2016 was a good year for me. Over the last twelve months I’ve visited 10 new countries, met a lot of great people, and made new friends. I also decided to revived this blog so I could share my adventures with you.
If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll know that I’ve done a fair amount of exploring of Israel. Petra has been at the top of the list since before I arrived, but I’ve been holding off on visiting Petra though. A friend was planning on visiting me over the holidays and I wanted to wait until she could join me.
We decided to do a 2-day tour. The first days included crossing into Jordan from Israel, and a 2 hour bus ride to Petra. Day 2 included a 4×4 ride though beautiful Wadi Rum and getting back into Israel.
Petra is the third Wonder of the World that I have been to. The other 2 are the Great Wall of China and the Colosseum in Rome. I didn’t think anything would unseat Rome and the Colosseum from personal my #1 spot, but Petra has done it.
Petra is at least 2,300 years old. It was built by the Nabateans, a nomadic tribe that wandered the Arabian desert. There seems to be some debate on what the purpose of Petra was. Our tour guide was adamant that Petra is a mausoleum. Yet Wikipedia tells me it was the capital of the Nabatean nation. Either way, Petra is now the largest tourist site in Jordan.
Petra has been featured as a scenic backdrop in several movies and TV shows. The one that I always remember is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It has been in several other movies including Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and The Mummy Returns, to name a few.
From the entrance of the park it is a 2km (1.2mi) walk to the Treasury (or is it mausoleum?). One doesn’t have to hoof it the entire way though. For the first 700m or so, visitors have the option to ride a horse. The horses will drop you off at the entrance to the ravine that leads to Petra. From there, you can ride in a horse drawn carriage, or walk.
After exploring Petra for a couple of hours, we were shepherded on to our tour bus and taken to a late lunch at one of the local restaurants. At lunch we had the opportunity to meet a couple of our fellow tourists. We were all Americans at my table. There was the crazy cat lady from just outside of Washington DC, and an older Chinese couple from the California Bay Area by way of Hong Kong.
After lunch we all hopped on the bus and drove back to the border. Since my friend and I were staying over night, we got in a cab and headed to our hotel in Aqaba. When we booked the tour, we were given the option of staying in a hotel, or in a Bedouin camp. We decided on the hotel because it gets cold at night in the desert, and the tents at the camp were not heated. We should have stayed at the Bedouin camp.
Don’t get me wrong, the hotel was on par with the average Motel 6 in the US (cheap and clean). t was missing one important amenity though. We had no hot water in the morning.
The 4×4 tour of Wadi Rum started at the Bedouin camp. While the standard tents did not have heat, there was the option of upgrading to a small cabin. They did have heat, and hot water, and satellite TV. And as you can see from the pictures above, it was a beautiful location too.
We arrived at the Bedouin camp little early, so we had some time to visit with our fellow tourists. All told, there were eight of us. A British couple that lived in Singapore, a brother and sister from South Africa, a young lady from Melbourne Australia, and the crazy cat lady.
Having grown up in the American southwest, I have a special place in my heart for deserts. There is a certain austere beauty that not everyone appreciates. The Jordanian landscape definitely reminds me of the American southwest. Unfortunately, our 4×4 tour was over all too soon and it was time to head back to Israel.
Before we braved the bureaucracy that is Israeli immigration, we stopped in Aqaba for lunch. After wandering around for a little while we found a nice restaurant and sat down to enjoy some schwarma. About ten minutes after we ordered lunch, we realized we had about 5 minutes to get back to our bus. We hurriedly asked for our orders to-go and double timed it back to the pickup location.
Once we were safely back in Israel, we found that we had several hours until our flight to Tel-Aviv left. What is there to do in Eliat, we wondered? Turns out, not much. We decided to wile the time away at the movie theater, watching Star Wars: Rouge One.