Did you know Intrepid have a range of special expeditions exclusively for women? While it’s always fun to travel with a mixed group of travellers, there are some countries where travelling with only females can give you a completely different experience. These limited-edition series of expeditions are all about breaking down barriers, encouraging discussion and creating immersive local experiences for women that are ordinarily off limits on regular itineraries.
Currently there are seven destinations offered as an Intrepid Women’s Expedition – Jordan, India, Morocco, Turkey, Kenya, Nepal and Iran.
Our client Trish recently returned from completing the Jordan Women’s Expedition with Intrepid. We asked her all about her experience and what she thought about embarking on a women only tour.
What made you want to travel in Jordan on a women’s Expedition?
I was attracted to the women’s tour as it covered my bucket list items (Wadi Rum, Petra and the Dead Sea), with the added bonus of meeting locals and visiting them in their homes/day to day lives. I was excited about the chance to meet Bedouins as I’ve long been interested in their culture, particularly after reading Marguerite van Geldermalsen’s book ‘Married to a Bedouin’.
How did you find travelling in a group of only women?
We had the maximum sized group with 10 Americans, myself and one other Australian. They were a lovely bunch and we had a great time together. As I work in a nearly all female office, the fact that it was an all female travel group hardly registered with me! Although with that many women in one group, someone always needs the toilet 😉
Your local guide for the duration of the tour was a woman as well, how did you find having a local woman lead the trip?
I think possibly one of the challenges of women’s expeditions, at least at this early stage, is to have experienced female local tour leaders, in cultures where it’s unusual for women to undertake such work. It’s actually the first time I’ve had a female tour guide on any of the trips I have been on. Our guide was very knowledgeable about local history and culture, but had never taken this particular tour before, and usually leads trekking groups, so it was quite new to her as well.
Can you give us a bit of an overview of the itinerary and what people can expect on this 8 day trip?
Our first day took in many of the historic sites of Amman as well as the renowned falafels at Hashem and our first taste of knafeh for dessert, and then to the amazing Roman ruins of Jerash. In the evening we visited a local matchmaker, who happily showed us through photos of her clients and boasted of turning away at least 40 people a month for being too old or ugly! Our guide didn’t think this was a very typical Jordanian thing to do, and it proved a great source of gossip with every group of women we met with thereafter!
From Amman to the stunning Wadi Rum for a desert camp, and then to Petra where we spent two nights. I didn’t realise just how big the Petra site is, you could easily spend a week exploring. It was such a thrill to see the famous Treasury, and to then make it up the 900 steps to the less well known but equally stunning Monastery building, dodging high speed donkeys and stopping to pat the plethora of small ginger cats along the way. Of all the local experiences, my favourites were the ones in Petra – dinner with local women and a breakfast with a shepherdess and her goats – which I explain in detail further down in the blog.
Next was the Dead Sea, where we floated and gave ourselves a good coating of the salty dark mud. As a non swimmer I was in heaven to be in a body of water where it was impossible to sink!! Our final day was jam packed, visiting Mt Nebo, the Jerusalem mosaic map in Madaba and a mosaic workshop. After Bani Hamida we were back to Amman, where we finished our tour with a stop at the hammam (12 of us squeezing into one spa while waiting our turn for scrubbing and massage) with dinner, some last minute shopping on Rainbow St (Mlabbas is the ticket for quirky gifts and streetwear) before heading to a roof top bar with a view to the Roman Citadel to toast our trip with some local wine and dream of our next adventures.
You had the opportunity to stay in a Bedouin camp. Can you describe this experience?
Wadi Rum was spectacular; if I ever go back to Jordan, I would love to spend a few days there and do some hiking. My highlights of this part of the tour were dancing the dabke around the campfire under the stars, watching the sunrise and sunset on the stunning rock formations and speeding through the desert in an old jeep while our young Bedouin driver blasted the Macarena!
In Petra you joined local ladies in their home for dinner, can you explain what this was like and what you got out of it?
This was one of my favourite of the local experiences included in the trip. We had a lovely evening with a local family squashed around on the floor of their lounge room eating maqluba and learning about each other’s lives. Maqluba is Arabic for ‘upside-down’ and is fried chicken and vegetables layered in a pot, topped with rice and spices. Once cooked the whole thing is flipped upside down onto a plate and was the most delicious comfort style food (I’m yet to try recreating it at home but I’m told usually the first attempt ends up on the floor!) We were fascinated by the new bride in the family, a beautiful young redhead from Morocco, and had an interesting time trying to explain why so many of us were not married ourselves!
You also spent the day with a local female shepherd, learning all about the day-to-day life of this century old way of life. What did you learn from this?
This was another of my trip highlights. We got meet the shepherdess, her family and her multi -coloured goats, which she had kept in their pen for us to see before letting them out for the day. Wolves and hyenas are a threat to stock in the area so they are penned overnight, and they have a lot of dogs around to help as well. We had a fantastic breakfast afterwards including yoghurt made from their goat’s milk, and there was enough leftover food for us to pack some to fuel our Petra explorations later in the day. Her cousin was there to translate with his wife who told us she had lived in Chicago for ten years, and they had their Ugandan maid with them – not quite what comes to mind when you picture the Bedouin, and why it is so interesting to actually meet these people and hear their stories.
How did you find meeting the women of Bani Hamida Women’s weaving project, an initiative that has long helped female rug makers in Jordan?
What I enjoyed most about the Bani Hamida experience was the lunch in a local woman’s home first. She was a founder of the Bani Hamida project who now runs a successful business providing BnB style accommodation and meals for tour groups from her home. She gave us a tour and we got to see some beautiful rugs woven by her mother and grandmother, and hear about her travels to America to show rugs at an International folk art fair. Plus, as ever the food was delicious!
One point of interest is the hill you can see from their studio with a few old columns on the top – it is the spot where Salome was presented with John the Baptist’s head on a plate!
You did this trip as a solo traveller, how did you find the experience and the country for travelling on your own as part of a small group?
I usually travel solo on small group tours through Peregrine or Intrepid, which I love as I tend to find like-minded people to hang out with and have had some wonderful experiences. Jordan seemed quite modern and I felt safe and comfortable travelling there.
What were your overall thoughts about this type of trip? Would you consider it again? Any other comments.
I enjoyed this trip for the opportunity to meet and interact with local people, which you do not necessarily get on other trips. For a solo female traveller, I think a women’s trip can be a good option for finding a group of other like-minded travellers to share the adventure with. Whether I would do another women’s trip would really come down to the sites covered in the particular trip and whether my must-see items for that country were covered, and if they were I would certainly consider booking it. While this trip in particular is still very new and will need a bit of fine tuning, the interactions with locals make it definitely worthwhile.‘
This was a fast-paced trip and we managed to see a huge amount in the week we had together (if you want to do some local shopping, I would recommend booking an extra day at the end of the trip or at least an afternoon flight home!) I found the trip to be a good mix of sightseeing and local experiences, plus lots of excellent food! This isn’t a trip to undertake while on a diet!