooks the Seven Pillars of Wisdom – an imposing rock formation with seven enormous folds, named after the autobiography by T.E Lawrence of the same name. There are several tours to choose from, depending on the amount of time you can spend. Two hours, three hours…the staff at the Visitor’s Center contacts the local Bedouin drivers as required.

The best way to enjoy Wadi Rum is to get on the back of a 4×4 pickup truck. Our guide contacted a Bedouin driver she knows personally to take us around. The Bedouins are still the people of the desert and you can trust them to show you everything there is to see. Just hop on one of their jeeps and enjoy the view.

We paid JOD50 + tip for a three hour excursion (that stretched into four hours in actual).

Wadi Rum 2

The truck is improvised to have ‘seats’ for four people at the back. There are no seat belts which could make you think twice about doing this – if so, you can sit beside the driver inside the truck. Otherwise, be a little adventurous (and face a little danger). The driver won’t drive fast so I never felt unsafe.

Wadi Rum 4

Prepare for a bumpy ride, but it will be well worth your aching bones. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of opportunities to get off the vehicle and admire the place on foot.

p with camel in wadi rum

There is nothing more exhilarating than speeding through a desert landscape in the back of an open-air pickup truck. We were there on the 2nd week of December when it’s winter and though the glaring sun makes it look like it’s hot, it’s not! On the contrary, it was very cold. See my daughter’s thick jacket! She wished she could fix the hood to cover her head but alas, the oncoming wind keeps on blowing the hoodie off.

I loved the feel of the crisp, cold wind on my face.

back of truck in wadi rum

Jordan’s desert is, in a word, MAJESTIC. Its lunar-like landscape (Wadi Rum is also known as the Valley of the Moon), crevice-riddled cliffs and ever-evolving light took my breath away.

It was quite an experience but a word of caution: photographing out sitting at the back of a fast moving truck travelling in uneven pathways is so challenging – with both feet needing to anchor for safety, looking for the perfect timing and clicking the camera, trying hard not to throw it over or throw myself over.

Most of the “good” photos I have taken at the back of that moving truck is accidental, but I loved them all anyway.

Wadi Rum 5

camel in wadi rum 4
Wadi Rum 3

The desert can seem at first to be an empty expanse, save for some camels in the wild.

camel in wadi rum 1

camel in wadi rum 5


I suppose finding the right guide for your Wadi Rum tour is not easy. I did a lot of research before our flight to Jordan and still didn’t have a clue where to find a good guide and just left it all to ‘fate’. However, the best way to keep ‘fate’ on your side is by asking other travellers who had “been there, done that”, to read their stories and personal recommendations.

mushroom rock 2

We got lucky with our guide and she made our trip to Wadi Rum even more wonderful. She did not only got us a good driver, she took us to places in Wadi Rum that isn’t in the list staple points of stop for tourists.


Before we got on the truck, our guide told us we will be doing a “little” climbing. One of my favourite parts of our Wadi Rum tour was the stop of at a rock bridge-arch structure. Yep, its pretty dangerous looking so I wasn’t really keen on climbing, lugging along my camera but I’m glad I did because once we were at the top the precarious looking arch, it really did feel like we were in an adventure movie.

arch bridge from far

arch bridge 2
arch bridge 1

I gave my camera to our driver, a local Bedouin, who, despite his outfit, could climb up and down the steep rocks as fast a cheetah! (The third one on the pic, in white is our guide)

Next, our guide took us to a rock formation that she calls, “The Titanic”. Of course she invites us to climb again!

wadi rum titanic

So to come back to the essence of this blog post, is Wadi Rum worth it?

wadi rum 2

T.E. Lawrence elegantly described Wadi Rum as “vast, echoing and God-like…” and I could not agree more. Wadi Rum is a stupendous, timeless place, virtually untouched by humanity and its destructive forces. Here, it is the weather and winds that have carved the imposing, towering skyscrapers.

If you want to experience what I and other travellers refer to as “other-worldly”, include Wadi Rum in your Jordan itinerary. The scenery is truly out of this world. Miles of solitary sand dunes and rocky hills open up in front of your eyes, making you feel as if you were walking on Mars without having to set foot in a spaceship. There are options to stay for the night at the Bedouin camps. I can imagine the dark, starry skies sans light pollution in the big cities and howls of desert wolves or just the stillness of the night here.

Wadi Rum 8

I live in Dubai and I have been and seen deserts. However, if you ever thought that once you’ve seen a desert you’ve seen them all, think again. Wadi Rum, the red desert of southern Jordan is a marvel you shouldn’t miss.

* I tried hard to take decent photos to share the beauty of Wadi Rum but I think even the best photographers, not one photo would give justice to the actual beauty of the place. You simply need to go there and see it with your own eyes.

Petra, from the Siq and beyond


If you hear the word, “Petra”, the above photo comes to mind. In fact, until I went there early this month, I thought this iconic building was all there is to Petra.

The Treasury is one of the most elaborate temples in the ancient Arab Nabatean Kingdom city of Petra. The great facade of the Treasury (“Al Khazneh”), the most ornate and beautiful of Petra’s tombs, is the first structure seen by visitors as they exit the narrow confines of the Siq. In spite of its name (assigned by local legend) however, the monument is a royal tomb, not a treasury.

Before you can see the Treasury, you have to go through what is called the “Siq” – a narrow canyon that leads into the the once lost city of Petra. This is my FAVORITE part of the whole journey.

This is the entrance to the Siq.


To reach the start of the Siq, visitors must first walk about half a mile along the wide valley known as the Bab as-Siq. It seems rather long but 2 things: (1) you can use a horse or donkey to carry you till the entrance of the Siq* (2) there are several interesting sights to see along the way.

* the cost to ride the horse and donkey is said to be included in the ticket but you need to give a tip.


