On Friday we left the Sinai Peninsula and headed for the northeast border with Israel. We passed by the many resort hotels and compounds that line the shoreline of the Gulf of Aqqaba. It is difficult to believe that so many people in Egypt are suffering from a long recession and lack of business when you see how many people they are preparing for in these resorts. I realize that their customers will not all be coming from Egypt but whoever makes use of these expensive facilities will have to be pretty well healed. Last week they had one of the worst rain storms this area has seen in years. It flooded everything and washed out some black top roads on the coast. The customs area we had to use to enter Israel was covered so badly in dried mud that they had to improvise somewhat to be able to accommodate us.
Our trip into Israel was just temporary, for now, since (if you look on a map) you must first enter Israel in order to enter Jordan. Four nations come together along the shore of the Gulf—Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. For now, they have worked out a treaty so that there is free movement for all four nations within that area.
Our first destination after entering Jordan was to drive north along the route followed by the Israelites when God finally directed them out of their wandering days in the wilderness. That route took us right by our destination for the day—the Rose Red city of Petra. This was a city constructed mostly by the Nabateans who inhabited this place while Imperial Rome was doing its thing in the rest of the world. Later, the Romans conquered this place too and threw the Nabateans out, but not before they had made some beautiful changes to the red sandstone that literally fills this place. The most famous of these monuments is “the Treasury,” the building seen in the Indiana Jones’ movie “The Last Crusade.” After walking through the mile long trail (known as the Siq), we arrived at “The Treasury,” a very Roman style building carved completely out of red sandstone.
Actually, the word “Treasury” had nothing to do with what this building was used for. It was a very beautiful façade for a rich person’s tomb. In fact, tombs fill the entire valley, as do the cave-like entrances to the homes of the Nabateans. There is also a Roman style theater built into the side of the hill and some other temple-like buildings, all with facades that look impressive but contain nothing of use on the inside.
Although Petra was built at the same time as Imperial Rome it was lost to history for hundreds of years during the Middle Ages until it was accidently rediscovered in about 1812. Since then, it has become Jordan’s most viewed man-made structure.
About our guide. It was a surprise to me to find that our guide was a Jordanian Catholic who felt very strongly about his faith and spoke about it often. He never got too deeply into religious differences, but was perfectly comfortable talking about his faith and how it fit very well into the tolerant culture in Jordan. It is not the usual picture one gets in the West about the intolerance and warfare that is racking the Middle East. But Jordan has managed to stay away from the extreme elements that seem to emanate very frequently among Muslim states. Of course, Americans want to hear what people here think about the West and our presidents and how political matters are being handled by us. He was not afraid to be blunt and say exactly how he felt about things, never insulting but sincerely stating what he thinks should be done and how we are doing it (or not doing it). I thanked him for his openness, stating that Americans are weary of being told lies by politicians and really want to see the world through the eyes of those who are forced to live daily with these circumstances.
So far, the tour arrangements have been excellent. The hotels are very nice four star facilities and the food has been just outstanding. Kathy and I are not used to staying in places like this, eating this well, and being cared for with such grace. We could get used to this!