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Under the Stars in the Jordanian Desert

jordan travel stars

When I was growing up, I was quite a feral child. Running around from one imaginary adventure to another in the otherworldly forest that was my backyard, I always had to be dragged inside for dinner with twigs in my hair and mud on my knees.

And let’s not even talk about bath time.

Spending my summers camping and trekking with the best girl scout troop in the universe, I learned important lessons (and earned colorful badges) like starting a fire without a match and rowing canoes through big rapids without falling out.

jordan travel stars

Up until college I considered myself to be pretty outdoorsy, enjoying to spend as much time outside and under the sun as possible, communicating with nature and all that crap. But somewhere along the line, things changed. It’s hard to put a finger on when, but I think it had to do with me moving to Europe.

Completely enamored by the possibility of hopping to Paris for the weekend or partying it up in a beach town, and enthralled by the ease of travel around Europe, I left my wild nature back at home in exchange for a year (or three) of shiny discotecas that never closed and cheap booze.

jordan travel stars

Let’s be honest here: to be “outdoorsy” when you’re living in the city center is not exactly easy, especially when you can’t drive a manual car (to rent), you’re broke and all your friends are in the same boat as you. And at the risk of offending my feminist college cohorts, I’d even add that Spain (miraculously) managed to turn me into a lady. Somewhat.

It only took 3 days of me turning up to work at my school in leggings, glasses and no makeup and having my students ask me if I was sick to make me realize, that hey, it’s totally fine to give a shit about my appearance. In fact, it feels good to look nice in public. Only took me 21 years to realize.

Better late than never, am I right?

So what does this have to do with anything? Don’t worry, I’m asking myself the same thing.

jordan travel stars

Subconsciously I guess I realized after a while I was unhappy with how I was traveling, and deep down I was yearning to get back to my animal roots and get dirty in the woods and sleep under the stars again on a regular basis.

And where did I have this profound, existential realization? In a teepee under the stars in a biosphere nature reserve in Jordan.

I sure know how to pick my moments.

There is something just incredibly cliche but true about laying out under the stars, way out in the middle of nowhere, triggering some scary deep thoughts, right? Right? Please say this is not just me. During my time in Jordan, I managed to have not one, but four nights out in the desert, enabling to reflect and reevaluate my priorities when I travel.

Check out my 4 favorite under-the-stars-and-some-deep-thinking-about-life-and-travel moments from my trip to Jordan.

jordan travel stars

Source

jordan travel stars

1. Camping in a teepee the Dana Biosphere Reserve

Night had fallen by the time our jeep trundled into the Dana Biosphere Nature Reserve in Jordan. The stars had yet to come out and we could smell dinner cooking as we found buddies and grabbed a teepee for the night.

After chowing down, we settled into our sleeping bags after a long, hot day of travel – after I spent a solid 20 minutes searching for spiders around my mat with my iPhone flashlight and keeping C’est Christine awake.

Thinking I would never sleep with things like spiders and scorpions and god knows what else around me, I promptly fell asleep only to wake up a few hours later when mother nature called and let me know that I had had way too much tea. As a lay there on my back mentally debating whether I wanted to climb out of my cozy sleeping bag and walk to the scary outhouse alone or now, I realized the teepee was glowing. GLOWING!

Why was it glowing? I was so confused.

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

Climbing out of the tent, I realized that it was glowing because the sky was so clear the stars and the moon were so bright – the whole campsite was illuminated! No need for haphazard iPhone apps – I could go to the bathroom by moonlight. Talk about becoming one with nature!

Standing there under the moon that was bright like the sun at 2 in the morning was such a surreal and defining moment for me. Alone and at peace, it reminded me of all the times I used to camp and sleep under the stars growing up, and how much I missed it. I needed to do this more often!

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

2. Nightime waterfalls at the Ma’in Hot Springs

Driving along the arid landscape around Jordan, the hazy desert land broken up with mountains and beautiful views sometimes seems both otherworldly and monotonous. Heading towards the Evason Ma’in Hot Springs, suddenly the ground rips open to reveal the most beautiful oasis you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Feeling like you’ve landed on Mars, the deep valley reveals cascading waterfalls, hot spring pools and leafy palm trees. We arrived just in time to witness a glorious sunset from out balconies, disappearing over the mountains and Dead Sea in the distance.