The first major monument to encounter in Petra – actually two separate monuments stacked on top of each other the Obelisk Tomb (upper) and Bab as-Siq Triclinium (lower). The four great obelisks of the Obelisk Tomb, with a figure in a niche in the center, guard a rock-hewn cave containing burials.

The lower half, the Bab as-Siq Triclinium functioned as a dining room where feasts were held in honor of the dead.


Only a few minutes after we entered the Siq, it blew my mind. It is winding, mysterious and in the early morning light and silence, it is truly breathtaking.

We walked the next half-mile, marvelling at the towering canyon walls letting out deep breaths at the grandeur of this place.



The Siq, meaning “gorge”, is Petra’s most dramatic natural feature.

The path twists and turns between bizarrely eroded cliffs for over a kilometre, sometimes widening to form sunlit piazzas in the echoing heart of the mountain; in other places, the looming walls (150 meters high) close in to little more than a couple of metres apart, blocking out sound, warmth and even daylight.


The Siq is not technically a gorge, as it was formed not by erosion but tectonic forces, which caused the rock to split dramatically in half. The waters of Wadi Musa then flowed in and the winds blew through the newly formed gap, gradually rounding the sharp edges into smooth curves.


Horses are prohibited from entering the Siq, but horse drawn carriages in Petra, first and foremost for elderly and handicapped visitors. If you are able to walk though, I would STRONGLY suggest to walk your way through the Siq rather than sit down in a carriage with a roof over your head.

Along the way are some small niches, shrines and carvings to investigate (this is why having a guide is a smarter choice) and running alongside the length of the Siq are water channels carved by the Nabateans to provide water to the city of Petra.


The walk along the Siq is punctuated with curious carvings and friezes, all the while building up to that climax: the first sighting of the Treasury.


I was holding my heart for a few minutes at this sight, just staring at it from all angles. (Special thanks to our guide who took this photo of us!)


Most visitors will have seen the building in the famous Indiana Jones scene, but the initial view invariably leaves them momentarily staring in awe before reaching for the camera and reeling off several hundred pictures. I know I did!


As I’ve mentioned earlier in this post, before my trip to Jordan, I thought the Treasury was all there is to Petra. Boy, I was dead wrong and embarrassingly misinformed. The below photo was taken on the right side of the Treasury (right side when it’s in front of you).


Walking around the bend, you’ll find there is more to Petra than just the Treasury. We leave behind the crowded Treasury area and head further into Petra. While the Treasury is the best-known part of this site, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Here is what you’ll see BEYOND the treasury!






We walked a lot at Petra, exploring the sites, climbing on rocks and taking hundreds of pictures.


We were already dog tired from all the walking and trekking (news flash – we live in Dubai when “trekking” and “walking a lot” isn’t exactly included in our daily lives…) but our guide took us to the Urn Tomb – when I was tempted to say no, my daughter was glad to drag her butt uphill again to see the Royal Tombs up close and go inside so, I had to go too.

I’m glad I made the climb. The view from up here is beautiful.


TIP: When you’re inside this chamber, SING. Yes, you may get some strange stares but this chamber has eerily wonderful acoustics you’ll feel you’re a pro singer. No joke!

Note that the vendors on the way to the Royal Tombs are relentless and sometimes no polite ‘no thank you’ will keep them at bay. Remember, times are tough in Jordan. We are thankful we have our guide with us who dealt with this stuff (in the local language).

We started to make our exit around 2 pm, after spending nearly 6 hours in Petra . The difference was astounding. People and vendors were milling about everywhere, and it would’ve been impossible to get a photo in front of the Treasury without 10 people with a selfie stick in the background.



All you said about Petra is rose coloured, any negative points and tips to offer?

My main complaint about Petra would probably be the steep entrance fee of JD50 (approx US$70 per person (as of this writing). While I would still say, it was worth our time, JD50 for a day makes Petra more expensive than any single tourist attraction I have ever been to, and it is exorbitantly higher than anything else in Jordan.

Petra is one of the most fantastic places I’ve ever been, so I’m not saying don’t go. Some tips you’ll find from other blogs would be to buy the 2 or 3 day pass as there’s not much difference in the cost with the 1 day pass. But personally, I don’t know if I have the energy to go again in a span of 24 hours. I may go back to Petra again but would like a considerable amount of time in between to reflect and miss it to explore it again. My wish is to take my parents there.

Next, I feel it’s unfortunate how local vendors have literally littered the place, some selling wares very aggressively up to the point I feel harassed sometimes. And I know I am not the first one to say or feel this – a simple Google search and you will find so many who can say the same thing.

While I understand it’s the only livelihood they know, if the current number of sellers increase, it could affect the visitor’s whole experience of Petra.

Ok to cap this really long post (thanks for sticking around!), if you do go to Petra, three quick tips.

1. Start your trip into Petra early – at 6 am there are no trinket sellers (I won’t lie – I find the hard selling of the locals a tad annoying), no horses or camels, and all the major sites are deserted.

2. Be prepared to walk, walk, walk so wear sturdy shoes/sandals.

3. Bring your own food and drink – Hiking the off beaten trails may take a couple of hours and into your meal times. It’s always good to have something to munch on and drink so you can spend more time exploring.


Spending time exploring this massive red stone city is an experience you will always remember.

It starts with a walk through the kilometer long Siq, naturally carved rocks that shielded the city from prying eyes for centuries. The first glimpse every visitor has of the city is the famous Treasury building, highlighted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But Petra is a lot more than just one building; numerous hiking paths allow guests to discover the full width and breadth of this beautiful complex.

Even with the recent unfortunate event in Jordan that threatened tourist security, I hope for peace and wish all of you reading this would still have the plans and chance to see this part of the world with your own eyes. It’s truly a wonder.

