Our most recent adventure was to the Kingdom of Jordan. Sadly for Jordan, tourism in the country is down about 80%. There is no reason for that other than media fueled paranoia. It is a wonderful country brim full of unique and exciting things to see and do. And, it is very safe.
We chose Jordan Select Tours as our agency and they assigned us a very knowledgeable and personable guide named Haytham Hnouty. When you visit Jordan, as I very much encourage you to do, follow in our footsteps and enjoy the visit.
I mentioned unique things didn’t I? How about this.
Philadelphia is in the Middle East???
Well, don’t tell people in Pennsylvania this, but yes this is where the first Philadelphia was. It was the original “City of Brotherly Love” .
This original site of Philadelphia is located in what is known as The Citadel, which is one of the seven hills in Amman. From this site you can see all the other hills, half of which are in the “old section” and the other half in the newer area. From here you also have an excellent view of the Roman Theater. This site also contains the temple of Hercules, but all that is left of the Herc is a very large hand.
Where Moses died!
Those of you who are faithful readers will remember I made a post about walking where Gandhi died. On this trip I got to walk where Moses died.
The site is called Mt. Nebo. It is a pretty decent climb. (Which is probably what killed him, carrying those tablets up steep hills and all…) From up here you can see a nice portion of the Holy land, including the site in the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized.
It is now owned and maintained by the Franciscan Society of the Holy Land.
And now for something truly unique.
Just to establish my credentials… I have been to Machu Pichu, more than once. I have been to Easter Island. I have been to Angkor Wat. I have been to see the Terracotta Warriors. I have seen the Taj Mahal. I have been to the Pyramids.
Now you can believe me when I say that Petra is as astonishing, or maybe more so, than any of those.
We were there early enough in the morning to have this fantastic experience almost to ourselves
Carved out of Sandstone and a couple of thousand years old, it is 80 meters high and 40 wide. I am not Indiana Jones, so I was not allowed inside. Nobody is now.
It is misnamed. It never was the treasury of the Nebetau or the Bedouins, although many early visitors tore it apart inside looking for the gold they were sure was there. The Romans came to Petra and ruled it for a while. They abandoned it after an earthquake.
But later, a traveler did what all us travelers wish we could do. A Swiss man name Johann Ludwig Burckhardt “discovered”Petra in 1812. ( I am always amused that the first time a white man sees somewhere, he has “discovered” it, but I am digressing) He was an intrepid traveler who kept hearing rumors of a lost city. He was fluent in Arabic and managed to convince the Bedouins that he was indeed a muslim who had come to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of the brother of Moses, Aaron, who is buried on top of the mountain above Petra. They showed him the way into the city and his drawings and writings attracted many more visitors.
I am glad I did. Petra is much more than just the Treasury building.
The tombs of the Nebetau became the homes of the Bedouins. There are about 3000 of them. Our mule guide actually grew up in one of them. The government built a village outside of Petra and moved all the families out twenty years ago. Most of them still rely on Petra tourism to make a living.
The next place you really need to go is called The Monestary. Because we started early in the day, and because we rented mules, we got there before anyone else and we were able to enjoy it in peace. Guidebooks will tell you that there are 800 or 900 steep steps carved out of slippery sandstone to climb up to the site. I think it is at least 1000, but we let the mules do the hard part.
Along the way, there are many places to stop for tea or whatever. For those of you who cannot live off-line, there is this.
The hotels charge for WiFi, but not the Bedouins! I was amused at WiFi in a place like this!
OK kind readers, this post has gotten too long. But our trip to Jordan is far from over. Stay tuned, because in the next post I will take you to…
THE DEAD SEA
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