On A Quick Break

I spent a month in Jerusalem teaching computer science with a MIT-associated program called the Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow. I won’t write a travel blog post here about it since I spend most of my days in classrooms, but it definitely was immensely fun and rewarding. The weekend before class started, some teacher friends and I headed to Petra, Jordan on a tour for the weekend.

This tour was pretty expensive–$400 for a two day tour. The eight of us woke up at 2 am to catch our 4 am transport out of the city. We meant to take a bus, but I guess it left before it was supposed to because it never arrived. Instead, we caught taxis to a hotel across town to wait for our bus.

Since we arrived super early, we wandered around this closed outlet mall nearby and fell asleep on some benches. When the bus finally showed up, we were delayed for another thirty minutes due to mechanical failure. Luckily, the rescue bus was much larger meaning that we each had a row to lay down. By the time I opened my eyes again, it was sunrise and we were almost at the border.

We had to pay another extra $120 for visas at the border and wait for another hour before crossing. Finally, post-crossing, we got on a bus to head to Aqaba. Our tour guide told us that we could either explore the local market or go on a cruise of the Red Sea for $50 each. Although we were a bit suspicious, it was super hot out and so we picked the latter. The cruise turned out to be super fun—the ship was beautiful and we were able to go snorkeling twice. The water was incredibly clear. Unfortunately, I was a bit scared of jellyfish attacks and so aborted early the second time.

After disembarking, we headed back on the bus to drive to Bait Ali Camp in Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum was the location of many famous movies, including the Martian. It had sand but also massive rock formations. We took a Jeep tour of the desert and watched the sunset before heading back for dinner. After dinner, we climbed a nearby cliff to stargaze.

Simi and I wanted to watch the sunrise on camels the next morning, and so we woke up at 4:30 am. The camel ride was quite short but fun. After breakfast, we all boarded the bus to Petra. On the way, we stopped by a souvenir store that tried to sell us scarves for $50! Later, we would find those same scarves for $5.

Petra was scorching but amazing. After arriving, we walked through these canyons that opened onto the Treasury of Petra. You could imagine how striking the site would have been in its heyday. It was more incredible to me because I had just seen Angkor Wat. When Angkor Wat was newly built, Petra was already 1100 years old. It’s amazing that it’s still in such good condition today.

We took many photos and wandered around the site before heading back to the buses at 4:00 to head back to the border and make our first day of teaching. Since the border closed precisely at 8:00 pm and nobody could predict how long the crossing might take, it was imperative that we be on time. We made it across the border and made it back to Hebrew University around 1:30 am.

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