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No reason to worry

Travel to the Arab world after September 11th ?? only something for those who are tired of life? Not at all. In the desert state of Jordan, traveling between the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum is as easy as ever.

Josef Seitz


The last houses in Amman disappear in the rearview mirror, while a desert rocky landscape spreads out in front of me. Hardly anyone is out and about on the wide road that threatens to melt under the weight of the midday sun and disappear somewhere in the distance in the shimmering air. Almost no change until I can see the Dead Sea for the first time in the late afternoon. Finally, on the opposite side, I can even see the steep cliffs of Israel’s West Bank. Only one nomad family has pitched their tent near the shore. A couple of camels, prevented from running away because their legs are too tied together, look haughty in my direction, then hobble on with small steps across the barren ground. It seems like it doesn’t really matter what happens in the rest of the world; The nomadic way of life is obviously unaffected. Towards evening I look for a bed for the night. And at the Dead Sea I had actually expected accommodation. After all, I am on this bank at the lowest point on earth ?? the water surface is around 400 meters below zero. In any other place in the world, this fact would certainly be a well-organized tourist attraction. There are only a few bungalows for rent here. But the beds in them can’t be so soft that they are worth 60 euros a night to me. I drive a long way, finally stopping in a parking lot on the bank that is guarded by a young Jordanian. He is amazed when he sees the motorcycle. Then he simply invites me to stay the night. Because nobody else parks except me, he has a lot of time to talk to me, says that tourists rarely come here and that a Jordanian can marry up to four women ?? if he could afford it financially. Later on I roll out my sleeping bag on the flat roof of the little hut where my host sleeps and look for a long time into a star-studded night sky. Only a few kilometers from where I am staying, I can see the powerful searchlights of the Israeli border posts in the West Bank. So far, I haven’t felt any of the current unrest during this trip. The next morning I bathe in the Dead Sea, which turns out to be great fun. The buoyancy in the water, the salinity of which is around 31 percent, is so strong that swimming is hardly possible. Legs and arms are simply pushed to the surface. I’m floating practically weightless in warm water; even non-swimmers would not go under here. An absolutely crazy feeling. I follow the coastal road further south. A dream for motorcyclists. On the left, cliffs of hundreds of shades of color run along. Watercourses have washed out steep canyons, the walls of which rise in a straight line to the top, as if they had been milled into the mountain with a template. On the right the Dead Sea with its stony shore. Only various police checks interrupt the journey and remind of the proximity to the border with Israel and the West Bank. The police are more likely to stop me out of boredom. Or out of curiosity, because an Africa Twin doesn’t come by every day. I don’t care. Because the boys are extremely friendly. If I had accepted every invitation for a cup of tea, I would probably still be on the way today. Shortly after Al Mazra’ah a road branches off to Al Karak. The pass climbs up the sand-colored mountains in tight serpentines and reveals views of bizarrely washed-out wadis. The street ends far too quickly in front of the houses of Al Karak, which sit like the battlements of a fortress over a steep rock face. There is a lot of market activity on the main square, and I can find a small restaurant nearby ?? the best so far in Jordan. I am served various delicious starters in small bowls, followed by the national dish Mansaf: lamb on rice with pistachios and yogurt sauce. A sweet dessert and a coffee round off the meal. Wonderful. And what a change after the monotonous “fast” kitchen, mostly somewhere on the roadside, where usually only falaffles are served. Or chicken with rice. Behind Al Karak, I drive further south on the “Kings Highway”, the old royal road from the Bible, which connects many historically significant places in Jordan, right into the heart of the country, so to speak. For the next few kilometers, however, the title “the street of the auto repair shops” would be more appropriate. Behind every second house there is an oil-smeared garage, in which old vehicles are tinkered with in order to somehow keep them alive. Finally, between Al Karnak and Al Tafila, a narrow tar road branches off into a wadi. After a few bends I suddenly find myself in front of a barrier. I park the Honda under the trustworthy gaze of a guard and set off on foot to a steaming stream, the water of which is about 35 degrees. Finally I get to three pools that are fed by hot springs. However, the first two pools are so hot that I can only stay in them for a few seconds. The third one is really pleasantly tempered. I allow myself to be thoroughly soaked, even if the pool is not exactly bursting with cleanliness. The hot bath eventually switches my circulation