What a great and tiring day!
Trip Start Dec 18, 2010
20Trip End Jan 04, 2011
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Where I stayed
Le Meridien - Amman
Achmed took us to our first stop about 50 yards away and yelled at some men, "I need horses!" Suddenly there were three horses for us to mount and take us the first half mile down the 3.8 kilometer (almost 3 miles) mountain trail to Petra . We got some great pics of Sandy, Laura and me on horseback...felt like Indiana Jones! Then Achmed walked the next 2.5 miles with us, telling us how the Nabateans, a civilization which flourished more than 2200 years ago in the area had carved out some of the most beautiful temples and tombs you've ever seen out of solid sandstone rock cliffs. You have to see this place to believe it. A gravel and sand pathway leads travelers down the valley with sky-high cliffs on both side, one turn more beautiful than the last. Along the way Achmed pointed out tombs and places where the Nabateans carved out alters where they prayed to their gods. How they used actual clay piping and dams to collect and bring the 8" of rainwater a year to their community. The scenery is just breathtaking. Little wonder Spielberg chose the site for part of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." They specifically shot scenes in an area they call "The Treasury" which was actually a temple, but looks like a 10-story tall bank building hewn out of solid sandstone. We walked further and Achmed told us more. He was a great guide. Informative and funny. For example we came to a place where there are footholds dug out of the sandstone to a very tall height. They call it "The Stairway to Heaven." He said with a straight face, "And of course Led Zeppelin came here in 1971 and named their song after it." - Just kidding! When his work was done with us, we rewarded him handsomely.
There's also an equally impressive structure 844 steps up to the top of a mountain, called "The Monastery." Laura and I conquered it. Sandy stayed at the bottom. Great place. Achmed suggested I had to carry Sandy to the top. That didn't happen.
All along the entire trail were Bedouins selling this, that or the other thing for 1 or 2 Dinars. The Bedouins actually lived in the tombs and palaces until 1985 when the government moved them to new housing about a half mile away from Petra.
The Bedouins also entice you to take either a camel ride in the valley, or a donkey ride (they call it a taxi) up to the top of the mountain. We declined. We did have to dodge the donkey-doo all the way up the 844 steps though!
The Nabateans flourished because Petra was at the crossroads or the Silk Road and Camel Caravans from India and other places. They were eventually conquered by the Romans who left their own mark on the place with paved roads of limestone and temples of their own. Some of those ruins remain.
After hiking up and down the mountain, we found Sandy and headed back up the valley the almost 3 miles to the visitors center. By the time we got there, lunch and a cold drink at the Movinpick Hotel was welcome. About 3:00 our original guide, Jihad picked us up and we traveled the 3 hours to Amman, Jordan (the capital). We checked into an even nicer hotel than the Movinpickl...Le Meridian in Amman. Didn't think that was possible. Great place and great people.
Speaking of people, I've got to say, I was a bit apprehensive of the Jordanian people when beginning our trip. Our border incident didn't ease my mind any. It turns out, these people are wonderful people. Friendly, helpful, and have a great sense of humor. I have a different impression of Jordanians than I had previously and that, I guess it's what travel is all about!
We got to our hotel and we all three showered after a long, hot, dirty day. We had a drink in the hotel bar and then went to a Hookah Cafe where Laura smoked a hookah (Sandy I both took one drag...but in the immortal words of Bill Clinton, "I didn't inhale!") Neither did Sandy or Laura for that matter.
Up tomorrow to be picked up at 8:30 to be at the airport at 9:00 for our flight to Cairo...last of our three-country tour. Going to be tough to beat Petra...another check off the bucket list.