Above and beyond is the quickest way to summarize our experience. We added 3 days in Jordan to our Egypt trip from TravelDiscounters, and started our first day in Aqaba after being picked up from the airport by Jakoub, our amazing driver for the entirety of the trip. I can't say enough good things about him, and will let my experience speak for itself. If you've been thinking of going to Jordan, do it as soon as possible!
First off, it's mindblowing how empty most places were, as we are some of the first tourists to begin traveling and as time goes on the sites will only fill up more and more. But we basically had a private tour of every site we went to, and although it is good in a sense you can tell the vendors and those that rely on tourism are hurting. We were actually the first group Jakoub had worked with in 15 months. While you are in Jordan you will meet insistent vendors and it is important to keep in mind how they have not had business for so long, so even if you aren't the type to typically buy art or knickknacks, you will find prices you might not see again and bring some extra money to spend on souvenirs/art/jewelry.
We began our short stay in Aqaba exploring temples with a local guide, who was very knowledgeable and accommodating to my family, as we are all avid photographers and tend to linger longer than most tourists. We were never rushed and unlike our later guide in Petra, he was good at reading us and knowing when to share information with us and when to let us wander. We requested to have our lunch earlier than scheduled, as we flew in at 4am and started our day immediately, and ate at a cute local restaurant. I don't remember the name but they had a drink of fresh mint and lemons that was incredibly refreshing and we craved for the rest of the trip!
We slept in Amman at at Sulaf Luxary. It was a nice area that would have been fun to walk around with more time, with lots of restaurants and shops to see (and a Hardee's down the road!)
The next day we went to Mt. Nebo and Madaba, both gorgeous places and the views at Mt.Nebo were incredible. In Madaba we visited a mosaic factory and didn't plan on buying anything, but saw a piece so beautiful we couldn't turn down. The shop houses works from hundreds of artists and ships pieces of a certain size for free as the government subsidizes them, so if you want to buy a mosaic piece this is the place to keep in mind.
Our last night was spent in Wadi Rum and the Hassan Zawaideh Camp. We did a sunset "Jeep" tour (Jeep seems to be the placeholder for 4x4 trucks, so you're not in an enclosed vehicle but sitting in the bed so you can take pictures without being obstructed and feel the air - be sure to bring sunglasses or a scarf to keep sand from slapping you in the face!) that was MAGICAL. Our Bedouin driver was friendly and a good time, explaining the significance of the spots we stopped at. We saw where they filmed some of Lawrence of Arabia and even the Mandalorian, and he surprised us with some more tea once we stopped to watch the sun set!
We had not planned on doing a sunrise camel ride, but when Jakoub told us about it we couldn't turn it down, and he helped us arrange it. THIS was probably the BEST part of our whole trip. I can't remember the name of the camel driver but he resides at the camp I believe, and his camels were absolutely precious! You could tell they loved him, and were so sweet and friendly. It changed our perspective on camels as our first interaction had been at the Giza Pyramids where the camels seemed less than happy to be around us. I'm not a morning person but I would recommend dragging yourself out of bed for this.
Our last day we spent at Petra. We stopped at a store for coffee and a bathroom break and ended up getting a little sidetracked, as there were lots of pretty local artisan goods and learned the shop was government owned and an initiative of the Queen, so if you want to snag a souvenir without overinflated prices this is a good shop.
Try to plan more time than we did to explore Petra for maximum enjoyment. Of course the Treasury is the most well known spot, and it isn't too far of a walk down (But still pretty far in, so be sure to take enough water). But there are multiple paths and trails to take past it that were much more satisfying, and I would recommend looking at a map beforehand to gauge how long you will need and how much water to bring (we ran out before reaching the top of the Monastery, and there is only one vendor 10 minutes from the top so once you start you have to commit! He had some AMAZING fresh orange juice that hits the spot after the tedious walk up.) There are donkeys for those who are unable to walk and it will cut your time in half.
Bridge Travel simplified and planned everything perfectly, so we could fully enjoy our trip without any worries. Traveling during COVID we had to have negative tests to fly, and they made sure we were set every step of the way. I am impressed with the level of service they showed, and especially with Jakoub, who made our trip the phenomenal experience it was. He was more than someone who drove us around; he was knowledgeable and able to answer many questions we had about Jordan, and would find out for us if he didn't know right off the bat, and speaks great English. He was patient and never made us feel rushed or like a burden for requesting anything, and just great vibes all around.
All in all, this was a great glimpse into the wonder of Jordan. The customer service and genuine kindness from Jakoub, the friendliness of all the people we met, the natural beauty and variety of the country, from lush mountains to sandy deserts, there was nothing to not love about this trip. Thank you Bridge Travel, and thank you Jakoub - we will be back!