Writers share their favourite holidaysby Matthew Teller / July 18, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
Ruins and wildlife: Jordan by Matthew Teller
“You see them?” Ahmed Shaalan, ranger at the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, swung the safari jeep around and roared dust into pudding-bowl skies. His eyes were better than mine, but then I saw them too, beyond the jittery gazelles—Persian onager, a critically endangered subspecies of wild ass. For perhaps ten minutes we drove alongside the herd, all velvet flanks and don’t-care donkey eyes, before they bolted.
I must have been to Jordan 30 times. If that sounds like too much of a good thing, my defence rests on combining pleasure with work. When I wrote the first edition of the Rough Guide, Jordan was tangential, a difficult place you might dip into for a whiff of ancient history—Petra, and so forth—but not somewhere you could imagine filling a two-week holiday.
Fifteen years on, Jordan still has Petra (and a thousand other sites), but it also has, well, ass-spotting safaris, for heaven’s sake. Earlier this year I ate exquisite Baghdad-style grilled carp amid a restaurant full of Ammani power-diners; hiked the verdant Ajloun Forest on silent trails between hill-villages; and heard Abu Abdullah, a Bedouin elder working with the boutique Feynan Ecolodge, tell me, “I don’t think my kids will want to stay in this tent—but you could give me a villa and I wouldn’t move.” Before, you could see Petra, spend a couple of days touring Roman ruins and then cross Jordan off the list. Nowadays the place merits a repeat visit. Or 30.