Rock formations in the desert near Petra: in the past 15 years Jordan has become a paradise for travellers
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.
Matthew Teller writes about the Middle East. @matthewteller
Beach: Tenerife by Julie Burchill
Foreign countries bring out the dirty rotten bigot in so many people; not the old-style working-class “I-wouldn’t-touch-that-foreign-muck” shtick, but the middle-class “I’m-a-traveller-not-a-tourist” pony-and-trap. I think I love Tenerife more than anywhere I’ve ever been—and I’ve been to the Maldives, and Mauritius, and Crete.
Only a person so utterly infused with perversity as myself would go to a country synonymous with cheap-as-cheesy-chips and short-haul sun and then choose to spend thousands of pounds (and that’s just the bar bill—no all-inclusive for Baby here!) on a week for two. But I blame Abama (a resort in Tenerife) madness—the desire to bask in a place which resembles the Garden of…