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Petra takes my breath away, and then we transit the Suez Canal

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

I don't know when I first learned about Petra, or saw pictures of the magnificent carved facade of the ancient trading town. I was definitely a child.

And I was hugely envious when Mark visited it on a trip with a Prime Minister some time in the late '90s (and came back bragging about having a beer in the oldest bar in the world.)

So Petra, which can be reached from the port of Amman in Jordan, was always going to be a highlight of this trip. But nothing could have prepared me for the emotional response I had to rounding the final corner of the 1.2 k trek to the bottom of the valley and seeing the columns of the famous treasury looming ahead.

It was like something out of a fairy tale come to life.

The route from the port to Petra runs first though desert and then over greener mountains where Bedouins make their camps and tend to their sheep. We stopped at on point to take pictures of this magnificent valley.

Then we continued on to the main attraction

The Jordanians have done much to make Petra accessible to the masses - tourism is the major industry of the state that is so centrally located in the Middle East but has few oil resources. There are golf carts that now go the distance from top to bottom. But it really isn't that far and I chose to walk with our guide.

At many points, we ambled over a cobblestone road that was built by the Nabateans BCE and polished by a million feet (human, donkey, horse and camel.)

There are ancient carvings along the way - many of which were defaced (quite literally- they chopped off the heads) by the Christians who took over the place in the first few hundred years of the first millennium CE.

Much of the aqueduct that carried precious water to the town's inhabitants is still in place.

Then there is Petra itself.

Camels are parked outside the treasury (which was really a tomb for an ancient king that was cleared out by the Romans) and you can pay to sit on one. I opened against doing that.

Tourists are not permitted inside the treasury but our guide explained there are only a few empty rooms now anyway. Some of the caves further along in the town, however, have been turned into enterprises and visitors may enter. This one is a coffee shop.

And I climbed this hill to see ruins, but did so gingerly as my shoes slipped on the sandy surfaces of smooth stones.

The hike back up to the entrance was warm and I was sweating profusely by the time I reached the top and found the boxed lunch provided by our tour operators. I ate it in a stone enclosure next to the oldest bar in the world and thought of Mark having his beer.

Then I wandered through the excellent museum that has been built at the main entry. This is a stone used for grinding grain that was worn through 10,000 years ago.

I was completely knackered by the time the bus arrived back at the port, but what a day!

Now we are traversing the Suez Canal, which is pretty awesome in itself. I am sitting top deck and watching it go by.

The shores of Egypt are so close to us. And we are running in a convoy, with another MSC cruise ship ahead of us, and being guided by small tug boats.

Before nightfall we will be back in the Mediterranean... and turning the bow towards Crete.



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