For millions of people across the UK, this Easter has been a fantastic opportunity to get away from it all. Media Lecturer, Chris Butler decided to hit Jordan and Syria in the Middle East while it was calm and relaxedâ€¦oh, wait, while it was tense and volatile, but will the imminent threat of camel spiders, scorpions and snakes leave Chris running screaming from the desert to his five star hotel?
Due to events in Syria, we needed to change our itinerary, spending more time in Jordan and ending up in Aqaba in southern Jordan. Aqaba is popular for its coral reefs and year-round warm climate. On the day we were there, it hit 38c and we stayed in a hotel that resembled the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, and was as empty apart from two really creepy girls. Saying that, I might be mixing up film and reality again about the creepy girls. The hotel would have undoubtedly been a wonderful place to stay in the 1980’s but in 2011, it’s looking old and neglected and here’s a picture of an air con unit with a Hyena next to it.
The Hyena had clearly eaten some vital part of the air con unit in the hotel, which would explain why our unit refused to emit even the most meagre puff of air. Foolishly we opened the window. Within an hour I’d been savaged with at least eight bites itching like crazy. My friend’s leg had become a battle field, too. Lessons I learnt on that day would be to go to bed with masses of DEET on my skin and to use a mosquito plug-in to try and stop them. Failing that, I could just ask reception to move me to a room with air con!
Leaving the mosquitos far behind, we ventured the desert of Jordan. It was here that I realised not wearing shorts was a superb decision; the guidebooks all stated that this is a cultural thing and yet everywhere we went tourists were dressed like they were in England. Not only did my anti-jeans stance ensure that I would avoid being shot for wearing shorts, which happened in Iraq in 2006 but wearing loose jeans or cords helped me avoid any terrifying insect/desert dweller interactions. Jordan’s Wadi Rum area may be a place of immense beauty but it’s also home to many scary creatures such as scorpions, spiders and snakes. Whilst most tourists would usually never see any of these, it’s advisable to err on the side of caution here, and scrabbling up rocks to get a better view should be avoided.
One group of renowned animals that can be found frequently under stones in Rum are scorpions. A total of eight kinds have been recorded so far, from large brown ones to small yellow ones. It is the small, yellow ones that give the most painful sting, although like snakes, few visitors see them and very few ever get stung.
If you ever have the chance to visit Wadi Rum in Jordan, take it and spend a night in a Bedouin camp; it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Even though the threat of waking up surrounded by angry-looking scorpions did worry me, it didn’t stop me having a brilliant night’s sleep after a busy day of exploring the desert and drinking mint tea. If you are brave, you may want to explore this link of a newly discovered spider; if I’d seen this on my journeys, I don’t think the screaming would ever have stopped.
In Jerash, one of the Middle East’s greatest Roman ruins, the same concerns applied with bugs. Be careful where you walk, don’t pop your finger into holes in rocks and do look out for the millipedes, which were really quite enormous. Apparently, if you poke them, some will emit a foul smelling liquid or hydrogen cyanide gas through their pores.
Visiting Jordan in the Spring is really the best time of year to avoid a pest adventure; the worst of the usual summer bugs is still to come and the snakes are hibernating. The people were overwhelmingly friendly and happy to help and best of all, Jordan is weathering the storm in the Middle East magnificently.