Jordan & Egypt

Home Up Jordan & Egypt 2

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Since our trip on Egypt's Nile a few years ago, we have wanted to visit Cairo and the Pyramids to 'fill in the gaps'. I have also had a long-time ambition to visit Petra and Jordan, so when I saw a trip called 'Pyramids to Petra' in my Voyages Jules Verne brochure, it seemed fate was stepping in. This was our third trip with VJV, and at 2 weeks, by far the longest. They certainly pack a lot into their holidays and we saw most of the sites in Jordan, along with the Pyramids, Cairo Museum, Sinai peninsula and several ancient monasteries, including St Catherine's. We stayed at Gatwick's Le Meridien Hotel the night before leaving. The price included 15 days parking so was good value. 

I urge you to visit Jordan. Tourism is a major industry and has declined considerably since 9/11 and the Iraq war. The people are extremely friendly and would love to welcome more visitors to their beautiful country. Prices are good and standards are high - and there is so much to see and do. 

1st February 2005

je0011.jpg (64298 bytes)We flew from Gatwick to Aqaba in the south of Jordan, with Astraeus Airlines, the flight taking around 5 hour. On arrival, we had a 2hour coach journey to Petra, arriving at our hotel, the Petra Crowne Plaza at 8.30pm. Our guide in Jordan was Ahmed, son of the local Bedouin Sheik (Chief), who gave us an idea of what we were to see and do during the next week. We were disappointed to hear that the 'Petra by Night' excursion was no longer taking place - some dispute between tour operators and the tourist board, I think. The hotel is very nice and we ate our first (of many!) buffets and met some of our fellow travellers (around 35).

2nd February

We awoke to beautiful blue skies and sunshine and a view of Petra's mountains, which we could see from our room and the lovely (but cold) pool. The hotel is the closest to the site, which is just as well as we had an early start at 8am, when Ahmed came to pick us up for a hard day's walking. AS well as being a local Bedoiun, he is a well-educated archaeologist who has actually worked on digs in Petra, so we were sure of first class information. It took us quite a while to reach even the Siq as we kept stopping for Ahmed to explain the history and culture of the Nabateans, who built Petra over 1000 years ago. They actually carved the city from the rock, working from the top down. And they had no slaves, it was all done voluntarily. They certainly had vision, but must have been a little crazy to come up with such an idea. The Siq is 1.2km long, a huge chasm of multi-coloured sandstone and is breathtaking. The area is subjected to earthquakes on a regular basis and another is due at any time. It's also prone to flash flooding, the last being about a month earlier. Our timing was perfect - as we rounded the corner at the end of the Siq, the most famous Petra sight, the Treasury, emerged in brilliant sunshine. There were the usual people selling trinkets, which can be a bit annoying, as they all look the same and they aren't entirely honest about the cost! It's funny how 1 Dinar is the price of everything - until you actually want to buy!

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After some refreshing mint tea, we spent a couple more hours looking around, visiting temples, the theatre, numerous meeting places and other incredible sights. The colours are unbelievable - Petra is know as the Rose-red city and it's easy to see why. Incredibly, only a small percentage of the area has actually been excavated, with lack of funds a major reason. We had lunch in a restaurant in the middle of the site, run by our hotel. Another buffet of course!

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We certainly needed fortifying for the afternoon's activity - climbing the 1200 steps to the Monastery, from where we had the most amazing views of the mountain ranges, including one where the biblical Aaron was said to have died. The walk was hard, and took about an hour. Part of the route, the monastery and us at the summit can be seen below. If you look closely at the 3rd photo from the left, you will get an idea of the scale - there's a person perched on the edge! It was easier climbing back down, as long as you don't have dodgy knees. Donkeys can be hired but they didn't look very safe.

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We made our own way back, cursing the fact that it was all downhill from the hotel to the Treasury, meaning a long, weary walk back again. But we resisted the offers of donkey and calèche rides and staggered into the hotel at 5pm. A long, but exhilarating, day out. The weather had fooled me, being chilly despite the sun, so I was surprised and embarrassed to find I had a red face and an even redder nose. In the evening we went to the hotel's Cave Bar, in an old cave back down the road, where the first drinks were on the house. Then back to the Crowne Plaza for dinner. The tour party is put on communal tables so we all get the chance to talk to different people. A very good idea for the beginning of a holiday like this. 

3rd February

Today we went on an optional tour to Siq el-Barid ,also known as Little Petra and Beidha. It's a rather surreal place, full of huge rocks, a different colour to those in neighbouring Petra. First we visited a Neolithic site, dated 7200BC! We had sweet sage tea brewed by the local bedouins and resisted the old bits of stones etc the children were trying to sell us. Then on to the gorge, on a smaller scale to Petra's but equally beautiful. 

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Again, there were huge temples and other buildings carved into the rocks. We climbed up into one temple to look at the remains of a fresco on the roof, the only sections of fresco that can still be seen locally. We arrived back in Petra in time for a light lunch and then decided we would return to Petra for the afternoon. You could spend a week there and still not see everything. It didn't take us long to reach the centre as we didn't stop to admire everything on the way this time. We had thought of going to the High Place, a sacrificial site, but were worried it would get dark before we got back, so settled on exploring the Royal Tombs, which are magnificent. We promised ourselves beer if we walked all the way back - hard work, but not as bad as yesterday, and we did it. That beer sure did taste good. 

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We were too tired to walk up into the town for dinner so ate in the hotel again before packing up ready to move on the next day.

 

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