Al salaam a’alaykum OC! This week’s crusade is the “Rose Red City” of Petra, Jordan. It was once home to the mighty Nabataean empire that flourished from the 13th to the 6th Century BC. Petra is Arabic for rock. If you’re a fan of the Indiana Jones movies you may recognize some of our pictures. Petra was the film site of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with Sean Connery. The canyon that Indy outran the Nazis on horseback is known as te “Siq”. At various points of the Siq you can catch glimpses of the Treasury. The Treasury is carved into the walls of the canyon. In the movie, the treasury facade was used as the location of the Holy Grail and the Templar Knights that protected the Grail.
Petra is a Unesco World Heritage site and was recently named one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. We hiked through the city’s ampitheatre and trekked through ancient cave dwellings. The sandstone inside the caves and tombs are swirled with brilliant color patterns that are unique to Jordan. We spent most of the day on foot and then hired a horse and buggy to cart us around the city. Petra is literally in the middle of nowhere. The only signs of civilization are the “Indiana Jones Gift Shop” and Falafel stand at the entrance of the canyon. Cass and I have been to over 40 countries and this was our most intimidating quest.
We cross into Jordan on foot from Eilat, Israel in the morning. A Jordanian soldier confiscates our passport at the border. From there we walk a dirt road for about 100 meters along a dirt road lined with barb wire fences and sniper turrets. At the end of the road we clear customs at the military outpost. This place is a dive – there is no place to buy food or water and the bathroom is a hole dug in the ground behind a three-sided aluminum partition.
We had hired a car to meet us on the Jordanian side of the border to take us on the three-hour drive to Petra. The car was not there – only a group of chain smoking, machine gun toting soldiers that didn’t speak any English. We asked for help locating our ride. A few minutes later, a shady looking vehicle pulled up and asked us to get in. I grilled him to find out if he was our guy. The soldiers asked us to get in. We refused.
An hour later our car arrived. He apologized for being late and after verifying his information, we hopped in his Mercedes Benz and rumbled through the desert. We’re pretty sure if we had jumped in the first car, we wouldn’t be writing this column. Kidnapping is rampant in the middle east and blondes sell for a premium on the open market.
Once we caught our ride, we were turned over to an amazing tour guide. He spoke perfect English and gave us a wonderful tour of Petra. The local shop owners and vendors were very polite. They seemed to be very pro British and American. They asked us a lot of questions and were excited that we came from so far away to see their country. We really enjoyed the food and the hospitality.
That night our return to Israel went a lot smoother than our experience that morning. We came away from Jordan with a mostly positive experience. Petra is a once in a lifetime adventure that beckons extreme travellers to gaze upon its glory. Ma’a salama!
– The Rox