13.12.2014

Jordan: on the road in the land of milk and honey

13.12.2014

Jordan: on the road in the land of milk and honey

Just three hours in the air to get from Europe to the Middle East, from Italy to Jordan.

The first image is that of the improvised stalls selling water and sweet foods, set up in the street at the end of a day of Ramadan; the last is that of the market in Amman. The Middle East is all about life and Jordan is its best example.

A road trip in the country of ‘milk and honey’, going from Jerash – almost on the Syrian border – to Aqaba, on the shores of the Red Sea. Some might say a journey through biodiversity, and indeed that’s exactly what it is: just a few hours in the car to realise that ‘yes, here Mother Nature has really given it her all’.

This realisation comes to me in the desert. I can finally put a face to the name ‘immensity’, and it is that of the vast stretches of sand of the Wadi Rum which, at sundown, turn a shade of red never seen before, that of the granite cliffs engraved by the people of Nabatea, that of the deepest of canyons. Sleeping at the foot of enormous sandstone rocks, drinking tea around the fire, spending hours head back, looking upwards, lost in the thousands of millions of stars; they call it the magic of the desert and indeed there is no better definition. My advice is simple: experience it at least once in your life.


Wadi Rum 1

Wadi Rum 2

The realisation comes to me whilst I’m floating in the Dead Sea; the great salt water lake between Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Being 400 metres below sea level, in the lowest reachable part of the earth, is a unique and amazing experience. What you do: cover yourself in mud, immerse yourself in water that makes you feel so incredibly light despite its oily denseness; let yourself go and enjoy the moment. A moment that at sundown becomes as close to perfect as you can get, with the orange-red sun hiding behind the hills of Jerusalem, the caress of the salty breeze and an almost surreal silence. I can guarantee you that you will come back from Jordan with an infinite number of shots taken at sunset. My advice is to use a graduated filter that helps to balance out the exposure between the two parts of the photo, earth and sky, and avoids you ending up with dozens of ‘burnt’ shots; in order to get balanced and detailed photographs, all you will have to do is position the dark area of the filter over the sky and the transparent area over the earth.

The realisation comes to me as I stand before the immense sandstone cliffs of the Wadi Mujib. Crossing the canyon, braving the force of the water in the climb towards the waterfall, letting the water carry you gently back down on your return, using the rocks as natural slides: this makes you feel a part of it all. And then there are the infinite shades found in the rocks: those who love colour will be in paradise. Let the surroundings be your inspiration and arm yourself with an underwater protective camera cover – in some parts you will be almost completely submerged in water.

If, up until now, the journey has been dominated by warm colours, just a little further on your eyes will be filled with greens and blues. Nature reserves (such as the Dana Reserve), stretches of valley filled with the encyclopaedic definition of ‘lush vegetation’, mountains dotted with pine forests.

And finally the Red Sea: the perfect solution for anyone looking for sea, sun and warmth all year long, just a few hours’ flight from Italy. Snorkelling, swimming with dolphins or simply doing absolutely nothing on the beach.

Nature Reserve

The greatness of nature goes hand in hand with the greatness of man.

“But I have read hosts of the most beautifully written accounts of it, and they give one no idea of it at all…so you will never know what Petra is like, unless you come out here” (Lawrence of Arabia)

Starting with that which has been described as one of the seven wonders of the world. Thanks to Indiana Jones, Petra is something you have been waiting to see your whole life. Every single stone is a piece of history and every single stone reminds you that we are but simple bystanders before true beauty. You cross the great, narrow gorge of the Siq then, suddenly, through a small opening, you glimpse the heart of the ancient capital of Nabatea, The Treasury. It is quite literally overwhelming. Architecture in its purest form that is both moving and bewildering, making you feel so tiny in the face of the magnitude of the past. Here too, the best time to enjoy it all in peace is at sundown. Fewer tourists, fewer coin/postcard/rock sellers, fewer donkey taxis, fewer everything. The al-Deir Monastery, hidden in the hills, is also breathtaking; you arrive after having climbed 800 steps, drunk 2 litres of water and lost at least half a kilo in weight. Comfortable shoes, light clothing, sunglasses and hat are a must. In order to give people an idea of the majesty the subjects in my photography, I always try to include people in the frame… camels in the case of Petra.

Petra 1

al-Deir Monastery

Jerash, one of the best-preserved cities from the Roman period. To get a panoramic photo of the whole site – a wideangle lens is de rigueur – I recommend climbing to the top of the steps of the South Theatre; from one panoramic shot to another, you might be lucky enough to capture an unexpected detail like this one…

Jerash 1

Jerash 2

In the hillside capital city of Amman, you experience an explosion of colours and emotions. Amman is an untidy jumble of houses clinging one to another, spices, markets, veils and cars. West Amman, with its western heart, is a bit bourgeois with chic bars and shops. Choose from among a thousand honey-based sweets, sip on a lemon nana (typical lemon juice and mint drink) and let the city life of the capital overwhelm you. If you like doing portraits, the people of Jordan are amazing: there is always someone ready to pose for your camera!

Roberta Longo

My name is Roberta; I was born, live and maybe will stay forever in my beloved Puglia. Journalist and travel blogger, in 2010 I founded www.infoturismiamoci.com, a travel and thought journal characterised by a healthy and pungent dose of irony. Lover of travelling off the beaten track, street food and beaches in winter, I would never miss a Robert Capa exhibition, a trip to the Middle East or Brezsny’s horoscope.

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