In the morning we looked around and thought- this looks like southern Utah! But then we hiked into Petra! And wow! This place is amazing!!!! And while much of the scenery does look like Utah, this place is more intense than Utah. Some of the rock and colors are so beautiful and we have never seen before. There's camels, just hanging out in the desert. I've never seen a camel in Utah.
And then there's Petra the city! Wow! It's amazing what they built here 2500 years ago. They were clearly a smart people that did tremendously well serving the trade route through the desert. They offered safety and shelter if you were traveling through the desert on this route. The Nabateans built the city, carving caves and buildings out of the red rock. Knowing water was a necessity to live in the desert, they built cisterns, and water paths to route water to the cisterns from throughout the city. It's incredible. The Romans eventually caught up with them and built a few roads and buildings though out the city as well. In it's heyday, more than 20,000 people lived here. It's fascinating. In the end the Romans found the Nabateans weren't interested in being overtaken and instead of continuing to work with them, the Romans moved the trade route to go by sea, and so the reign of the Nabateans in the desert came to an end. Until the 1980's the site was still occupied by many Bedouin families living in the desert. Most have been relocated, but there are still some Bedouins living on the outskirts of Petra.
After eating breakfast, we headed into Petra with our local bedouin guide for a 10 hour tour. We asked to push a little faster so we could hit the road before sunset. They like to finish the tour at sunset at a great viewing spot, but we were planning to catch a desert sunset tomorrow night and wanted to see the beauty of the area that we drove through in the dark last night.
We hiked to the high place of sacrifice where animals were sacrificed to the Gods. The view points were spectacular. Then we hiked to an overview of the Treasury. And then down to the ground in front of the Treasury.
This is the carving you see in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and many pictures of Petra. This was the entrance to Petra, and here travelers and traders would pay their fees to the Nabateans, hence the name "the Treasury". In front of the treasury is a 1 km long narrow canyon with tall cliff walls, know as the Siq. Through this canyon is how most travelers entered Petra, and today it is how most tourists enter Petra. We hike about halfway through the Siq along the Roman paved road, admiring the beautiful towering walls overhead. Our guide stopped to point out the carvings of Camel Caravans in the walls. They are faded and most tourists passing us by didn't even notice them. Along the walls edge are rock carved posts for Camels to be tied up to, and Rock carved shallow water cisterns for the camels to drink from.
We then made the drive back to Aqaba, and a few miles south along the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba off of the Red Sea to Tala Bay Resort. We checked in to our small condo within a huge resort. After the long hike today, the short felt heavenly! And we were grateful to do laundry in the condo!
The next morning we were up and going again! This time we were off to drive an hour back towards Petra, but turning off to head to the Wadi Rum desert. Another UNESCO site, this area is beautiful! We drove to the village and found the guide service we had hired for the day. We had planned to hike Burdah Rock Bridge, but the weather was forecasting rain today so the guide service was concerned the rock and trail would get slippery if it rained and altered our plans to their typical one day desert tour. While I was disappointed, I was also exhausted and sore for the day before and willing to accept the altered plan. While the only rain that fell that day was short lived, it was chilly and very windy, all day long. The kids were happy the day had less hiking too. And the truth is-- it was still a great day!
Our next stop was a narrow rock canyon carved by thousands of years of wind and water. On the walls were several petroglyphs from long long ago, marking water and animals for those who might come to the area. The Nabateans also roamed these deserts, and knew it's secrets.
For lunch we stopped near a canyon wall with another group and the 2 guides made us a delicious local lunch. They built a fire to warm up, and to cook over. Pita and hummus and cheese, oh yummy. And a local sort of bean stew was warm and yummy. my favorite spread is the baba ganoush, it is so delicious. It was also nice visiting with another group of travelers. A older couple and their son from the Netherlands, and a solo traveler- an American currently living in India as a teacher. We enjoyed chatting with them and hearing their experiences.
At one stop we saw the rock bridge we had planned to hike too, way up high... And the kids declared they were happy with the altered plan. Wadi Rum is strikingly beautiful. Several movies have been filmed here, including the Martian and Rogue One. They say they have sunsets that make the sand look as red as the sand on Mars.
We did stay for sunset but it was not a huge experience as the clouds were mostly covering the sky and the sun only peeked through for a moment on it's way down, but it was still beautiful, as most sunsets are. It was a fun day.
Just after we descended on our first dive, I was starting to wonder just how out of shape I was. There was no current, but I was completely out of breath swimming. I was falling behind, wondering if I why I was so out of breath and thinking I must still be worn out from all our hiking. As I was starting to think through what I was experiencing, shortness of breath, not being able to keep up with our group, I was starting to think through how long my air would last (the faster you breath, the faster you run out) and thinking maybe I need to ascend and cut my dive short, we were still "near" the boat. As I was waiting for the dive guide to turn and check on me, as I was falling behind the group, I started to notice a noise when I would breathe in. It was different than an air leak sound, and in paying attention, it was a squeak on my intake of air, but no noise when I would breathe out. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my equipment, and maybe I was not getting enough oxygen. David finally looked back at me and I attempted to signal to him and ask him if he could hear me squeak. But without being able to talk, it can be hard to communicate while diving. And we didn't have our gear, only borrowed gear, and so I did not have my slate to write on. Finally the dive guide looked back and asked if I was okay, and I was able to signal to him that I was not ok. He came over and I tried to ask him if he could hear me breathe and the squeak. He, being experienced, and somewhat interpreting my signals, grabbed my "octopus" (which is a second regulator that all scuba gear has- in case your dive buddy runs out of air and needs to share with you), and handed it to me. And at that moment I thought "Duh! Why didn't I try that already!" so I switched regulators and oh JOY! I could breathe! It was amazing to me, how I could not tell when I first descended. Sure it seemed a little "hard" to breath, but there's always nerves, and a little anxiety on the first dive, that I didn't realize it was actually HARD to breathe because I was missing oxygen, until I could actually breath again. And then I thought how often we experience this in life in other ways. We don't recognize that we are missing a spiritual connection, and we are just in survival mode, until that connection is brought back to our lives and we breath it in and go "yes, I was missing this and I need it!"
We loved our time in Jordan. The people there were so kind and friendly, and helpful. The country is filled with beauty. And the food! Oh the food is delicious! We would love to go back.
The next morning we packed up early and headed to return the car and repeat in reverse what we had done 3 days before. Back to the border crossing, and then to the car rental on the Israel side.