to gentle cycle, and I put my mat and sleeping bag in a quiet corner and let Allah be a good man. Nobody minds me staying here for a night. On the contrary: The next morning the guard even invites me to tea and flatbread. Finally, I roll down the Road of Kings again, which is more true to its name in Ash Shabak. On a hill north of the small town are the remains of a once mighty castle, of which only part of the curtain wall and some vaults have survived. Only a few kilometers further then finally the legendary Petra, that mysterious city of the dead of the Nabataeans ?? an ancient Arab tribe ?? built between the jagged red rocks of Wadi Musa. The way there alone is more than spectacular: I walk through a gorge over a kilometer long but only a few meters wide, the vertical walls of which rise up to 200 meters and hardly allow any light to fall on the ground. Finally this passage opens and I am suddenly standing in front of the sand-colored, ornate facade of the treasure house of the Pharaoh, the Khazne Firoun. The most beautiful ?? and for sure the best known ?? The rock tomb of Petra is 43 meters high and 28 meters wide. The front, which also served as the backdrop for the adventures of the Indian Jones in search of the lost treasure, was carved into the soft sandstone about 2000 years ago. I can’t stop being amazed. The wadi makes a sharp bend and finally widens. An amphitheater and other facades of large tombs appear. Behind the entrances to the burial chambers there is usually a large room, the meaning of which is still in the dark today. The bare ceilings are streaked with natural streaks of color due to the high iron content in the rock, the unusual nuances of which Petra owes the nickname »the pink city«. I make my way to Ed Deir Monastery, which can only be reached via more than 800 steps is. Time seems to have stood still up here. The facade, which is also over 40 meters high, is almost undamaged and is one of the most impressive monuments in world history. Incidentally, the entrance fees for a visit to the Nabataean city are correspondingly high. The Jordanian government asks 30 euros for a day ticket. A day later I reach Wadi Rum. A fantastic sandy desert stretches out in front of me, framed by mighty granite blocks. The asphalt ends before the village of Rum, and several times I am stopped in the small village by Bedouins who offer me a jeep or camel tour further into the wadi. The sand is too deep for the motorcycle, they say. I still want to try and I have to admit that my lurching ride through the soft sand certainly doesn’t look particularly elegant. In no time I was completely sweaty. But soon rum has disappeared on the horizon, and I am beating my way through a fabulous desert landscape, kilometer after kilometer. When the sun disappears behind the mountains, I put the tent on the edge of a rocky slope between the rocks and, as if to compensate for the nuisance, I experience a magnificent, starry night in the desert. The next morning I leave my luggage in the tent and explore the area without ballast . It’s a lot easier that way, especially since the slope is also getting a little firmer. But where the sand has a noticeably reddish shimmer, it is soft and deep, and several times I am stuck up to the axis. Once I have to turn the Honda 180 degrees on the spot to get out at all. A travel enduro has too many pounds on its body. Nevertheless, I really enjoy this detour. But at some point I am forced to start the way back. I completely underestimated my water requirements and took far too little to drink with me. Before I head north again, I treat myself to the Gulf of Aqaba ?? where the national borders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel meet those of Jordan ?? a swim in the Red Sea. Then I turn the Honda around and head for the city of Ma’an on the wide desert highway, on which almost all trucks are traveling. To reach the eastern desert areas, I follow the road to the Saudi Arabian border for a while and at some point turn onto the connection to the north. Before the vastness and loneliness of the desert finally swallow me up, I hope to get some more gasoline in Al Jafr ?? There is no further refueling point between here and Al Azraq, and the Honda is drinking quite a bit with all its luggage. So it could be tight. The expected gas station turns out to be a garage, in which gasoline is sold in 20-liter canisters. You can only speculate about the octane number, which I don’t care about at the moment. With a reassuringly full tank, I finally rush north again. Two hundred kilometers through a dark stone desert, flat and brown like a burnt pancake. The mood alternates between fascination and boredom. Fortunately, it is easy to find a place for my tent in the evening. Get off the road, two kilometers into the desert, done. Only after Al Azraq, where the desert castle Qasr Al Azraq testifies to the time of the Omayyad rulers, does the settled land slowly begin again. Young camels and herds of goats wander through the barren landscape between nomad tents and stone huts. At some point I reach the well-developed main road that runs through Jordan from north to south. Left goes to the capital Amman, right ?? my direction ?? to Syria. I’m slowly starting the long drive home.