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

Considering how hot it was outside, it was suggested to wait til the sun went down to check out the big natural hot springs and waterfalls.

Grabbing our towels and swimsuits, we walked along the road from the resort towards the public hot springs. Arriving around midnight, we had the place to ourselves. A huge waterfall fell into several different pools below, all different temperatures. Throwing out bags down, we hopped in, relaxing in the hot water.

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

Sitting there with great friends, in hot churning water up to my shoulders while a powerful waterfall thundered down behind me, I looked up at the twinkling sky, thinking – is this real life?

It was a simple, pure and happy moment, that remains to this day, the highlight of my entire trip to Jordan. Not something I’ll soon forget.

In fact it was so perfect, we got up with the sunrise the next morning and came back.

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

3. Rooftop stargazing at the Feynan Ecolodge

After  our first night camping under the brightest moon in the world, we hiked for several hours in the Dana Biosphere Reserve out to the Feynan Ecolodge, a solar powered candle-lit lodge way out in the middle of the desert. The perfect place to get away, be one with nature (and all that stuff) and to stargaze.

After an incredible sunset hike and drinking coffee with the local Bedouins, we sauntered back to the lodge to find it completely illuminated by candlelight. So magical. Eventually we made our way to the rooftop to spread out along several cozy mats and stare at the stars.

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

Source

A very modern, enormous and a little bit intimidating telescope took center stage, and we took turns while one of the guides pointed out all different constellations and stars to us. So cool.

Laying there under yet another perfect midnight sky, so far removed from the hustle and bustle of DC urban life back home, I could feel a huge smile creep on my face.

This was my kind of travel.

jordan travel stars

Source

jordan travel stars

Source

4. Star trails in the Wadi Rum

Following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia – or rather in 4×4 offroading truck, the modern equivalent, we made our way deep in to the famous Wadi Rum desert during a magnificent sunset ride. Eventually we arrived at the Captain’s Desert Camp and settled in around a hot fire to sing songs, learn some Bedouin dances and eat a fabulous camp dinner. With full stomachs and smiling faces, we lounged around smoking mint hookah and staring at the stars.

While people began retiring to their tents, I made my way outside the camp and joined a group of Mexican journalists who were traveling at the same time as us. Relishing the chance to step away from the camp and speak some Spanish, I ended up spending hours with them on the fringes of the site as they tried their hand at star trails and super long exposure photography.

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

IMG_2601

You see, the stars in the Wadi Rum were the most magnificent of entire trip. The furthest from civilization and light pollution meant that we had the clearest, most incredible nighttime views I’ve ever experienced – it was the perfect ending to the trip.

Not wanting to go to bed and miss out on the stars, I stayed up almost the whole night with these journalists, having the most deep and philosophical conversations. It was just an incredible night.

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

Source - Bashar Alaeddin

These were the kinds of moments I had been missing over the past few years. Taking a step back away from all the craziness, all the rush, all of the stress that is involved with big “see everything in the world” trips, and realizing that simple, peaceful quiet moments abroad are often the most meaningful and profound. These small, unobtrusive instances ended up being the best part of my trip.

So thank you Jordan and your beautiful stars for reminding me of everything I was missing and that’s A-Ok to get dirty once in a while while on the road.

Where’s the most beautiful place you’ve seen the stars? Do you like camping and being outside when traveling? What’s your travel style?

jordan travel stars

jordan travel stars

Many thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board and My Jordan Journey for hosting me in Jordan. Like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect anything else from me.

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45 Responses to Under the Stars in the Jordanian Desert

  1. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren September 9, 2013 at 2:18 am #

    Ahhh, this seems like the trip of a lifetime. It sounds like you gained so much from this trip and learned even more about yourself in the process. That’s what travel is all about! I’m very much a city girl but I used to camp all the time when I was younger. Like you, that part of me slowly started to fade away. I hope an experience similar to this one brings my nature side out again one day!

    Happy travels :)

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      Glad to hear someone else feels the same. Jordan was a truly eye opening experience for me, in so many ways. Nothing like spending time under the stars to think about life :)

  2. Neil Gratton September 9, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Looks amazing – thanks so much for sharing; this is going on my “To Visit” list. :)

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      You’re gonna love it!

