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Stumbling upon Jordanian Ruins


Stumbling along in the dark shadows of Al Siq, the sandstone canyon that leads down to Petra, is time spent in magnetic anticipation. As the winter chill envelopes you and footsteps echo as you venture deep into the canyons, you hold your breath hoping to catch a glimpse of Al Khazneh at the next turn.

The Treasury, likely the most photographed monument in all of Africa and the Middle East, was no repository of wealth. It was built and still stands as a testament of the power and wealth of Nabatean traders who controlled a major piece of the ancient Spice n Silk Route from India.

Today, visit Petra by Night and be mesmerized by the candle lit trail culminating in an awe inspiring view of the Treasury. It’s majestic edifice is lit up by the flicker of a 1000 candles and the silence is only broken by shuffling feet and the occasional whisper from the gathered pilgrims. The mystical sounds of a Bedouin desert song accompanied by sweet tunes of a flute wafts around the canyons walls lulling you into a fantasy dream of a glorious bygone era.

No visit to The Rose City is complete without a hike up and down the ancient city colonnades, clambering up steep trails to peek into what were Royal Tombs, Theater, markets and living areas housing upto 25000 people within the canyon walls!

The coup de grace is the Monastery. Steep rocky steps lead to the top of the canyon and you are rewarded by a temple structure so grand that you can’t help staring. For those seeking to spice it up further, take a mule ride up. You are at the mercy of a supposedly sure footed animal and after a while of gut wrenching turns and descents you have no choice but to trust the mule and it’s nonchalant handler.

Further south of Petra is an oft ignored destination – Wadi Rum. While it plays second fiddle to Petra, visiting the Wadi is akin to stripping your souls down to the basics. I have visited the world’s greatest deserts but this one takes the cake.

550 million years of evolution and still changing; this place is a top choice for many silver screen blockbusters. A Jeep tour into Lawrence of Arabia’s favorite stomping grounds is a must for any adventurer.

Craggy outcrops of limestone and mountains of fossil each stand tall, each a temple in its own right. Mirages emerge over every ridge as the constant wind blows dust around in spirals. The Martian landscape is undisturbed except for the solitary Bedouin tent inexplicably nestled in the shade of natural rock bridges peddling tea and local knick knacks. The silence is broken occasionally by the shrill cry of eagles. What survives here for them to hunt is a mystery.

I spent 2 nights in this magical place braving the brisk night chill. Luckily our tents (luxury bubbles actually) had heat and running warm water. While the food and service in this luxury campsite was ample given the location, the highlight was the night sky. One could stare at the skies,  devoid of any clouds or light pollution while laying in bed, for hours. It was god’s own natural planetarium. I have never seen so many shooting stars in one night, and I still can’t get over it. I left Wadi Rum with a heavy but happy heart. In spite of it being so inhospitable and severe, it was a very comforting place and I felt peace here.

Dead Sea- As a final stop on the journey to this corner of the Holy Land I drove north from Aqaba on the Dead Sea Highway along verdant orchards of olive and palm trees. In many places the fence between Israel & Jordan was clearly visible with nonchalant border guards snoozing in the shade of makeshift tents.

As the Dead Sea came into view it became apparent that this body of calm turquoise water is essentially a large lake, fed by the River Jordan.  The pristine shores encrusted with thick salt deposits were devoid of any signs of typical sea side activity. It was a serene landscape.

Jordan has a leg up in terms of choice waterside resorts versus Israel. Donning swim wear I took a soothing dip in water so saline it’s slimy soft, taking care not to dunk my head in.The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth at 431m below sea level, beckons visitors with healing mineral waters, air so rich in oxygen it protects you from sunburn. The buoyancy is so high that one is literally pushed up and reading a newspaper as one floats is a picture not to be missed. Then after rubbing gooy sea mud and waiting as it dried on my body, I clambered up a sandy slope to catch a picturesque sunset over the Israeli shores. The ritual is completed by washing the dried mud in the sea water. Never before has skin felt so smooth to touch and rejuvenated. The salt lingers causing the flesh to tingle and feel alive. I followed this up with a water treatment at the spa and another mud wrap. The self pampering was interrupted only by the late hour and hunger pangs.

This trip to Jordan was all I had imagined and then some. Moses led the way to the Holy Land and it is everything that he promised and more.