Guide to visiting Petra for first timers


This guide to visiting Petra is meant to make this glorious site just a bit easier to get to. Depending on when you stumble upon this blog post, the data and information (especially the entrance fee) may not be accurate anymore, so do check from Jordan Tourism Board’s official website.


Ah Petra, how do I even start?

I’ve known about Petra before it became one of the new seven wonders of the world, through a movie. Are you familiar with the last scene of the movie Indiana Jones and last crusade? If not, watch the movie.

Petra is the jewel of Jordan, and is a must see.

It is Jordan’s A-list attraction, a “lost” citadel whose prime landmark – the carved, colonnaded wonder Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) – has illuminated countless documentaries and films.

Over the centuries, Petra was known only to occasional plunderers and the Bedouins who remained in the area. It was altogether unknown to Westerners until 1812, when a Swiss explorer, masquerading as an Arab in Egypt, heard tales of an ancient city in the mountains 250 miles to the east and coaxed a guide to take him there.


Petra is one of the world’s most compelling historical sites. The Treasury and other structures are sculpted from the red-rock cliffs of the Jordanian desert 2,000 years ago. Looking at the seemingly perfect symmetry and intricate details, you’d wonder HOW the Nabateans built the Treasury and most of Petra’s grandest buildings – as sculptures, carving them into the sandstone cliffs. It is this display of human creativity amid such rugged surroundings that makes Petra remarkable.


From Dubai, Fly Dubai flies to Amman twice a day and has the best flight schedule, leaving early morning from Dubai and taking off from Amman at night on the way back. Air Arabia, Emirates and Royal Jordanian also flies to Amman non-stop.

Petra is located 250 kilometers south of Amman, about 2 and a half hours by car from the airport. There are taxis available right outside the airport as well as a public bus called Jett Bus from Amman. Unfortunately, I can’t vouch for either the taxi or the public bus since we had a private van with driver and tour guide arranged by Amani Tours for the whole duration of our trip.

We went to Petra after a day trip to the Dead Sea, arriving after sunset. The journey from Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea to Wadi Musa (the village where Petra is located) took about 2 hours. Our driver drove through Kings Highway to Petra and there were parts of the highway which were not lighted at all.  There were random checkpoints as well with the Jordanian police interviewing the driver, etc. It’s all to make Jordan safer.


There are several hotels in Wadi Musa, catering to the surge of tourists who visit the town to see Petra, after it was declared one of the seven new wonders of the world.


If you’re staying in Wadi Musa, then Petra is a short walk away. We stayed at the Movenpick Resort Petra which is only across the street from the gate to the Visitor’s Center. One of the five stars hotel in the area, we had a clean, comfortable room but we did not have much time to explore other facilities and amenities since we arrived around 8 pm and checked out by 6 am.


The duty manager Ms. Rania was very kind to welcome us into the hotel. Breakfast is a large buffet that starts at 6 am which allows early risers to get into Petra at the crack of dawn.

The location of the hotel is its biggest selling point. It is really worth staying that close to Petra. Though you can visit Petra any time you like, it’s always best to go there early so if in case you oversleep, staying in a hotel close by will not ruin your plans.

COST (as of this writing, December 2016)

I must admit, the first time I thought and planned of visiting Jordan and most especially, Petra, I didn’t expect there was an entrance fee to the site. Then I spent some time doing Google searches and found out.

The following fees information are from the Visit Petra website.

The following table are fees for the accommodated visitor: Visitor who stays at least one night in Jordan.

Entrance Ticket (per person) Price
One  Day 50 JOD (approx AED250 or US$68)
Two  Days 55 JOD (approx AED275 or US$75)
Three days 60 JOD (approx AED300 or US$82)

** Children 12 years old and under enter Petra free of charge. **

A horse ride from the visitor’s centre to the entrance of the Siq is included in the ticket price, though you’ll still need to pay a tip which varies. This is a tricky part and you might find yourself on top of an animal the whole time you negotiate for what you feel is the right tip.

We did not do the horse ride to the entrance of the Siq because it’s an easy 15-minute walk downhill. You might want to save the horse ride till the way back up as that final uphill stretch of sandy path after a whole day’s walking is a bit of a killer.


My daughter was over 12 years old when we purchased the tickets to Petra at the Visitor’s Center so I had to shell out for a normal ticket for her.  The staff at the counter was very strict, I actually wonder if any families with small framed kids over 12 got away for free by telling the kid is less than 12 years old?

Anyway, we paid 50 JD x 2 = 100 JD (approx AED500 or US$135). While I would still say that Petra is worth visiting once in your life, the fees are outrageous with no student discounts or special discounts for minors! I hope the Jordanian government do something with this hefty fee as it will surely backfire and affect tourism to Petra.

When I told my sister and some friends about the cost to enter Petra, they were shocked and asked me, “so, what was inside the Treasury?”. I said, I don’t know because tourists are NOT allowed to enter the Treasury! Yeah, contrary to what we have all seen from the Indiana Jones movie! They all thought the steep entrance fee was for a tour of what’s inside the Treasury!

That said, Petra should really be marketed as an archaeological park made for hikers who want to spend 2-3 days exploring a unique desert landscape, with some cool ancient buildings to see along the way.



The weather and climate in Jordan can vary dramatically depending on location and altitude. In the summer the weather in Jordan, especially in the deserts and Jordan valley is blisteringly hot while at other times of year the deserts can be freezing and snow is not unheard of.

It was cold in Petra (and in Amman too) when we were there in December. I was hesitant to bring my daughter’s thick, down jacket but someone from the travel agency told me to bring winter clothes and I’m glad I did! It was freezing in the morning.

Opening hours to visit Petra are from 6am to 6pm during the summer and from 6am to 4 pm in winter.

