We arrived in Eilat late in the afternoon and checked into our hotel which reminded me of resort hotels in Mexico. In fact Eilat is a popular resort town on the Red Sea, filled with tourists and elaborate beach-side hotels.
Bright and early the next morning we went to the border to cross into Jordan at Aqaba. It took us about 45 minutes to be cleared by the Jordanian border guards. They took our passports, which made me more than a little bit nervous.
Once we were cleared, we walked a few yards to the bus that had been arranged to take us to Petra. There we were joined by our Jordanian guide, Ziad, and a member of the Jordanian Tourism Police complete with sidearm.
Ziad gave us some background on Jordan and explained that 70% of the country is desert. It was a very bleak landscape, indeed. We saw Bedouin settlements in the caves like this:
Ziad said the Jordanian government was trying to extend education to the Bedouin children but could not get teachers to go to these settlements, so soldiers were ordered to go and teach for a year at a time. Wonder how that is working out?
Petra does not have any religious or Biblical significance. It is a magnificent city carved into the desert rocks by the Nabateans more than 2,000 years ago and was an important trading center. The Romans conquered it in 106 AD and built administrative offices in the steep mountainside, but abandoned it because of devastating earthquakes. Petra is one of the wonders of the world and the most important tourist attraction in Jordan.
Perched on the tops and sides of the mountains is the modern city of Petra:
Once the bus dropped us off at the entrance to the site, we walked more than a mile through a deep gorge called the Siq:
This path reminded me of the many Biblical admonitions about straying from the narrow path! There were many slick spots and uneven ground to navigate, so I found myself looking down most of the time we were walking.
As you get to the end of the Siq, there is a dramatic view of the most important structure in the site--the Roman Treasury:
There was so much glare from the high desert sun that I got that reflection in the photo. Across from the Treasury was this building which I believe the Romans used for other government functions:
It was HOT there! Even the camels seemed to be feeling the heat:
Most of us--including El Jefe and me--took advantage of the horse-drawn buggies to bring us back up to the entrance to the ancient city. It was a teeth-rattling ride!
Some of the intrepid travelers in the group opted to spend the night at a nearby hotel so they could see the light show in the evening at the ancient city and then climb up early in the morning to the top of the mountain to see the remains of an old monastery. El Jefe and I were not in that group, but went back to Eilat that evening. However, I can share this stunning photo of Petra at night, with thanks to Sam Gainer who took it: