It’s been 8 months since my trip to Middle East yet I still can’t get it out of my head! For the reason I cannot really explain I never really was much interested in going to Israel – I wanted to visit it but it wasn’t on top of my list. However when I found really cheap tickets I couldn’t resist. It turned out to be the smartest decision ever and this was the best trip so far in my long traveling career! There were so many unforgettable moments, some crazy adventures and, most of all, incredible people I met that I can now call my friends! Just thinking about it brings a big smile to my face and makes me think of returning (especially that there are so many places I still need to see, I mean – just look at this list of top things to do in Tel Aviv for example!).
Standing at the Mount of Olives and realizing where I am
The problem with flights from Warsaw to Middle East is that they always depart late in the evening and arrive at their destination in the middle of the night (that’s the story for Yerevan, Tbilisi, Larnaca and Tel Aviv). Therefore my first day everywhere is kind of a blurry (usually I have energy to run around till afternoon). And it was the same with Jerusalem. I arrived there early in the morning, totally unprepared for what I was about to see and experience. Already when I was at the Western Wall and witnessed the Shabbat time there I could feel I’m in a very special place. But it hit me big time when I was standing at the Mount of Olives, having the whole Old Town in Jerusalem – the center of the major religions and cultures – in front of me, listening to the call for a prayer to the mosque while the sun was shining in the golden domes of the Orthodox church… That’s when I’ve realized the significance of the place I was in and its importance in the history of the world…
Again, before going to Israel the name “Hebron” rang a bell but I wasn’t fully aware of what’s happening there. So when I went for the “Dual Narrative Tour” and listened to stories of the difficult life in the divided city, told by both sides – Palestininan and Israeli – that’s when I’ve realized yet one more time how cruel and tragic our world is. It’s such a thin line between being friends and enemies and the reality of Hebron shows it very well – what used to be an open community now is the core of hate, a “Middle East conflict” in a nutshell. It was one of the most eye-opening, heartbreaking and challenging travel days ever but I believe everyone should visit Hebron, just to understand the situation in this part of the world. That’s also when I realized that small group tours in Israel are a pretty cool thing actually!
More about my day in Hebron
Experiencing incredible hospitality in Jisr az-Zarqa
I was probably one of the first foreigners who have ever visited this forgotten Arab town at the coast of Mediterranean Sea. I was also the very first guest of the newly opened Juha’s Guesthouse, a wonderful Israeli-Arab cooperation and a great example that it’s possible to live and work together, without any conflicts! I experienced an incredible hospitality of local people, I felt very welcomed for all the time! Young guys took me to the rooftop of the mosque, fishermen invited for a coffee, local family cooked dinner! Maybe Jisr az-Zarqa isn’t full of remarkable sights but sometimes that’s not the most important, people matter more and these were amazing! It was definitely my best day in Israel!
Watching fireworks over Nazareth
New Year’s Eve 2013/2014 was the calmest one in my entire life. And I was really fine with that! I stayed in the most beautiful hostel ever – Fauzi Azar Inn – and after dinner cooked by one of the guests and evening travel talks I was already in bed by 11am, killing the time till midnight with reading. When the time has come together with few guests (my dorm-mates were fast asleep) I was standing in the balcony of the hostel, with spectacular view of Nazareth in front of me. There was nothing fancy about it, I was wearing my pajama, fireworks were fine but not very special yet I remember this moment very clearly as there was something special about it. I blame it on the location as not only Nazareth is such an important place in the history and religion but also turned out to be a surprisingly great and so underrated destination!
More about reasons to visit Nazareth
Hiking Masada at sunrise
I’m not a great hiker and I’ve never hiked in the darkness before. But I did so in Israel and it was another spectacular moment of my trip. When I started I could see nothing around, only small dots of people in front of me – it turned out for the better as probably I’d have been terrified of Masada – the sacred mountain of Israel. I didn’t hurry to the top like others but walked up in my own speed so very quickly I was left with not so many people around. As soon as it started getting brighter and brighter I could see a beautiful landscape below me – a Judean Desert with weird land formations, Dead Sea and mountains in Jordan. It was an incredible view but the best was still to come. Few steps away from the top I could witness probably the most spectacular sunrise in my life. Everything was covered in the soft orange light and shortly after first rays of sun peeked through Jordanian mountains. I was staring in awe at this breathtaking sights!
More about my hike to Masada
Surprising nightlife in Jerusalem
It was Saturday evening, my last one in Israel before heading to Jordan. I was supposed to spend it in the lounge of Abraham Hostel, planning to conquer the world with my new awesome Czech friends (hey Martina and Ondra:)) But then the weird thing happened – I was chosen by Viator as one of the top 25 travel bloggers to follow in 2014! That’s a huge thing and called for a celebrations! After few drinks in the hostel’s bar we headed out. What I saw on the streets (and bars) of Jerusalem was one of the biggest surprises of my trip! In my naivete I expected the city to be spiritual and elevated but just the Old Town was like that. Outside of the walls Jerusalem was just the regular big city with lots of options for a great night out! The streets were crowded with young people, all of them just wanting to have some fun. We ended up in couple of bars, including a gay one (in Jerusalem!!!) and after the calm beginning of the year it was a great way to celebrate 2014 and my little success. One of the best nights out this year!