To avoid the crowds and the heat, I strongly recommend making the effort to be there as early as you can – we were at the gate buying tickets at 7am. Going early means you will get a chance to walk through the Siq without anyone blocking the view for photos or see the Treasury with almost no one around.



Petra stretches over a massive 60 square kilometre area and you’ll end up doing a lot of walking but to just see the highlights, you can comfortably see Petra in a day.


Everyone has different levels of fitness, however, you could spend five to six hours exploring, or twice that time – but even so, a day gives you plenty of time.


Also, Petra is a early bird game, start at 7 am and you can finish everything on or before closing time, unless you are a archeologist 🙂

We spent 7 hours at Petra, starting at 7 am.



1. Water – There is a mixture of places to eat and drink inside Petra, ranging from Bedouin tea stalls, simple kiosks to cafés but prices will be higher of course. Bring your own water not only if you want to save but also to have something to drink till you get to those places selling it.

2. Comfortable shoes – You’ll be walking over sandy and rocky ground so walking shoes are probably the best bet.

3. Warm winter clothing (if travelling during winter time) – I’m not kidding you on this, especially if you go to Petra in December like us. Don’t think this place is warm because it’s in the Middle East – it was 4C when we went on the 2nd week of December!

4. Cash – for tips in case you opt for a donkey/camel ride and buy food, drinks and souvenirs.

5. CAMERA – fully charged and SD cards with ample storage as you will be taking a LOT of pictures! Also bring power bank for your phone, if you’re taking photos with your phone.



This deserves a separate, more extensive post but to make it short –

I traveled to Jordan and went to Petra with my (almost) teen and had absolutely no problems. However, traveling with smaller kids, I bet would be challenging. Not impossible but there are things you’d have to do and give up if ever you decide to go with your little tots. Lots of walking are involved and putting the child in a stroller will not be comfortable for him/her as the roads are not smooth.

I hesitate to advise against being brave and trying, but realistically, looking after a baby/toddlers is likely to take quite a lot away from your enjoyment of the site.



No questions asked, YES.

Never mind the outrageously expensive entrance fee, I feel exploring this massive red stone city is an experience you will always remember. I will be writing a separate post about our journey to the Treasury through more than a kilometer stretch of canyon. It was absolutely stunning and by far, my favorite part of our visit to Petra.

To hire a tour guide in Jordan or not


One of the factors that made our Jordan trip very satisfying and memorable was our local guide from Amani Tours. Wafa is a very experienced tourist guide and goes out of her way to tell us stories of the place complete with history and humor. She speaks Arabic, very diplomatic and can ward off aggressive peddlers (without hurting their feelings!) which is helpful as I really find it hard to refuse to shoo away these kind of people aplenty on touristy areas, especially children selling goods or begging.

There are hundreds of Jordanian tour operators dealing with incoming tourism, but most are fairly set in their ways, offering virtually identical seven-day tours around a circuit of sights from Amman to Jerash, Madaba, Karak, Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba and the Dead Sea.

Only a handful has guides that take you off the beaten track and our guide took us to a more scenic route on our way to Aqaba after Petra and other significant places very few tourists reach.



Fewer can take you out of the tourist bubble for one-on-one encounters with local people.

She introduced us to a handful of Jack Sparrows at Petra

She introduced us to a handful of Jack Sparrows at Petra

With her Bedouin friend, Salim who drove us on his pickup truck at Wadi Rum

With her Bedouin friend, Salim who drove us on his pickup truck at Wadi Rum

She wasn’t required to go into the water but was there so I can get out of the Dead Sea ALIVE. Don’t zoom in my face.


She took us to an elevated area in Aqaba where the locals live, so we can see the whole port city and say goodbye to it properly.


In all my trips, this is the first time we’re with a guide because in all other cities, I preferred to navigate all on my own, getting lost and learning along the way.

However, the sites in Jordan is massive and I think, without a guide, it’s easy to miss important, historical details that add more meaning to your trip.

Professional, licensed guides can be either hired to accompany you throughout your tour of Jordan (the best option), or at least to visit Petra exclusively, from the Visitors Centre at the entrance to Petra itself. I am not sure about the cost of a private guide to Petra.

We connected very easily with Wafa.


I love her positive attitude about life, her love for travel (oh her adventure-packed travel experiences and stories!) and passion for what she does. She ‘works’ tirelessly (I’m ashamed to admit she has more energy than I do!).

I feel so happy to have met our wonderful guide in Jordan and I’ve never been this excited to write about people I met during my travels. She was more than a tour guide for us – she didn’t make us feel we were tourists but instead, her long time friends who has come to Jordan to visit her.

And she gives the best hugs.

So yeah…I think a trip to Jordan without a guide, although possible would be different. The majority of sites in Jordan are not well marked and you can miss a lot of important places/events because of this.  A full-time guide is by far the best bet as they will show you a truly personal view of their country which they are very proud of.

If and when you get to Jordan and decide to hire a guide, I hope he/she is as wonderful as ours. Good luck!


Amani Tours (where Wafa is connected), is in the trusted tour agencies list of the official Jordan Tourism Board.They offer standard and tailored tour packages, car transfers and fully licensed local guides. You can reach them via their Facebook page or on Twitter or call +962 6 585 9696  & Fax + 962 6 585 9697.

Amani Tours provided a driver and a guide to take us around Jordan to fulfill our 4 days, 3 nights itinerary, however, all opinions are my own.

Do’s and don’ts when at the Dead Sea


Or rather,


1. Take a day pass in one of the hotels on the shores of the Dead Sea

If you don’t have much time, your best bet is to take a day pass at any of the hotels in the Dead Sea area. Since you would only float, rinse and shower, take a day pass as the public beach might offer the facilities you need.


