Jordan Unrestricted

There is a lot to learn from the people of Jordan. They know hospitality. They know about the stars and where best to pitch a tent for shelter. Jordanians know the lost art of cooking fine cuisine in an oil drum out in the desert and they know that they are sitting on a goldmine when it comes to cycling. We took our URS bikes to find out where the treasure is hidden.

50km outside of Aqaba, we see our first camel. The sun beats down as we ride with the Palestine border on one side and a mountain range that forms the backbone of western Jordan on the other. We stop in a section of deep sand and pause for a moment, trying to comprehend the never-ending vastness of the landscape.

The drone of a motor interrupts our thoughts and a white Toyota Hilux lurches into view over a dune. A staple in the Middle East, it pulls up and a window rolls down. The young male driver greets us in English. After the standard Jordanian opening card of “Where are you from?” is played, he pauses. After a quick glance over at his military uniform-clad passenger, he returns his gaze to us, “Do you want to drink some tea with us at our camp?”
There are moments during any trip where you have the choice to stick or twist. This is the first one.

The question takes us by surprise. From what we’ve read, tea invitations are textbook Jordan, but we communicate wordlessly as we run through the FCO’s travel advice and warnings in our minds, considering the possible fate of our bikes, camera equipment and even ourselves. But it’s too tempting. We nod in agreement, “Yes, šukran.” At that moment, our week-long trip to Jordan, an exploration to see if the reality of this Middle Eastern country lived up to what Google Street View promised, would begin to be shaped in ways we could not have imagined.

From afar, it is almost too easy to pigeonhole this young country into images of camels and tea drinking sessions in Bedouin tents. Up close, Jordan has a whole other story – although tea and camels feature prominently.

Living in the Italian Alps, we are spoilt when it comes to riding – road, mountain bike, gravel, you name it. But the week spent criss-crossing Jordan trumps everything we’ve ridden before. The BMC URS gravel bikes in the back of our rented blue Dacia Duster agree. They travelled with us for the purpose of seven-day rides – loosely (and somewhat apprehensively) planned on komoot, based on contour lines and a rough understanding of how maps work, and boy did those rides and bikes deliver!

 

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