  3. Alex @ ifs ands & butts September 9, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    I hope to have a similar experience in Morocco in a couple of months – what an adventure, such a treat!

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

      I’m sure you will! It’s such a beautiful part of the world!

  4. Amanda @ Adventure Year September 9, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    As usual, your post has me yearning to connect more. I am head over heels in love with looking at the stars and I’ll often be caught staring at them. Living in Philadelphia doesn’t offer many views of those shiny orbs. Jordan seems to have a good view though. ;) Love that you’re connecting with your “wild” side again! Our child selves would have been great friends!

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      Love that!

  5. Must for Wanderlust September 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Wow, looks like an incredible trip! The shot you got of the stars was my favourite. Can’t wait to get to Jordan myself! x

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      I hope you get there soon!

  6. Jeff September 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    The stars look amazing! What incredible photos! I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town in rural Nevada, meaning after a short drive you could be in complete nothingness, though being in a small town meant that you could still see the stars well enough for casual gazing from the yard. One memorable experience occurred when I was 8 or 9. My mom had heard of a meteor shower that was about to take place, so she woke all of us kids up (my two sisters and I) and we laid down on blankets in the back of the pickup truck that sat in the driveway, watching the meteor shower. Since then, I have been quite fond of meteor showers, and have always enjoyed some star gazing. On a recent trip from Nevada to my now-native Oregon, I decided I wanted to start the 10 hour drive when the sun went down (I prefer to drive at night). Around 2 or 3 a.m. I pulled over, somewhat drained, to rest, when I saw a star shoot across from outside my windshield. I immediately rolled back my sun roof and stuck my head out to witness meteor after meteor expanding across the black-blue sky. For a half hour or so, I was able to watch as the last of the Perseid meteor shower danced in the heavens. It was just enough excitement to energize me and keep me awake the rest of the way home.

    Point of the story? Jordan seems like a for a future travel list. Also, what’s your secret to such great nighttime photos? Love the blog by the way :)

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      what an amazing story! These aren’t my sky photos – see they’re sourced underneath – I need to learn to take some sky shots! Hopefully this year I can make it happen :)

  7. Rachel Staggs September 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    When we went on our quick espresso run in Toronto after lunch on Sunday (during TBEX), your eyes lit up when I mentioned Jordan. Now I know why. This is beautiful, Liz. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for encouraging me to go to Jordan! I look forward to reading more about your experiences there. Cheers!

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      I hope you make it there one day! It’s fabulous!

  8. Jennifer September 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Looks great, although I’m not sure whether i’ve made my mind up whether I want to go to Jordan yet. I’d certainly go…but I don’t think I’m in a rush. Nevertheless I love the photos and the ones of the stars look amazing, I can never photograph the stars very well.

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Oh I can’t photograph stars at all, these photos are sourced. I don’t have the skills or the patience to try it. I need to learn :)

  9. Trevor Huxham September 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    I think light pollution is one of the biggest tragedies of the developed world, and strangely one of the easiest to fix! When you mentioned your shock seeing your tent glowing at night, I was reminded of a piece the Atlantic ran a few months ago that featured an artist’s rendition of major world cities…illuminated solely by the light of the Milky Way and the Moon ^_^ http://www.theatlanticcities.com/arts-and-lifestyle/2013/01/photographer-brings-sparkly-night-skies-back-cities/4290/

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      So good! I’m sharing that later!

  10. Noel | Stories On Travel September 9, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    What a wonderful experience in Jordan! I love this kind of adventure, off-the-beaten track, rocky mountains, desert, oasis and of course, a splendid sky chock-full of blinking stars. The greatness of nature like this will definitely uplift one’s spirit.

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

      Exactly, couldn’t have put it better myself

  11. Amelie88 September 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    What beautiful pictures! Even the ones you didn’t take. Some of the Jordan desert reminds me of Death Valley in CA, specifically Zabriskie Point. If only I could see that many stars from my house… (NYC light pollution drowns most of them out) and I’ve had those scary deep thoughts while stargazing such as are we alone in the universe and how big is it and then I get all dizzy and panicky while staring at the stars.

