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I have always been fascinated by the Dead Sea. ancient kings hid and fought there. Beauties like Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba bathed in its waters. It’s alive with stories that go back to our beginnings, and yet its waters are barren. So, when a friend said she wanted to spend a long weekend in Jordan, I said sure just as long as we get to spend some time at the Dead Sea.

We also wanted to see the ruins of Petra. Who wouldn’t want to feel like Indiana Jones for a day? Other Jordanian treasures beckoned us to visit, but we only had three days. So, we decided to book a room at a Dead Sea Resort and hire a driver to take us on a day trip to Petra.

Luckily our driver was a young local who loved showing off his country, so we got to see much of the country’s landscape during the long drive to and from petra. I was surprised by how green and mountainous parts of Jordan are. Sheep roam its hillsides. It felt like we were visiting Ireland versus a country that borders Syria and Iraq. and then a camel would walk by and remind me of where I was. There were also the occasional military checkpoints that looked out of place. Watching families work their farms, boys chase goats up rocky cliffs, or friends gather for a picnic and shisha made it hard to imagine the stark contrast of lives on the other side of those mountains.

I can’t thank Mohammed, our driver, enough for giving us a glimpse into his world. He also deserves a medal for getting us to Petra and patiently waiting all day while we hiked the never-ending steps that led to the Monastery, a massive temple carved into rock at the top of a mountain. Local men tempted us with donkey rides, but we wanted to do it on our own — besides the animal lover in me couldn’t torture a poor dusty ass with, well, you know, my heavy one. It took us around four hours to get to the top, which included stopping for friendly banter with Bedouins selling anything from rocks and jewellery to freshly- squeezed juices. We also stopped every few minutes to take in the majestic views. My words won’t do it justice, but know it’s worth every sting your muscles will give you the next day. The beauty of Petra is you get to walk through ruins that predate the Romans while also taking in the wonders of Jordan’s mountains and the people who’ve thrived on them for centuries.

The day after Petra, we spoiled ourselves at our hotel’s spa, which is a must do if you’re staying at any of the resorts. Even if you’re not a spa person, just do it. Hello? This is where Cleopatra built her own place of pampering.

Then, of course there’s the Dead Sea. Like everyone else there, we lathered ourselves with its black mud (which apparently pulls out toxins), and then carefully slid into the water where we awkwardly bobbed around. We didn’t dare splash around because one drop of that salty water in our eyes was a fury we didn’t want to know (but got to experience anyway).

I don’t know if this cured me of anything, but my skin was the softest it’s ever been, and floating in mythical waters while watching the sunset made me feel like a goddess. I’ll be back, and the next time I’m there I’ll experience the rest of this country’s gifts.

By Bettina Bennett

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