On November 13, 2019, Amy Jurries departed from Um Qais on a 454-mile bike ride on the Jordan Bike Trail, reaching her final destination of Aqaba on the Red Sea. This 13-day bike ride is comprised of 12 stages and passes through three regions of the country (Northern, Central and Southern).
Today was one of my favorite sections of the Jordan Bike Trail — one I have been fortunate to ride twice now. The first time was last April with Experience Jordan Adventures as part of the AdventureNEXT Near East conference held in Aqaba. Today’s ride was no less spectacular.
Riding up past Shobak Castle, the terrain opens up to reveal a beautiful dirt track that rolls south up and down along the rim that looms high above the cliffs of the Araba Valley. The different layered hues of the craggy mountains shone in the morning light with nothing but the sound of our tires rolling on the limestone track and the ringing of bells around the necks of goats as they grazed on the surrounding hillside.
Given the numerous offers of tea we receive every day along the trail, we have learned a very useful word — “esht.” It roughly translates to “Thank you. May you live a long life.” It’s basically a very polite way to refuse an offer of something over and above the standard “la, shukran.” It’s considered polite in Arab culture to refuse an offering of food or drink a couple of times before finally accepting, so “esht” seems to be a great way to convey you are very thankful of the offer but just can’t stop or you will never make it more than 10 miles of the entire Jordan Bike Trail in two weeks time. I said “esht” this evening to a man in Wadi Musa who was trying his hardest to get me to go on a tour to Aqaba despite the bicycle at my side. Upon hearing the word, he smiled and asked if I lived locally. My Arabic must be improving!
Unfortunately one of those offers of tea quickly turned nasty today with a group of kids demanding money from us. When we didn’t give them any, they started throwing rocks at us, grabbing our bikes and yelling, following us for some distance. Just before that I had another mechanical on my bike which forced me to walk up steeper sections of trail so we couldn’t get out of the situation quickly. Everything turned out fine in the end.
While this is not the only time we encountered aggressive young boys along the trail, most likely because we are two women on bikes which is a bit of a novelty here, this unfortunate experience is by far the exception. Overwhelmingly, everyone has been extremely welcoming and friendly, curious about where we are from, where we are going, and offering unconditional hospitality. My heart is full with the kindness of the people in Jordan and that is what keeps me coming back.
After the Petra by Night experience and arriving back in Wadi Musa tonight to all the tour buses and shops catering to tourists, both Berne and I miss the smaller villages and more intimate experiences we have been fortunate to encounter along the length of the trail. I feel I’ve had a more meaningful experience riding the Jordan Bike Trail than what I could get just visiting the highlight reel for a couple of days— though don’t get me wrong, places like Petra, the Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum are not to be missed. I am looking forward to being back in The Rum in a couple days time—one of my favorite places on Earth.
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