We accessed the Dead Sea via the Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea – it’s a huge resort with great facilities, beautiful and well maintained grounds and most of all, very helpful staff. It has direct access to the shore of the Dead Sea and view from there is just AMAZING.


The hotel has villa type rooms facing the sea with private pools. The whole ambiance is very peaceful and relaxing.


The pools at the hotel all looked very lovely however, it was too cold for a swim. Thankfully, the Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea has a “winter” pool called the hydro pool at the spa where the water is heated.

If I had to do it again, I’d probably stay for a night at the Movenpick just to relax after the Dead Sea experience and enjoy the hydro pool at the spa more and perhaps, another dip in the healing waters of the Dead Sea!

2. Don’t shave a few days before your visit

This tip is applicable to both men and women. The high salinity means that even the smallest of cuts will burn. Cover open cuts or wounds with a waterproof bandage if you don’t want to know the real meaning of “putting salt in one’s wound”.

3. Consider wearing water shoes


The shores and floor of the Dead sea is not soft powdery sands you might encounter on most beaches. The shores are pebbly and there are several sharp clumps of crystallized salt stuck to the stones at the floor. Pristine had a cut on her toes because we were barefoot. If I would do it again, I’d definitely bring and use some sort water shoes. TAKE MY WORD FOR IT.

4. Bring some reading material to capture that IMPORTANT photo

You’ve probably Googled “floating in the Dead Sea” and saw photos of people holding magazines as they float on their backs. Want that iconic shot? Bring along your own prop! We didn’t bring any but luckily, the hotel staff gave us something to use!


5. Wear an old bathing suit

The water is quite harsh on fabrics and can cause discolouration. Save your favorite bikini for the pool.

6. Don’t splash the water

Try not to splash. That’s not the usual recommendation for a seaside getaway, with a salt and mineral content upward of 30 percent, a splash of Dead Sea water in your eyes and you can’t open it for at least five minutes! If you get a drop of water on your face, do not use your wet hand to try to brush it off! You’ll get more water on your face and if it gets into your eyes, it will sting a lot. Just get out, walk like a blind man and go to the shower.

Don’t kick the water to move, just use your hands.

7. Just lean back


Don’t try to swim. Floating ON YOUR BACK is the preferred method of immersion at the Dead Sea. In the photo, our guide is trying to explain to Pristine how to do the floating thingie properly. I honestly don’t know what we’d do without her when we were there. She tells us to just relax, walk in slowly, pretend you are about to sit down on a chair and lean back; the water will do the rest.

The buoyancy is nothing like you’ve experienced before because the salinity is 8-9 times that of normal sea water.

8. Do the mud pack!


Don’t laugh now but the black mud of the Dead Sea is VERY good for the skin. The black mud found on the seabed is high in magnesium, sodium, potassium, and calcium, which can give you a mud bath that can help to treat many ailments and skin diseases..

After floating, we applied mud all over our body and allowed the mud to dry.

The sun was shining out but the cold winds of winter made us shiver. We were the only bathers when we were there because winter is off season for this kind of activity. After the mud dried up, we rinsed it in the salty water again and OMG – my skin became especially so soft, shiny and just absolutely smooth for a few days after our mud pack and Dead Sea soak!

9. Don’t spend too long in the sea

The water is dehydrating, and you’re advised to spend no more than 20 minutes in it. A shower is advised right after getting out. You can always go back in the sea for another 10-15 minutes, but shower in between if you don’t want to have your skin become irritated.

10. Bring a camera!


Take a photo or it did not happen, right? I also want to mention that I used a waterproof, all weather, all terrain casing for my phone so we can take photos at the Dead Sea. My very trusty Catalyst Case survived a dip in the world’s saltiest waters!

Have you been to the Dead Sea? Any other important tips you would like to add?

Day trip to the Dead Sea

day trip dead sea

First up on our Jordan itinerary was the Dead Sea. It was cold when we arrived in Amman (6 degrees celsius in the second week of December at 9 am) and I was thinking how cold the waters of the Dead Sea can get but heck, I was determined to do it anyway. I did not come all the way here to skip it! Because…how many times in your life will you be at the Dead Sea?

(The temperature at the Dead Sea area is significantly higher than in Amman since it is a lower elevation – in fact, it’s more than 400 meters below sea level.)


There are several taxis waiting outside the airport, just look out for the marked ones. The taxi fares seem to vary and a little search on Google could get you answers (sorry can’t tell because we did not use it). From Amman airport to the Dead Sea (at least to our hotel, the Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea) was around 50 minutes.

A travel & tours agency based in Amman, Amani Tours provided transfers for our entire Jordan trip on a van with a very able guide.


The Dead Sea is actually not a “sea” at all, it’s a hypersaline lake that is truly one of Earth’s unique places. A hypersaline lake is a landlocked body of water that contains significant concentrations of sodium chloride or other mineral salts, with saline levels surpassing that of ocean water.

The Dead Sea is indeed a very scary name for a lake. It is called so because nothing lives in it. There are no sea weeds or plants, no fish either. (No sharks!)


The Dead Sea, also known as the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. The surface and shores of the Dead Sea are 423 metres (1,388 ft) below sea level, making it Earth’s lowest elevation on land.



Truly such a unique experience. It really is hard to imagine that you can literally just lay on your back or stomach and have the water hold you up so easily.


It’s a strangely unnerving experience that can’t help but make you smile. The water is so buoyant I feel it’s “kicking” me up. It’s even difficult to put your foot down! The water called the “dead” sea has life of its own! You can’t sink. It’s an absolute blast for non-swimmers to be able to float so effortlessly. People can, however, get into serious trouble when going face first into the water, so lifeguards are on duty.

“Floating” in the Dead Sea was actually a bit DIFFICULT for me because I was scared of the water getting into my eyes (I’ve read painful stories about it!).


