Monday, February 7, 2011

Jordan

With the unrest in Tunisia having spread to Egypt, it seemed inevitable that Jordan would be the next to fall. Coinciding with the mid-winter lull, we perceived an optimal time to visit the Kingdom...no crowds!

So Pam and I flew to Amman with a group from London, soon finding ourselves in a jeep heading out to Wadi Rum – one of T.E. Lawrence's favorite slices of desert, located on the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.


The landforms are magnificent, the sand is an intense red, and the only inhabitants then and now are Bedouin nomads.


Being February, the temperature was cool-ish – actually very comfortable. We had a chance to climb some of the rock outcroppings. Here yours truly crosses a natural bridge:


Before long we spotted an accomodating beast of burden:


I was too busy wrestling the monster to the ground to take any photos of that action, but suffice it to say, Pam soon had her saddled-up:


We 'camped' in the desert that night – it was incredibly peaceful and fun to hang out with a small number of fellow travelers and local Bedouins.

Later, we followed the path of Indiana Jones (and innumerable camel caravans before him) to Petra. Walking through a narrow slit canyon or "siq" for 2.5 miles, we suddenly arrived at the fantastic "Treasury":


Carved in-situ, from the solid sandstone somewhere between 100-200 B.C., it truly is one of the most fantastic sights in the world. Just incredible that the Nabataeans were able to create it with the most primitive tools while achieving such perfect symmetry and detail. The contrast with the curvy, natural forms of the unadulterated sandstone is sublime.

We dismounted our trusty ride...

... and went forth on foot along the formerly colonnaded main street of Petra, studded with relics from Roman and Byzantine eras.


Interestingly Petra became lost to history before the dawn of Islam (622 A.D.) hence has no islamic buildings nor motifs. For more than one thousand years it was known only to the Bedouins who kept it a close secret. First discovery by the West was in the early 1800's, by an intrepid Swiss explorer who promoted himself as an indian muslim to obtain access.

We hiked up to "The Monastery", so-called as it briefly functioned in this role in byzantine times. (Though like the other magnificent facades in Petra, it was built as a Nabataean tomb.)



After all this excitement, we took a day off to 'chill' on the shores of the Dead Sea:

Doing what we do best, just frolicking happily!



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