It has been a while since my last post, but it has been a busy and joy-filled month or so and I wanted to share some of my recent adventures!

The Dead Sea

A few weeks ago, SIT arranged for my program to take a week-long trip to the south of Jordan. We began our week with a short day trip to the Dead Sea, which is only about a 45-minute drive from our school in Amman. This was a ‘bucket list’ location for me, which filled the early morning drive out of the congested city with anticipation as we approached the lowest point on Earth. While I have been loving my time in Amman, I had not realized how much I missed being in the quiet of nature. The sounds and fast-paced energy of the city prove quite a stark contrast from my quiet life at Hope College, but it was a nice refresh to find myself in more rural areas with some peaceful moments of stillness.

As we checked in for our beach day passes, the hotel informed us that there was a double red flag warning on the beach, meaning we would not be able to actually float in the Dead Sea. As the 16 20-some-year-olds trudged to the beach with an air of disappointment, we were met with the reality of a beautiful view. We spent our morning wading on the banks and leisurely reading and napping as the air warmed up. After a few hours of simply relaxing, we found out the hotel we were at had a “Dead Sea experience pool,” which was a pool so highly concentrated with salt that it simulated the weightless feeling of the actual sea. We were explicitly warned not to get any water from the pool in our eyes or mouth. However, this proved incredibly challenging as this small pool continued to fill with fellow tourists over the course of about half an hour. Overall, the pool was an incredible experience, but we were all still clinging to the hope that we would be able to float in the sea later that day.

After the pool, a few of us walked across the hotel and noticed that one of the red flags had been taken down, meaning we could get into the sea! We spent the rest of the day floating in the sea until we had to make our drive back to Amman.

Floating in the Dead Sea
Looking out on the incredible view

A Very Fast Week

Once we returned from the Dead Sea, we had only a few days before we left for our week-long excursion to Mt. Nebo, Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba. The week of classes flew by! Our Arabic class became increasingly intensive, and the many assignments from other courses made it a very challenging week to stay on top of. We visited King Abdullah I Mosque for an Arabic field trip to learn more about Islam and prepare for Ramadan. It was such a beautiful mosque, and our Arabic teacher was so excited to share her experience of Ramadan with my class.

Not only was I consumed with academics and studying, but we also had a few birthdays to celebrate over the coming weeks! It might sound silly, but I often hear that birthdays are a considerable concern for some who want to study abroad. It can be unsettling to spend your birthday in an unfamiliar city with unfamiliar people, but being able to celebrate one another has been a highlight of the semester so far!

The view from my balcony
Visiting King Abdullah I Mosque
Celebrating a fellow Hope student, Kaylee’s, birthday!

Kissed by a Camel

Following a short stop at Mt. Nebo, we caravanned in our vans down to the Old Village resort, an ancient city near Petra renovated into a beautiful hotel! After a much-needed night of sleep, we woke up early to begin exploring the ancient city of Petra. Filled with many Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia jokes and references, the day consisted of us walking down to the Treasury in Petra, which is generally the structure most people think of when they hear ‘Petra.’ After taking an abundance of pictures and getting unexpectedly kissed by a camel, our guide offered to take us about 2 hours past the Treasury, where we got to see the painted caves and ate lunch over an ancient amphitheater. 

Eating lunch looking out onto the amphitheater
Getting kissed by a camel
Standing in front of the Treasury at Petra
Exploring more of Petra!

Wadi Rum

Our two-night stay in the Old Village at Petra was followed by a couple-hour road trip further south to Wadi Rum – a protected desert in Jordan. Upon arrival, we were given the keys to our accommodations, a beautiful structure built to resemble traditional Bedouin lodging. The village-like hotel sat in the middle of the desert, which provided a perfect spot for star gazing later that night. After a quick nap and some time to rest, we all got ready for the long-awaited camel rides. Only eight of us could ride at a time, meaning our sixteen-person group had to split up. I was lucky enough to be ready in time for the first group and was brought to meet my camel for the next 45 minutes, Hasif. Once everyone got a chance to explore the desert on their camel, we took a jeep tour of the surrounding areas, which brought us to some of the filming sites of Dune, a Bedouin tent where we drank incredible tea and took a small hike, and cartwheeled through the red sand. 

Cartwheeling through the desert
Camel riding!
Watching the sunrise outside my tent in Wadi Rum
Exploring some cool looking rocks on our jeep tour

That night, we ate a delicious meal, Zarb, a traditional meal prepared in the ground. After our dinner, we danced Dabke with some other guests and found some rocks to star gaze on.

Watching our meal (Zarb) getting pulled out of the ground and brought to the dining room


After a short rest stop to see the fifth tallest flagpole in the world, we arrived at our most southern location – Aqaba. As Aqaba is a gulf city right on the Red Sea, we were all very excited to swim but were met with cold weather when we arrived. However, the town we stayed in has beautiful restaurants and shops, which we explored all day. Because all the students in the program live with different host families, we don’t often see much of each other outside of school and studying. However, all of us staying in the same hotel meant we could have a few movie nights over the excursion, which was a fun time to relax after a few busy days!

The view from an early morning walk around Aqaba
A few boats close to the 5th tallest flagpole in the world

Back to Amman

The southern excursion was one of the things that drew me to this particular SIT program. Seeing many of these long-awaited locations certainly met my expectations, and the memories will undoubtedly last a lifetime. While enjoying my time exploring the new sights, I missed my host family immensely. I was so happy to be met with many hugs and stories from their week when I returned.

Once we returned to our busy lives back in Amman, we had a lot of work waiting for us. As we were preparing to embark on another excursion to Geneva, Switzerland, in just a couple weeks, we had ample homework, exams, and projects commanding our time. The change in pace was welcome, however, as I realized how much I had become acquainted with my daily routine in Amman.

I have many updates and stories to share from the last couple of months, and I will be sure to post again soon. Thank you for keeping up with my journey, and I hope these small glimpses of life in Jordan have proved encouraging and served as a sweet reminder of the immense beauty in this world we share.

Published by Emma Raybould

Class of 2025 SIT Study Abroad - Refugees, Health, and Humanitarian Action in Amman, Jordan

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