Thankfully, our wonderful tour guide got into the water with us to help me because I flopped around, cannot maintain my sense of balance (so lame, I know) so she was there to straighten me out. I did not stay long in the water – it was a bit windy so there were mild waves that I feel if no one gets hold of me, I’d land on the opposite side of the sea, in another country!

I don’t know with other bathers in the Dead Sea but I wasn’t really floating effortlessly, especially when holding a magazine to get that trademark floating-in-the-dead-sea picture or propping my neck so I don’t lie completely. Elevating my neck was tiring but a great ab exercise.



If you have small kids – under 7 or 8, I would reconsider the Dead Sea as the the mineral content may be too caustic for them. My daughter was 2 weeks shy of her 13th birthday when we went but she felt the burning sensation after 10 minutes. She enjoyed it nevertheless, especially how her skin felt afterwards.

Also, some small kids really freak out when they bob up in the water and their feet don’t touch, and then they flail. Flailing is REALLY bad in the Dead Sea. Even if you try to grasp your child firmly to secure him/her, you will likely lose your balance as you get in, with or without a child in your arms. I think holding a child would make things worse for both of you.

That said, this is one of the reasons why I didn’t bring my five year old son during this trip.



The concept of the word “enjoy” varies for each person. For me, a day trip is enough although if we had more days to spend in Jordan, I may consider staying for a night to enjoy the hotel’s facilities* and soak just one more time.

The spa facilities at the Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea were really enjoyable and even just standing near the shore, looking out to the sea, breathing the very clean and therapeutic air was so relaxing. It calms the mind as it sort of detaches you from the real world. As if time stops. If I stayed longer, that’s what I would do, sit there and just do a thousand deep breaths.

Did you know? The air in the Dead Sea is oxygen-rich and free of allergens, also alleviates symptoms and improves quality of life for patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergic rhinitis and cystic fibrosis.



The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth that is not underwater. Add to that, it has the saltiest water. Healing benefits – your skin will feel so soft even days later! That mysterious feeling of super buoyancy. Many people get bored but I would still say it is worth it. The place isn’t far from Amman airport and you can drop by on your way to Petra.

It is also important to note that the Dead Sea is actually dying with water levels declining by 1 meter every year and possibly more in the future so it won’t be long before it’s gone. I think that Dead Sea is still really worth a visit. It’s one in the world.

Go there even just for 1 hour and you will remember it for a lifetime.

Visiting Jordan: an overview


I took a short trip to Jordan for 4 days and 3 nights. And if I have to sum it all up, it was AMAZING.

Jordan had always been on my list of must see places. It’s in the Middle East and with only a little over three hours of flight from Dubai, it’s practically in my neighborhood. In a few weeks, we’re ten years in Dubai having not travelled to Jordan ever before in that span of time is kind of shameful, really. I attempted a visit once, in 2011 but my plans were scrapped due to work and later on, pregnancy and a small baby.

I travelled to many other places after that but Jordan never left my head and my heart. I know I HAD TO GO.

I’ll be writing extensively about my trip, the lessons I learned, experiences and will be sharing tips. For now though, the BASICS.


The most important question, I know most travellers to Jordan ask,

Is Jordan Safe?


Despite Jordan’s location surrounded by Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, it is a peaceful country with good diplomatic relationships with the UK and US. We felt very safe in Jordan and had no problems at all. People have been put off from visiting the country since the Arab Spring and the ongoing carnage in Syria but the key thing to remember is that there’s no advise against travel to anywhere in Jordan except a two-mile strip along the Syrian border (which is far from tourist sites).

VISA REQUIREMENTS (as of this writing)

Single Entry visas valid for one month: 40 JOD (approximately 56 USD)
Double Entry visas valid for three months: 60 JOD (approximately 85 USD)
Multiple Entry visas valid for six months: 120 JOD (approximately 170 USD)

Always check with the Jordanian consulate website or directly call them to confirm if you are eligible for visa on arrival or need to apply visa before going.

The Jordanian Government has waived visa fees for all non-restricted nationalities coming through Jordanian tour operators whether travelling individually or in groups. The visa fee is waived on the condition that the traveller/travellers spend a minimum of two consecutive nights in Jordan.



Our flight from Dubai was via Fly Dubai. They have flights to Amman twice a day and they have the best flight schedule for someone who has very limited time to travel. Our flight left Dubai’s Terminal 2 at 6:30 am, arriving in Amman a little after 8:00 am* so there’s practically the whole day to do things. Flight back to Dubai leaves Amman at 10:10 pm, so you have time to enjoy your last full day in Jordan till then.

Travel time Dubai – Amman is 3.5 hours and Amman – Dubai, 3 hours.

* Jordan follows winter time so the clocks are turned back an hour. In actuality, UAE and Jordan only have one hour of time difference, with the UAE ahead.

The cost of our roundtrip ticket bought on sale was AED800 (US$218) per person.

Fly Dubai do seat sales very often, so watch out for that. Our flight to Prague in May this year was also with this budget airline with tickets bought during their sales period.


1 JOD = approximately AED5 (US$1.4)

TIP: Carry Jordanian dinar cash as there are many establishments and local stores not accepting credit card.


Jordan is well connected and many hotels have WiFi. I bought a Zain local SIM card at a kiosk right inside the airport, after the passport control section. The SIM was with 4 GB data and 30 mins (?) local calls for JOD8.8. Zain network had fantastic 3G coverage, even in the most remote places like most of Wadi Rum.


Although there are taxis and a public bus to Petra (and other destinations), your best bet would be to hire a private transfer with driver and if possible, a guide through a trusted tour operators listed in the official Jordan Tourism Board website.

We were taken care of by Amani Tours who provided a van with a driver and a wonderful guide.

So here’s a roundup of the places we went to in Jordan. This is just an overview. A more detailed post about each one will follow, hopefully SOON!