More about fun side of Jerusalem
Spending night at Wadi Rum desert
I can’t say sleeping at the desert was ever my dream but when I missed this chance last year in Morocco I was pretty disappointed. When planning my stay in Jordan I didn’t make this mistake again! The camp was almost empty and experiencing such an incredible desert on my own was an unforgettable experience. I just couldn’t work out how amazing this place is, it was a pure beauty! When the evening came I witnessed the most splendid night sky I’ve ever seen – the number of stars was uncountable and all of them seemed to be so close and so clear! I spent a big part of my time just staring up there and trying to remember the view forever! Since the camp was almost empty the silence was trembling in my ears and I just couldn’t believe that this scene I’m part of is real… Later on I put most of my clothes on and, even if I had problems with moving around because of all the layers, I was ready to sleep in this incredible scenery.
More about night at Wadi Rum
Hiking around in Petra
I really get why Petra is often called one of the world’s wonders. Sadly most of the people focus only on the Treasury, that’s also what is usually shown in articles about this incredible place. And while it didn’t blown me away I really loved the rest of the site. The highlight of my visit was a hike in the surrounding mountains – such an easy way to escape the crowds and enjoy the beautiful nature. For over 2 hours I haven’t seen a single person but with every step I fell for the scenery more and more! Petra really is an incredible place to visit, as soon as you step out of the main path and see more than most of the people!
More about incredible Petra
Climbing the fortress in Amman
One of the most remarkable sights in Amman is the fortress hulking over the city. So when I met my Polish friend Norbert for some sightseeing the fortress was the very first place we headed to. The problem was the entrance was from the other side than the one we were in. We didn’t mind that and started climbing up anyway. After passing some cool buildings, such as abandoned kindergarden, we reached our destination – we just had to cross the wall somehow. Two young boys passed us and jump over to get to the fortress. The view over Amman was already pretty spectacular but so was the sense of endless space around me. After few encouraging “Don’t look down, just go” and “You can do it” we made it to the wall, climbed it, jumped over and finally were at the fortress’ grounds. We still wanted to be fair and pay for the entrance, no matter that it was an illegal and forbidden one, so we went to the guards who have spotted us anyway. But after a short conversation they let us go without paying, laughing at us and wishing a good day.
More about cool Amman
Being invited to rabbi’s house
That was probably the weirdest and most surprising adventure of my Middle East trip. After returning from Jordan and before heading to catch my flight back home I stayed for few more hours in Jerusalem. Together with my great company – Ondra, JP (who I met in Amman and we travelled together on that day) and Victor (who Ondra met in the hostel) we decided to head to Mea Shearim, the ultra conservative neighbourhood of Jerusalem. What I’ve seen there was more or less how I imagined the whole city before visiting it – dark, modest clothes everywhere, covered heads, side curls, signs and posters only in Jiddish. I felt awkward for most of the time, didn’t take any pictures but tried to remember as much as possible. At some point we were stopped by an older guy, resident of Mea Shearim. He asked us where we are from and what are we looking for. After a small talk he invited us to his place for a coffee. It’s not what people do in this neighbourhood, usually they’re against any visitors! We’ve spent over 2 hours in the rabbi’s house (oh yes, it turned out the guy was a rabbi), learning about Judaism, life in such a conservative and orthodox place like Mea Shearim and about Jewish culture. These conversations gave me much more knowledge and understanding of Israel I was expecting to see and was a perfect ending of my Middle East trip!
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Actually it was hard to pick only 10 best moments of my 2 weeks in Israel and Jordan. There were many more of them – random views, delicious food, people and situations – that made my time in this part of the world unforgettable! I don’t know why I waited that long to go there! If you think of visiting Middle East don’t make my mistake and visit it as soon as you can! Both countries, Israel and Jordan, are safe for solo travelers! I’m sure you will love them big time too and will have some great adventure as well, there’s some magic there for sure!
What was your best trip so far? Would you like to visit Israel and Jordan?
During my visit to Israel for most of the time I’ve stayed in Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem and I can say it was the best hostel I’ve been to! It’ll be hard to beat that! Here you can book you a place to stay in Abraham Hostel. If hostels are not your thing take a look at other accommodation options in Jerusalem.
If you think of visiting Israel or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
If you think of visiting Jordan or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
Note: My trip to Israel was in partnership with Tourist Israel. As always I’m keeping it real and all opinions are 100% mine, I really had the best time ever there!
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