Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Days 7 and 8

Monday, November 5
We had a relaxing morning and left Aqaba after 11 a.m. We drove about an hour to Wadi Rum. T.E. Lawrence and his Arab allies had their home base there. It seems a harsh place. We arrived at a camp from where we loaded into Land Cruiser trucks. Most sat on benches on the backs of the pick-ups. The one I rode in had a back seat so I rode inside. We drove through the desert. It was a breathtaking landscape with flat stretches of where sometimes we were driving on soft sand and other times on hard rock-like surface. And then here and there, all over the place, sheer rocky mountains would rise from the desert floor.

From there we drove about 2 hours to Petra. Not the ancient city of Petra but to a hotel in the newer town of Petra. Along the way we periodically saw Bedouin tents. It’s almost hard to believe that people are still living in tents, still living a nomadic lifestyle. I don’t know why but I automatically assumed that people in the modern world would be settled down somewhere in a permanent home.

We’re spending two nights at this hotel so it gave me a chance to do some hand-washing and let it hang to be dry before we move on. The pool at this hotel isn’t heated so I didn’t go swimming today.

Tuesday, November 6
Today we went to Petra. That’s an incredible place. It’s hidden in a canyon and valley. It was the capital of the Nabbatean people who were there from the 3rd century BC to 106 AD when the Romans took over. To get there you have to walk down through a deep canyon called a "Siq" which opens at the end to a building carved into the rock called the "Treasury." This is the place you see in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he goes inside to get the Holy Grail ("This is the cup of a carpenter"). It’s called the Treasury but it was really a temple and tomb. The whole canyon as you continue past the treasury has numerous tombs carved into the rock walls. There’s also a huge Roman theatre carved into the canyon wall. It’s really beautiful. It’s mostly reddish-pinkish coloured sandstone. There is so much to see there and too much to describe and the pictures I took don’t do it justice.

Apparently Bedouins used to live in the caves and former tombs of Petra until 1980 when the government forcibly removed them to a modern village just outside the valley. They still come every day to set up their stalls and coffee shops and sell all kinds of things. They also lead people in and out of the canyon on horses, donkeys, camels, and horse drawn buggies.

It was quite hot (30 or 31 deg. C) today but I used sunscreen and wore my hat, but we had to do a lot of walking and the heat, which isn’t a humid heat, still really tires you out. Coming out of the "Siq" you can take a horse for the last 900m to the bus parking area. I rode the horse because it was all uphill and I was beat.

Back at the hotel some of us met on the terrace to watch the sunset behind the mountains. It was very nice but once the sun was gone it became quite cool. After sitting outside in shorts and a t-shirt and freezing I put on jeans and a sweatshirt before going down for supper.

Doug led evening prayer in the hotel theatre for us after which they were showing the Indiana Jones movie. Something I forgot to mention, on a nearby mountaintop that we passed on the way down to Petra there is a shrine commemorating where Aaron, the brother of Moses, is said to have been buried. Our guide Mohammed said it’s called Mount Hor but my guide book says Jabel Haroun.

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