Showing posts with label Petra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Petra. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Exploring Jordan’s Wadi Rum: What are we doing?!

The afternoon sun was intense by the time we arrived and the wind had stirred up the desert dust. Jordan’s Wadi Rum looked as vast and unforgiving as it did in the epic movie, Lawrence of Arabia.

Sand storm brewing in Jordan's Wadi Rum
We’d spent the morning at Petra, the ancient rose-red city carved out of sandstone cliffs centuries ago. We were on a day-long outing -- booked long before boarding our Oceania’s Nautica cruise ship in Bangkok bound for Istanbul.  We’d opted out of the cruise ship’s tours offered in the Kingdom of Jordan. Instead, the two of us set off with a tour company’s driver who turned us over to local tour guides at Petra and  at Wadi Rum, with whom they contract for services.

Stretching for more than 278 miles (720 kilometers),Wadi (Arabic for ‘valley or river channel’) Rum is also known as The Valley of the Moon.  Our tour was through just a small portion of this expansive landscape, yet, that which we experienced seemed a vast, isolated world. 

A long lonesome road in Jordan's Wadi Rum
DSCF3193We left the main highway and were following a narrow road to nowhere it seemed, when in the distance we saw a beat-up old pickup along side the road. Our driver pulled up behind it and its driver, a Bedouin man with a red checked ‘shemagh’ (scarf) covering his head, came back to our car to get us. He was our next tour guide.

With sand swirling out over the landscape we opted to ride in the cab with him, instead of in the back bed of the truck with its rather firm seats. His command of English was a bit limited, but far better than our ability to speak his language.

With our original tour-company driver assuring us he’d meet us in a couple hours for our trip back to the ship, we were off!  In an old pickup. With a Bedouin driver. In the Wadi Rum. In Jordan. In the Middle East. . .

PicMonkey Collage
Setting off in the Wadi Rum - Jordan
. . .and when the pickup left the pavement and began bouncing over the desert sand, I have to admit that for several moments, my brain was bouncing as well.

It was silently screaming, “What are we doing?!?!” 

I had obviously let  my imagination get away from me – I’d listened to too many ‘well-meaning-but-overly-cautious-ones-back-home’. 

What were we doing?

Wadi Rum - Jordan
In reality, the time spent in that pickup traveling where roads didn’t go, may have been the highlight of the outings we had during our month-long cruise through the Middle East.

The Wadi Rum was designated a ‘protected area’ in 1998 and in recent years it has become a popular destination for eco-tourism.  Hiking, camel treks, rock climbing and camping bring thousands of tourists here each year. And that thriving tourism business is providing a new source of income for the Bedouin communities of the Wadi Rum. 

Still, with increasing tourism, we saw just one other tour 'truck' similar to ours in the distance and one other  Bedouin with his camels, hoping to convince some visitor to take a ride on his giant beasts.

Visiting with the camel-ride vendor - Wadi Rum, Jordan

Our guide knew his route – we’d have been hopelessly lost and turned around without him – and after slipping and sliding over the sand (which reminded us of driving in snow) he topped to point out some of the area’s ancient rock drawings carved into the sides of the sandstone and granite mountains that make up the Wadi Rum.

Ancient rock drawings - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Then on we bumped and slid through the sand, no markers or signs in sight but our driver with some innate GPS system it seemed knew which way to turn and when.

A portion of our route - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Amazing stretches of desert. And some of the astounding moments we experienced still bring goose pimples and smiles when we look at these photos. . .

Absolutely loved this and not a posed scene for tourists - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Time went far too fast and we ended our tour with a stop at The Seven Pillars of Wisdom landmark named for the book – by the same title – written by Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.  Much of the award-winning 1962 movie, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, was shot in this Wadi Rum.

Seven pillars of wisdom - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Our time at both Petra and Wadi Rum was too short.  We wouldn’t combine the two places into a single day’s outing again.  Both are deserving of far more exploration. Should we return, we’ll do it in the early morning before that unrelenting Middle Eastern sun reaches its full intensity.

Any number of tours are available in the Wadi Rum and a good source of information is found at    Should we get back there, I want to camp out over night.  Next week I’ll tell you where I plan to camp! 

Just for the record: I did leave information in our ship’s cabin that provided the name of the tour company, phone numbers, our destinations and estimated time of returning to the ship – just in case something had happened to us (intended or accidental) or that might have caused a delay in our return.

Safe travels to you all and thanks to those subscribers who’ve alerted me to problems with Feedburner’s distribution of blog posts.  If you’ve subscribed but are not receiving posts regularly on a weekly basis in your inbox, please let us know in the comments below or send us an email to  Many thanks!