Fascinating Dead Sea

First up on our itinerary was to the Dead Sea, right after we got out of the airport. Why, because no one really goes to Jordan without visiting this fascinating, downright mysterious body of water, right?

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth at 450 meters below sea level. It is actually a lake but called a ‘sea’ and is more than 8 times saltier than the ocean.


We did not stay overnight in the Dead Sea area but we were at the Movenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea opting for day access to get into the shores of the Dead Sea. Our guide said there are public and semi-private beach access areas but we chose to be at the Movenpick because we wanted to relax at their spa and use the therapeutic hydro pool and shower facilities (which were all so nice, by the way!).

(After swimming floating in the salty waters, you NEED to rinse off.)

The hotel has wonderful spa and therapy programs for healing and wellness, too though we didn’t go for any therapy sessions due to time constraints.


We braved the cold temps and wind to do what everyone should do when at the Dead Sea: float in the highly buoyant water! Pics on the next post about our Dead Sea experience soon!

Magical Petra

After a few hours at the Dead Sea, we head out to Petra. The plan was to spend the night at the Movenpick Resort Petra and see the historic archeological site first thing in the morning. There are several hotels, hostels and B&B places within Wadi Musa (the village where Petra is), however, the Movenpick Resort Petra is located at the doorstep of the entrance gate to Petra. As in, literally just a few steps away so that means, if you overslept, you don’t ruin your vacation.


We set out very early to Petra, right after sunrise ready to experience one of the seven wonders of the world. The gates open at 7 am and we were one of the few who were there at that time.


You must have heard wonderful stories and raves of Petra’s main attraction – the Treasury or Al Khazneh for locals but for me, the Siq – the stretch of dim, narrow gorge that winds its way approximately 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) impressed me more. If I had to take a picture of an angle I like, I’d probably end up with hundreds and hundreds of photographs.


Entrance to Petra is expensive (at least for me!) at single entry for 50JOD (approx AED250 or US$68) per person. Children under 12 enter for free. The cost discouraged me a bit to be honest but I thought, heck, I have to see this at least once in my life so be it!

TIP: If you’re going to spend longer time in Jordan and going to other sites/museums, etc, get the Jordan Pass – it combines the country’s visa entry fee of 40 JD with the notoriously costly Petra entrance ticket of 50 JD + entrance to other attractions.

Refreshing Red Sea

We drove to the southern part of Jordan from Petra, to a city called Aqaba – the only coastal city in Jordan and the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba. Even during winter, Aqaba is warmer than Amman or Petra making it a great holiday hub. Staying in Aqaba is a great idea if you plan to visit Wadi Rum.


That said, there are several hotels and resorts in Aqaba, especially on Tala bay. We stayed at the Movenpick Resort and Spa Tala Bay Aqaba. It is a very family friendly resort hotel with great facilities and fun pools – yeah, plural because there are several pools! In the summer time, I can imagine lots of families enjoying their time here.



Movenpick Tala Bay has a beach access to the Red Sea. It was so refreshing to walk here every morning after breakfast. I absolutely LOVE the breeze here!

Breathtaking Wadi Rum

Now people, THIS.

Wadi Rum, another UNESCO World Heritage Site is out of this world majestic. This protected desert wilderness is located in southern Jordan and spans an area of 74,000 hectares.

I can take a thousand pictures and write a thousand more words to describe it but it won’t do justice as what my eyes have seen.


I’ve heard many great things about Wadi Rum, as well as not so great ones too. If you love nature, history, mystery or even magic, go to Wadi Rum but if you’re one of the few who thinks a vast land of desert and ancient stones is boring, maybe you can skip it.



Entrance fee to Wadi Rum is only JOD5 (approx AED25 or US$1.4) per person but you have to pay for the tour on a jeep. Ours was JOD55 for three hours – we had a Bedouin driver recommended by our fabulous guide and the cost was worth every penny.



I travelled to Jordan with my soon to be officially teenager daughter, Pristine. This is actually our second mother-daughter trip together. The first one was last year checking out the Christmas markets in Prague for the first time. She is a year older now, meaning, more capable to endure all the walking and trekking I assumed our Jordan experience would entail.

And I wasn’t wrong! She is a real trooper and braver and stronger than me on all accounts. Pretty flexible too with almost everything from food to hiking distances and climbing rocks! I think I could write another 7 reasons why I love travelling with my daughter!

Our Jordan trip was fantastic and to be honest exceeded our already high expectations. I can’t wait to write more.

Travel Challenge: Visiting countries for every letter of the alphabet


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In one of my daydreaming moments on which place to visit next, I thought of creating a list of countries I visited so far and categorise them according alphabetically. The aim of this self-imposed challenge is to visit at least 26 countries in this lifetime, at least once per country.

How did my travel list fare?

Here’s my list and I highlighted in bold the beginning letter of the countries I have NOT yet visited.

A – Austria, solo travel in 2015

B – Belgium in 2006

C – Czech Republic (twice in a span of 6 months, Prague to experience Christmas market in Europe in winter and Prague again in spring time)

D – Not been so possibly Denmark because the others D’s are not too secure/safe or too far

E – England in 2006 – if this counts as “United Kingdom”, then I’ll aim to go to Estonia next!

F – Not been so my daughter said, France! France!

G – Germany in 2006

H – Hong Kong, if a long stopover counts! If not, I’d want to go to Hungary.

I – I want it to be Iceland! But more realistically, India, for me next year

J – Japan! I lived there for more than 10 years and Jordan.

K – Kenya would be a dream but just to cross this out, might get on a short flight to Kuwait!

L – Not been so Latvia (because the capital city of Riga looks really beautiful)

M – Maldives in 2014

N – Netherlands in 2006

O – There is only one O country – Oman and though it is connected to the UAE, I have NOT been there! * shame*

P – Philippines, where I lived from birth till I was 19.

