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20th February 2020

Jordan – The iconic rose-red city of Petra

Jordan is an ideal destination for a one-week adventure. Bursting with things to see and do my trip included the best of what this magnificent country has to offer, visiting some of the major sites of interest.

Activities included a mix of cycling and walking, swimming and floating and sitting under star-lit skies. We enjoyed a guided tour around Jerash, one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the Middle East and the fabulous and iconic Rose-Red city of Petra. We also saw the fabulous scenery in the desert at Wadi Rum, where we took a 4WD excursion into the more remote regions and camped out like the Bedouin.

Star lit sky
The star lit sky over the Wadi Rum

Our cycling took us through olive groves and hilltop villages in the north, while further south we headed along desert roads where the communities are sparse and nomadic and the landscape vast and spectacular.

Highlights:
• The Visit to UNESCO site of Petra
• The stay on a Private Camp in Wadi Rum
• Swimming in the Red Sea.

There were three cycling days during my trip. These rides included the beautiful Jordan Valley where there is cycling using mostly tarmac roads which are generally in a good state of repair, with some pot-holed sections.

On the day spent in Petra, there was a fair amount of walking involved 23 miles from memory! The site is big and there are opportunities to walk into the sandstone mountains to get a different and rewarding perspective
of the site.

The walk down to the Treasury in Petra
The walk down to the Treasury

On arrival in Amman we meet with our Representative who arranged the group visa, which took around 20 minutes. Once sorted, we made our way to our Amman Hotel where we had some much-needed rest.

Visit Jerash; ride/drive through olive groves and villages to Madaba
We transferred by bus for approximately 45 minutes to the ancient city of Jerash. Known in Roman times as Gerasa, Jerash is one of the best-preserved examples of a Roman provincial town in the Middle East. It is a vast site with incredible ruins that enable you to almost visualise Roman life there, from the dramatic chariot racing to imagining the trading and bartering that went on along the colonnaded streets.

After a good couple of hours absorbing the atmosphere of this incredible site we got back on the bus for a short transfer to the beginning of our ride. In the afternoon we will cycled for approximately 3 ½ hours through the foothills of the Jordan Rift Valley. This is the most fertile region of Jordan and the most populated. We found our way down the quiet roads and through small villages taking in the landscapes of this region, cycling on good roads. The bus journey will take approximately 2 hours.

Cycling the foothills of the Jordan Rift Valley.

There were several nice restaurants in Madaba to choose from as well as coffee and sweet shops for those of you that want to try your first mouth watering taste of baklava. Delicious!

Madaba and Mt Nebo; drive to Petra:
We woke up in Madaba, the ‘City of the Mosaics’ and the most important Christian centre in Jordan, famous for its Byzantine era mosaics. The most important of these is the 6th Century mosaic of Jerusalem and the Holy Land that covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. We looked at this famous map and then headed on to Mt Nebo where Moses is alleged to have seen the Promised Land. Reputedly the burial place of Moses it is certainly the site for a spectacular view over the valley below.

From here we drove south along the Kings Highway towards Petra, stopping a few times en route to admire the spectacular views.

Petra the ‘Rose-red city, half as old as time’, was hidden for centuries until the Swiss explorer Burckhardt made his great discovery in 1812. The Nabateans, an Arab tribe that arrived here in the 6th Century BC, founded Petra. Building at Petra began in the 3rd Century BC and continued through the Roman period, financed by taxes levied on the desert caravans.

The Treasury at Petra

Two features of Petra are unique: firstly, it is a city made defensible by being built down a series of chasms, rather than on a hilltop; and secondly, it is built directly into the rock – beautiful red and yellow sandstone carved into the most impressive facades which glow in the brilliant sunlight.

During our time in Petra we had the opportunity to explore the site from all angles. We walked down the narrow Siq with the sandstone chasm rising 80m to either side of us and revealing El Khazneh, the Treasury as we reached its end. We walked past the houses and tombs, and the steps up to the Royal Tombs, around the hillsides looking down on the colonnaded city street before a rest stop for lunch.

The Monastery at El Deir

After lunch we headed up to El Deir, the Monastery, with its superb facade topped by a huge urn. The Monastery is set in a more remote location of the site and we had to climb around 800 steps to reach it, but it is well worth it. The climb took us an hour but the views are breath-taking. I slept very well that night.

The next day we had an early start to avoid the heat. We drove to Dilagha and then cycled through Wadi Araba. After our desert crossing, it was a short drive to Aqaba on the Red Sea. Our hotel was in an area where
there is a great choice of restaurants and cafes.

In the morning we went to a private beach resort, where we relaxed by the poolside and did some optional snorkelling over the beautiful coral of the Red Sea. In the early afternoon we transferred out of town for around 45 minutes and collected our bikes for the last time.

We headed to Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia and Prince Faisal assembled the Arab tribes for the attack on Aqaba in the First World War. Many famous movies have been made here including Star Wars, The Martian and Aladdin.

In the evening experienced Bedouin hospitality with a traditional meal, sweet tea at our Private Camp. A camel ride was also a must-do, although not at all comfortable.

Morning desert drive into the Wadi Rum; drive to the Dead Sea:
We took a 4×4 drive vehicle for a 2-hour desert safari and it was such great fun! We said Goodbye to our Bedouin hosts and drove north to the amazing Dead Sea, where we stayed one night at a resort which has multiple swimming pools and a private beach.

Sun setting on the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea is an experience like no other and don’t forget to cover yourself in the therapeutic Dead Sea mud.

This trip was once in a life trip, I really enjoyed the whole experience.

By Telina Lawrence
20th February 2020