PETRA

Saturday February 27th reported by Shawn Jacobsen

After a restful night at the Petra Guest House we entered The Rose Red City of Petra. The entrance was just outside our hotel door.

After a short walk we entered The Siq - a long, narrow gorge that is the primary entrance into Petra. At the end of The Siq the first thing you see through the narrow gorge is the Treasury (El Khazneh). Most people remember this view from the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". It is an awesome structure carved out of red sandstone. As we walked on we entered the Street of Tombs, followed by the Royal Tombs area, all carved into the cliff walls. There are reported to be 500 tombs in this area.

Petra was the home of the Nabataeans, a nomadic people, who settled here in the 7th Century B.C. because of its proximity to the trading crossroads. In 106 AD the Romans annexed the area. Amazingly, Petra was unknown to the western world from the 6th Century A.D. until early in the 19th century when it was rediscovered. Most recently bedouins inhabited it, until they left by government agreement 20 years ago.

Petra, located in the biblical land of Edom, covers 40 square miles with 80- 90% of the city still unexcavated. In many areas it appears that the original city roads are still 10-15 feet below current excavation. They were actively hauling out dirt during our visit. The city had a complex dam system and water was brought in via clay pipes from miles away.

Next we saw the Theater, to which over 7,000 seats were added during the Roman period. During our visit they were continuing restoration of the Byzantine church in which they had excavated beautiful mosaics, a cistern and a baptismal in the shape of a cross.

Our tour ended at the Colonnaded Street in the heart of the city, where we stopped for lunch. A few of our group decided to take a camel or horse cart ride out of the city, rather than walk. The total walk was probably 6-8 miles, but felt like less with the beautiful weather and great views. Five hours was not nearly enough time to enjoy all of the sites in the area.

At about 1:00, back near the hotel, we got on the bus and headed north to Amman. On the way we stopped at Mount Nebo where Moses viewed the Promised Land. It was windy but we had a nice view of the lush Jordan valley. The church there had a beautifully preserved mosaic from the 6th century. From Mount Nebo we traveled to Madaba to visit a Greek Orthodox Church with the 6th century 'Map of the Holy Land' mosaic inside.

At dinnertime we arrived at our hotel in Amman. After dinner, some of us took a cab to find a cyber cafe to check up on our Email. It was actually quite easy to find.

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