Over the past few days, the turmoil that erupted in Tunisia and Egypt has spread to Syria and the country has seen alarming violence. I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten a glimpse of the beautiful country before it descended into chaos.
My post regarding the safety of the region is a bit ironic, too, since I wrote it merely days before the country’s border closed. Over the last few days, the political oppression of Assad’s regime has proven to be too much for many citizens subject to his harsh, authoritarian rule. Prior to the outbreak of violence, I would argue that it was Assad’s oppressive policies that contributed to my overall feeling of safety in the country.
Though it seems a bit ironic, the safety stems from the fact that Syria is a police state and thus, the levels of security are extremely high. Crime in the country, unless perpetuated by the government has been relatively nonexistent under Assad because the regime’s punishments are often harsh and unforgiving.
Amman, too, was hit by protests this weekend, yet they have not been of great concern. Though two people died and over 100 were injured, the demonstrations were isolated and I felt far removed from the violence.
In fact, I feel as though I have been floating around in a personal bubble while here in Jordan and I am waiting cautiously for it to pop by the events around me. As of now, I have seen nothing and felt nothing–the only information I have received thus far has been from the media.
And while thousands in Amman took to the streets to either show their commitment to the king or their desire for reforms, I traveled to the beautiful desert of Wadi Rum with CIEE.
Wadi Rum is truly spectacular. The area is characterized by reddish rock formations and low-lying dunes. Most of the time I felt as though I was looking at a painting. The rocks were a blend of oranges, pinks, purples and reds that changed hues depending on the lighting. The valley floor is home to orange sand and surrounded by narrow canyons that cut deep into the rocky mountains. From every angle, the views were mesmerizing.
We spent two days total in Wadi Rum. At first, I was skeptical of visiting the place in a group of 85 students, but I was truly impressed by CIEE’s organization and planning of the trip.
On our first day in the desert, we rode 4x4s to our Beduin camp. It was a rickety ride, as my 4×4 ended up being a pretty battered pickup truck but, nonetheless, it was great fun and the ride offered spectacular panoramas.
Unfortunately, it was quite cold, cloudy and windy, so it was often difficult to focus on the scenery.
In the evening, we stopped for a bit to watch the sunset, which drenched the surrounding hills in even more dramatic colors. To my delight, the clouds cleared up at nightfall to reveal a ceiling of stars.
The next day, we woke up early to ride camels for three hours. While a wonderful experience, it was also quite painful. Unlike the short camel rides I experienced in Morocco and Tunisia, the ride in Wadi Rum was grueling and my back is still sore. I now have even greater admiration for those who traversed the deserts of Arabia by camel.
They must have had backs of steel.
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