    • Liz September 10, 2013 at 1:31 am #

      I have the same thoughts too! So scary!

  12. Melanie Fontaine September 10, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    I’m all about nature – both when it comes to life and travel! I’ve always been an outdoorsy person (I’ve been in Scouting as well!) and that has carried on into my university & travel years. I do like visiting cities, but I’ve come to the realization that if I’ve been away from nature for too long, I feel unrested and quickly stressed out. Nature is an energy source for me, but has such a calming effect at the same time!

    So sleeping under the stars in Jordan? Please sign me up! :) I feel like this region has been calling to me for quite some time and I can’t wait to travel there and experience it for myself.

    xx
    Melanie

    • Liz September 10, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      I hope you get to Jordan soon, it’s a really magnificent place and definitely the safest in the Middle East. There is nothing like camping out under the stars in the desert there.

  13. YJ @ thefancyvoyager September 10, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    Can’t imagine the campsite being lighted up under the stars! That’s so amazing! When I travel I always try to look for somewhere dark to have the best view of the night sky! The most beautiful place that I’ve seen the stars was in New Zealand. We stood by the lake late at night and just gazed at the stars and occasionally saw shooting stars, with a faint glimpse of the milky way. I haven’t gone camping during my travel but would definitely love to try it!

    • Liz September 10, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

      I can’t wait to go stargazing while I’m here OMG!!

  14. Angela September 10, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    I never knew Jordan was like this. It looks peaceful, relaxing and apparently, is also inspiring. There is something about silence and starry nights that makes you contemplate life. I remember being in Mongolia. There is so much sky there. And a lot of sky means a lot of stars. It was breathtaking.

    • Liz September 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      I want to go to Mongolia so bad, I just have this amazing vision of wide open skies. one day….

  15. Megan September 10, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    I love this too much for words. I’m definitely an outdoorsy girl, but I feel like I get away from that whenever I travel around Europe. For whatever reason, it always feels easier to hit the town with fellow hostel-goers/base myself in a city. When I’m in other places, though, I always seem to be frolicking around outside. It’s just those dang European cities and their allure. Camping in Jordan has been added to my must-do list, though. It looks and sounds, well, magical.

    • Liz September 10, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

      magical is the perfect word for it!

  16. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Oh my what a magical experience! Jordan is high on my dream destination list!!! LOVE the star shots!

    • Liz September 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      Jodan is amazing, I’d go back in a heartbeat!

  17. Emily September 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Wow! What an experience!

    • Liz September 11, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

      It was really one of the best experiences of my life

  18. Heather September 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    After living in Shanghai for two years, I have a whole new appreciation for starry nights and wide open spaces. Jordan looks like it could be the balm for my soul!

    • Liz September 11, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

      I think it would be! Total opposite!

  19. Kamil September 12, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Wow… Nice Pictures…
    I’m Jordanian it and makes me proud to see that people from all around the world can see the same beauty of nature we see as Jordanians. Wadi Rum is definitely one place to have a real camping experience. Although my style of camping is a bit more rugged (probably less comfortable too) it is easily overshadowed by the experience and serenity.
    Also glad to see you enjoyed your time here.
    Thanks for sharing :)
    All the best.

    • Liz September 13, 2013 at 6:03 am #

      You’re welcome, I really, really loved Jordan!

  20. Makis Giokas September 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    The starry sky seems so magical. It must truly be amazing to be under all those stars in that clear sky. I love this! Thanks for sharing your experience :)

    • Liz September 16, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

      You’re welcome :) It was so remarkable!

  21. Whitney Dupuis September 21, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Yep, definitely adding Jordan to my list of must-sees!

    • Liz September 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

      It is definitely a must-see!

  22. Maggie October 15, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    Liz! Love your blog!

    Excluding plane fares, what might such a trip cost me?

  23. Aisha October 25, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Loved reading this blog and love your traveling spirit!!
    Born and raised in Amman-Jordan right here! These photos make me miss it soo much over there!! Glad you enjoyed the beauty it offered!!

  24. moncler 偽物 November 29, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    Under the Stars in the Jordanian Desert- Young Adventuress

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