Q – Qatar, only in the airport! And since there is only one country beginning with the letter Q, I would love to go out of the airport next time and explore Doha

R – Not been to Dracula’s lair, Romania. I’m sure there is more to this country than Dracula.

S – Singapore, a few times; Sri Lanka in 2014

T – Turkey on a blogger’s trip in 2013; Thailand on a blogger’s trip in 2011

U – United Arab Emirates, our home for 10 years now

V – Vatican City (If we make I to Italy then we can shoot two birds in one stone as Vatican is in Italy)

W – Wales – technically not a country (though the Welsh would disagree?). Other choices would only be Wallis and Fortuna and Western Sahara in Africa.

X – There is no country beginning with letter X so we’ll change a bit to LuXembourg or MeXico?

Y –  the only country for Y is Yemen and for security and safety’s sake, I can’t imagine I’ll be going there any time soon

Z – a choice between Zambia and Zimbabwe, not sure if ever I’d get to any

So, technically, if we exclude W and X as well as unsafe Y, there are STILL 10 letters or ten countries I still need to go to, to complete this challenge. I might clear one or two next year.

Japanese shrine

Things to do in Japan: Visiting shrines and temples

Japanese shrine

Thinking about it, I’m frequently asked: “What are the top things to do in Japan?”

I’ve lived there for more than ten years so people expect me to blurt out answers faster than Google. But actually, I always get stumped when asked that question.

I tend to over-think things. So I ask back, so many questions.

What part of Japan do you wish to visit? Tokyo?

Are you going to Japan with children?

When will you go? Summer? Winter? Spring? Autumn?

Do you prefer the modern, high tech face of Japan or the subtle laid back countryside?

Do you like sushi?

There are many, many things to do in Japan that it simply deserve another (long) post. Today, I’m going to go with: temples and shrines because this easily goes into my top ten list of things to do while in Japan. And it should be in your list, too.

First, it’s something cultural and historical. Maybe something you wouldn’t even find in your home country so it’s an adventure, a discovery. Then there’s something about these places that calms me, makes me sit in one corner and put things in perspective. I find quiet and solace and get out feeling better.


Japanese shrine

Looks dramatic, no?

When we were in Japan in the summer of 2013, Benjamin and I frequented shrines and temples while Pristine was at school. It has a great open space he can run around and as I have said, I really like the stillness of the place.

Japanese shrine

Summer in Japan is tough (coming from someone who live in Dubai, I know that sounds really weird!) so we sought refuge in the shrine premises. It’s cooler inside the shrines (called “jinja” in Japanese) because of the lush trees. You can hear the rustle of the leaves on a windy day which is kind of soothing. This particular shrine is very close to where we lived and I always took Pristine here when she was small.

Japanese shrine

In my ten years of stay in Japan, I’ve visited a lot of shrines and temples and friends and family would ask, what is the difference? To a foreigner,  yes, they can look all the same.

But they are different.

Japanese shrines (“jinja”) are generally based in Shintoism which is a set of Japanese spiritual beliefs. So many of these shrines have features and designs that are unique to Japan. For example, you’ll find torii archways at shrines.

Torii in shrine

The torii symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. I’ve seen Japan’s most photographed torii some years back – this is in Miyajima, Hiroshima.

torii itsukushima

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Looking from the sea, this torii serves as the gateway to Itsukushima Shrine.


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Itsukushima jinja is a UNESCO world heritage site on Hiroshima prefecture’s Miyajima island. The shrine and its gate are regarded as one of Japan’s great views because of its large torii which stands over 16 meters tall.

Japanese temples (“otera”) on the other hand, are based in the facets Buddhism rather than Shintoism. Because of this, you can find similar temples in countries that practice Buddhism (i.e. China, Japan, and Korea). In the same fashion as the shrine, the name can be a dead giveaway as to whether you’re in a temple or a shrine. Simply listen for the ji sound at the end of the name.

One of the most popular temples I have visited are Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizudera) in Kyoto…


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…and Todaiji in Nara.


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Instead of finding tori archways, you have pagoda, the cool-looking multi-tiered towers that are often associated with Asian architecture. A small temple near our place (big temples have more lavish entrances):

Japanese temple

It’s very quiet in here.

Japanese temple

This one’s in Niigata, my husband’s home town when we last visited in the summer of 2013.

Niigata otera

These statues? They have their story.

Japanese temple

These statues are called “Jizo” or more endearingly “Ojizo-san”. It was believed that “Ojizo-san” would guide dead soul to heaven or the kingdom of Buddha and not to hell.

Statue in Japanese shrine

Now, this photo above intrigued me for years when I was new there (the time when there was no Google or Wikipedia!) – so I had to ask around. Why do the Ojizo-san wear a red bib and with children at his feet?

Japanese temple

The Ojizo-san is seen as the guardian of children, and in particular, children who died before their parents. He has been worshiped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted fetuses.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that the souls of children who die before their parents are unable to cross the mythical Sanzu River on their way to the afterlife because they have not had the chance to accumulate enough good deeds and because they have made the parents suffer. It is believed that the Ojizo-san saves these souls from having to pile stones eternally on the bank of the river as penance, by hiding them from demons in his robe.

You often encounter Ojizo-san in temples and graveyards and it is not unusual to see the idol adorned with a red bib and a red baby hat. The reason for this, is parents put it there to either thank him for saving a child from illness or to ask him to protect a child in the after-life.

So folks, so much about Japan’s temples and shrines. Sorry, I got carried away! Nevertheless, if you happen to visit Japan, a country in my opinion, that you should visit at least once in your lifetime, be sure to stop by those little temples and shrines. They are always worth your time.