To me Jordan is a wonderful place for a vacation; people are friendly, there is rarely any hassle, and I enjoyed my time there very much. The mountains and desert of Jordan radiate a wild and desolate beauty all of their own. It is these sun-baked wadis and giant granite crags that 'Lawrence of Arabia' describes in his 'Seven Pillars of wisdom'.
Was it a history or a myth?
Only the local Bedouin people knew that the city really exists because they lived within the caves. But nobody asked them and they didn't tell. Almost two thousand years, Petra wasn't more then just a mystereous sound, a name in dusty documents.
I went to Jordan in 1995 and I would recommend you to visit the country as soon as possible. You can find reports everywhere about the efforts of the government to develop tourism and make it the main source of income for the Jordanian economy. In december 1996, I even read an article that the area around Petra has been turned into a cluster of hotels. There were a handful of hotels when I visited Petra in September 1995.
We visited the Desert Castle in AZRAQ, where Lawrence of Arabia had his strategic headquarters, the beautiful bathhouse of Amra and the famous Roman town of JERASH. After a swim in the Dead Sea we drove south to Mt Nebo where we had a view of the Promised Land seen by Moses. Then we descend into the gigantic ravine of Wadi Mujib before climbing to the rocky pinnale of EL KERAK. At last we arrive to the rock-hewn city of PETRA, the forgotten city, found by the explorer Burckhardt in 1812. Petra is mentoined in every encyclopaedia but it doesn't belong to the seven wonders of the world. What a great pity. You might consider calling it the eight wonder!
The Nabataeans were expert hydraulic engineers. The walls of the Siq are lined with channels (originally fitted with chamfered clay pipes of efficient design) to carry drinking water to the city, while a dam to the right of the entrance diverted an adjoining stream through a tunnel to prevent it flooding the Siq.
A little further on, on the left is the giant semicircle of the amphitheatre, which had seats for eight thousand people. Behind it, the rock wall is pitted with tombs. Close to the theatre, a flight of steps marks the start of the climb towards the High Place of Sacrifice, while continuing towards the right, the wadi widens out. Ahead lies the centre of the city, while following the cliff face further to the right takes you to three large structures, known as the Royal Tombs. They have been carved into the rock face, which is known as the King's Wall.
A young girl with their goats is dwarfed by the craggy rocks that surround the ancient city of Petra. Many of the Bedu living in Petra keep their sheep and goats in caves that wee once the tombs of the Nabataeans, the founders of this ancient city. Nowadays, the Bedu who once had a tent pitched in Petra, live in the government-sponsored village nearby.
Only one hour drive from Petra to the east, we reach majestic Wadi Rum. We trek deep into the sandy desert by camel, riding beneath the sheer cliffs of a vast, silent landscape of ancient riverbeds and pastel-coloured stretches of sandy desert, suddenly shattered by towering sandstone mountains and sheer, shimmering cliff-faces. We move on sitting forward of the hump of a camel, our legs crossed around the front pommel of the saddle. The camels carry handsome camel bags decorated with long, braided tassels. We are dwarfed by the mountains. In the desert, without familiar objects such as trees to act as a guide, it is often difficult to get a sense of scale and to appreciate the vastness of the terrain.
This is a non-profit web page. All the establishments mentioned in this travelogue are places I've been to and which I would like to recommend to people who like to travel around in Jordan.
I would like to thank my dear friend, Marit.
Travelogue and photographs by Joël Neelen © September 1995. All Rights Reserved.
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