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Oct 29, 2005 - Petra Jordan - A City Carved in Stone
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Jordan here we come! First signs of Petra as we approach the Siq Like a scene from the Wild West 
Petra, Jordan - A City Carved in Stone

From Jerusalem we began our two part trek to Jordan and the ancient city of Petra. Originally we planned to cross into Jordan using the King Hussein Bridge which is the most direct link between Jerusalem in Israel and Amman, Jordan. However, since this border crossing is located within the Palestinian region of the West Bank, we altered our plans to cross into Jordan and used the southern Eilat/Aquaba border known as the Wadi Araba Crossing eliminating Amman as a stop on our journey.

Separated from the rest of Israel by over 200 kilometres of desert, Eilat is nestled between Jordan, Egypt's Sinai, and the Red Sea and is a busy resort destination in southern Israel. We took a taxi from Jerusalem back to the Tel Aviv airport and hopped on a flight with Arkia Airlines to Eilat where we spent the night before venturing off to Jordan. Arriving in Eilat was like venturing to another country after being in religious Jerusalem - neon signs, resorts, tacky souvenir shops, fast food outlets, amusement rides and hoards of scantily clad tourist here for the beach and warm waters of the Red Sea.

After our 16 hour stop in Eilat we ventured in the morning by taxi to the border crossing and our walk into Jordan. It was sad to see a nice border crossing, obviously built to handle volumes of people yet looking like a ghost town with only the 3 of us and 2 other girls crossing the border. We walked across to Jordan and cleared security and customs on both sides without any problems. As we left the Jordanian customs area a feeling overcame me - a feeling that we had now ventured somewhere very different and exotic to my typical travels. The picture of King Hussein and his son the current King Abdullah II posted proudly welcoming us to their Kingdom. The stark desert landscape with barren rocky mountains, rolling hills and a complete lack of vegetation. We were now in an Arab country - the Middle East - exotic, foreign and exciting!

While in Jordan we had 2 major sites on our agenda - the Ancient city of Petra and an overnight stay in the massive Jordanian desert in a region called Wadi Rum. Our first stop - Petra!

From the small town of Wadi Moussa, visitors gain access to what I think is the most impressive historic ruins I have ever visited, even more impressive than Pompeii, Ephasis and many smaller ruins viewed while travelling. The drive to Wadi Moussa took us up and down through the desert mountains of Jordan - rocky, sparsely vegetated and inhabited only by scattered nomadic Bedouin tribes. The feeling of isolation was incredible. From the small town of Wadi Moussa you enter the ancient city of Petra built by the Nabataeans around the 3rd century BC where they controlled the Middle East trade routes for spices, silk and slave caravans. This spectacular city was carved into the rocky cliffs of the area - temples, tombs, palaces, storerooms, stables and more still available for viewing after thousands of years.

Entrance to Petra is through the dramatic Siq - a narrow, winding rocky canyon over 1 kilometre long. As you wander through the Siq every turn brings more spectacular views of the striking coloured rock walls as you anticipate the great city at the end of the adventure. Suddenly as you take yet another turn this one reveals a narrow opening with a glimpse of the spectacularly preserved Petra Treasury towering high and with intricately carved detail into the rose coloured rock. The first glimpse is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that is burned into your memory forever yet it is only just the beginning of this great city.

From the treasury you continue to wind your way down the streets of history viewing ancient tombs, temples, the amphitheatre and a worthy climb up a long rock-cut staircase to Ad-Deir, the monastery that is almost as equally impressive as the initial view of the treasury. From here there are also incredible scenic views of the region from the lofty look-out points. If the climb is too much for you the local Bedouins are there to happily sell you a ride on one of their donkeys to reach the top or take you back down. After a day of exploring Petra, the trek back through the city and up the Siq can also be eased if you would like by a donkey ride, horse, horse drawn carriage or the authentic camel desert transportation - something we enjoyed and had a good laugh and fun with thanks to Stephen and his negotiation skills!

The day and half we spent exploring Petra was incredibly memorable and we loved every minute of it. It is truly a special place to visit and would highly recommend it to anyone. Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed exploring and experiencing the area.

PS - this I the location where the Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed so many years ago.


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