Wednesday, April 29, 2009


SUNDAY, APRIL 26, 2009 – 108/37 – AQABA, JORDAN (PETRA)

Our car and guide, Rudi, are waiting for us on the pier at 8:00AM and we are off for Petra by 8:15AM. It takes us two hours, including the obligatory refreshment stop after the first hour. Here Dick has a Turkish coffee, one you can chew, and visits with Rudi and another guide who is pleased to find out that he looks something like a biker from California.

On our drive to Petra along the main highway that leads to Iraq and then along the Kings Way,our guide points out things of interest: several Bedouin camps, the home of the Uncle to King Abdulla, the cleft in the mountains that hides Petra, the Petra Vistors Center,the town of Petra and various resorts in the area. Rudi buys our tickets and our mandatory horse ride tickets and we start. One used to be able to ride a horse all the way to the “Treasury” but they cut that out and now you can only ride the horses for the first 700 yards but you must buy a ticket for a ride whether you walk or ride!You just have to love the graft in these countries.

It is downhill about 2.5-3KM into Petra and after that first 700 yards,you enter the Siq, the cleft in the rock that is the entrance to Petra.Some of the Siq floor is soft sand and gravel, some is original Roman paving stones from the late first century AD and some is paved in modern concrete. The Swiss paid for this project 15 years ago and it sure makes walking easier. Original water channels line both side of the Siq. One was covered and provided fresh water to the population. The other is open and was probably used for watering livestock and for other uses not requiring potable water. The covered channel was actually clay pipe laid in a though cut into the rock and then covered with slabs of rock. Most of the clay pipe is broken but you can still see hard water calcium build up inside the pipe pieces. The walk through the Siq is very interesting. The colors in the walls are beautiful and there are many craving along the way. Rudi explains them as we go. We pass a small traveler’s temple, monuments to some of the gods and steps leading up through clefts in the walls.

The first view of the Treasury is everything we expected and more. It is amazing to see it unfold as we walk the last steps of the Siq. When we get there, the ambulance that had passed us earlier, on the way down, is loading several people from the ship. One is the friend that had the bad food in Luxor. They are transported to the hospital for treatment and then returned to the ship. We walk on down to the amphitheater and see many more of the elaborate tomb faces.The craving is unbelievable in its detail and the effect the colors in the rock have on the design.We are still walking down hill and now the path is very rocky with lots of loose stones. We have been walking about 90 minutes and Carolyn decides it is time to start back since it is now all UP HILL!

About 90 minutes later, we are back at the Visitors Center, very hot and dusty! The car meets us and the driver has picked up some “sandwiches” to eat in the car. We ask about any Jordanian crafts that might make a good souvenir, so he takes us to a hotel to check out a couple of shops. We have had some good luck with nice things in hotel shops, but there is nothing local here. Rudi says most of the good craftwork comes from Syria.

We had passed by the edge of Wadi Rum on the way to Petra.We have a little time before we have to be back at the ship so we turn off the highway on the way back and drive 15KM or so out into the desert area. This is really a neat area with its sand dunes and colorful rock formations. It was Lawrence of Arabia’s stomping grounds.We get back to the ship at 5:00PM. It has been an interesting day, but we are glad to be “home”. We clean up and go have a cocktail and have a nice visit with a couple from England. There is a big barbeque tonight on the open deck. We are not sailing until 10:00PM and this is a very pretty setting in the Gulf of Aqaba with Aqaba Jordan on one side and Elat, Israel on the other. As good as the food looks, the lure of AC and quiet in the restaurant are too much. We have a great meal there along with about a fourth of the passengers.

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