Syria and Jordan are classified as “harmless” by the Foreign Office (phone 01888 / 17-0; and by travelers who are currently traveling there. The events of September 11th did not lead to any threatening actions against tourists in these countries. Before leaving, however, you should still explore the current situation. The situation in Israel is being closely monitored by the Jordanian population, and they are at least verbally demonstrating close ranks with the Palestinians. Apart from increased police controls in the border area, the current situation has no negative effects on travelers.


Desert landscapes, the Dead Sea, ancient cities like Petra and undiminished warm hospitality ?? Jordan is an extremely attractive travel destination. Those who are not afraid of the long journey will experience the fascination of the Middle East.

Since the “fast” and direct journey by ferry from Italy via Israel to Jordan is hardly an option at the moment due to the political situation, only the route via Turkey and through Syria is recommended. With the ferry company Turkish Maritime Lines you can get from Venice to Izmir; the price is around 290 euros for one person and motorcycle. From Izmir to the Jordanian border it is around 1,600 kilometers on well-developed roads. Documents To enter Jordan you need a visa, which must be applied for at the Jordanian embassy (Heerstrabe 201, 13595 Berlin, phone 030/3699600) before departure and costs from 15 euros, depending on the length of stay. For the motorcycle you need a Carnet de Passage, which the ADAC issues against a deposit of 1500 euros (info: 089 / 7676-0). At the border with Jordan you also have to take out insurance for the vehicle, which costs around 22 marks. In addition, you need either a transit visa for Syria (from ten euros) or a residence visa for a longer stay (from 45 euros). Applications go to the Embassy of Syria, Andreas-Hermes-Strabe, 53175 Bonn, phone 0228/819920). There is also an insurance fee of 30 US dollars for the motorcycle at the Syrian border. The best months to travel are April, May and October. Then there is a warm, dry climate. In the winter months from December to March, despite the southern location, especially in the eastern desert regions, it is relatively cold. The summer months, on the other hand, turn out to be too hot for a motorcycle trip. In August, temperatures of over 40 degrees are particularly prevalent at the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. During the Islamic month of fasting Ramadan (beginning of 2002: November 6th), public life in the strictly religious country is severely restricted. Accommodation outside the tourist centers is very rare. A useful offer can be found in the old town of Amman, in Petra, in Aqaba and in Al Azraq. The prices for a double room are between 40 and 90 marks. Breakfast is only included in better hotels. At the Dead Sea there are a few, expensive systems in the area of ​​the northern coastal strip. Campsites are rare. The most beautiful place is certainly the camp on Aqaba’s South Beach. In the desert areas like in Wadi Rum, you can camp in the wild without any problems. Roads Jordan may not have a large network of roads, but the existing road network is relatively good. Many roads are two-lane. However, you shouldn’t be out at night, as many vehicles drive without lights. This is especially true for tractors. Enduro riders will find a great desert area in Wadi Rum. The further south you go, the more sparse the petrol station network becomes. Depending on the route, you should have a range of around 300 kilometers. Worth seeingThe greatest attraction in Jordan is the world-famous Petra, the city of the Nabataeans. A bath in the salt water of the Dead Sea is also a must. The scenic highlight is the area around Wadi Rum, a desert area interspersed with mighty boulders. The best vantage point in the country is the 802 meter high Jabal Nabá near Ma`daba. Literature In a tank backpack-friendly format, we recommend the Marco Polo travel guide »Jordan« for 7.95 euros. In addition to all the important information, it also contains a good travel map. “Jordan” by Mairs Geographischer Verlag is also a good choice. The country and its people are described in great detail on 224 pages. Price: 15.24 euros. Useful information is available from the Jordan Information Office, Weserstrabe 4, 60329 Frankfurt, phone 069/92318870; Internet: A good card comes from freytag & berndt: »Jordan« on a scale of 1: 800,000 for 9.80 euros. Distance covered: around 1300 kilometers, time required: two weeks (excluding travel to and from)

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