Linking this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jordan’s PETRA ~ The Rose-red city half as old as time

Created sometime before the birth of Christ. . .
106 A.D. annexed by the Romans . . .
1812 discovered by a Swiss explorer. . .
1985 named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. . .
2007 named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. . .
One of 28 places that Smithsonian Magazine recommends you see before you die.

Gulf of Aqaba to right of Sinai Peninsula
We’d been on Oceania’s Nautica for nearly a month when when reached the Gulf of Aqaba. We would spend two nights docked at the port city of the same name. . .we’d arrived at the Kingdom of Jordan

By that point in our cruise – 27 days after departing Bangkok, Thailand for Istanbul,Turkey  - there was no doubt in my mind that we were living our own version of Scheherazade’s Arabian Nights.

We’d reached the land of Bedouins and camels made famous by Thomas Edward Lawrence, British military officer whose work in the area was immortalized in the movie, Lawrence of Arabia. Later fictional hero Indiana Jones searched for the Holy Grail here in his Last Crusade movie. 

A Bedouin camp between Aqaba and Petra
We must have been inspired by both those intrepid explorers as we  decided to skip the ship’s tours – this time we were setting off on our own* to explore Petra and the Wadi Rum!

 Petra, the rose-red* city 

The Sig - Petra, Jordan
The route to Petra, traversed by foot, horse-back or carriage is through The Sig, a narrow slot canyon with rock formations as dazzling as the city itself. We opted to walk with our guide through the Sig. He kept our pace brisk, noting there was much to see in the few hours we had allotted to this stop.

An amazing route through The Sig - Petra, Jordan
Petra is the ancient city of the Nabataeans, a trade center on a major caravan route that linked Arabia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. It was a vibrant place some 2,000 years ago with 20,000 residents. Then in 106 A.D. it was annexed by Rome and in later centuries was hit by earthquakes and abandoned.  In 1812 it was discovered by a Swiss explorer.

"The Scout" and our Petra guide
In recent decades its stone structured has been inhabited by the Bedouins, those once-nomadic people of the desert.  Our guide, as a young Bedouin boy, lived in Petra with his family. He began selling postcards to tourists when he was five.  He spoke English well and said it was self-taught as he recognized the need to speak the language if he was going to succeed as a tour guide.

The Treasury - Petra, Jordan

Perhaps the most recognizable of all the carved-in-stone tombs and temples in Petra is the Treasury, or in Arabic, Khozneh. It was so named because it was believed to hold treasures but in fact was an amazing entry to a tomb.

Petra, Jordan
Petra’s main road seems to stretch endlessly past facades and entryways carved into rose and tan colored sandstone cliffs. Yet, some reports say only 15% of the city has been uncovered.
In Jordan, like Egypt, tourism has tanked as result of security concerns. As a result, it wasn’t over-run with tourists which made business slow for those offering camel rides and selling sand creations. The good news was we could watch this artist at work and get as close as we wanted.

PicMonkey Collage
Scenes in Sand Artistry - Petra, Jordan
Those creations we watched being made of sand coupled with the remains of those sandstone creations from centuries ago  - like the one in the photo below - will long make up the memories we have of this remarkable destination.
Camels feet and that of a human are all that remain - Petra, Jordan
We could have spent the day exploring here – especially since this shutterbug found the camels to be totally charming – but by high noon the heat had intensified. We’d seen the area where Indiana Jones had been, it was time to move to the Wadi Rum and walk in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia. . .

Camels are incredible creatures - Petra, Jordan
*Petra Footnotes:

P1010320* Touring ‘on our own’ as stated above, means we hired a private guide through, Memphis Tours, a company recommended by travelers on both TripAdvisor and Cruise Critic.

A large number of cruise passengers these days arrange their own tours in advance of sailing. We had numerous small groups setting off on their own at each of our ports of call, so for those thinking of how daring we must have been: we weren’t!

Our driver, who met us at and returned us to the ship in a spotlessly clean, modern vehicle, transported us to Petra and Wadi Rum and then turned us over to local guides.

[Our tour vs. the ship tour:  The cost of our tour may sound pricey at first at $670, for both of us, lunch included. However, a similar tour offered by the ship, also including lunch, would have cost $1,110. We had the flexibility to stop along the way when we wanted and we got to Petra before large numbers of tourists arrived. But in addition to cost and flexibility considerations, it is important to determine your own comfort level when choosing to go it alone or with a group tour.]

Petra is often referred to as the ‘rose-red’ city because of a stanza in the poem written by Englishman John William Burgon:


It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.

This poem won Burgon Oxford University's prestigious Newdigate Prize for Poetry in 1845. The last couplet has become one of the more famous in poetry. Burgon had never seen Petra. 

That’s it for this week – we’ll head next to the Wadi Rum. Safe travels to you and yours and hope to see you back here again~

Linking this week to:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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