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A report from Bill

sunny 75 °F


Hope, still hampered by lingering effects of food poisoning many weeks ago, wisely stayed behind in Aqaba, while I made the two-hour journey by bus to explore once again the ruins of Petra. The Nabateans, an ancient Arab kingdom that prospered in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC by their control of the trade routes of much of the Middle East, established Petra as their capital. The city then lay abandoned for almost 1500 years until its ruins were uncovered in 1815 by the explorer Thomas Burckhardt.

It is no wonder that Petra was for a centuries a forgotten city. It lies tucked away in a canyon in the Jordanian wilderness, its sole entrance, the siq, a narrow passage between towering sandstone cliffs around 100 feet high. The contrast between this dark passage and the first glimpse of Petra’s huge classical buildings carved out of pink and red sandstone baked in sunlight could not be more dramatic.

Our small tour group from the ship had the benefit of a local archeologist-guide who has studied Petra for many years, but even for him this city holds many mysteries. On of the mysteries is the disconnect between the outside and the inside of Petra’s architecture. The exteriors are all monumental and elaborately carved, while the interiors seem to be little more than shallow underground caves.

After wandering as far as the ruins of the vast Roman-style theater, I began to feel exhausted and decided to leave the group and begin the long walk back to civilization. After an uphill climb back through the siq, I emerged into the sunlight to find a man who asked me if I wanted a horse to ride the final half-mile back to the entrance gate. I uttered a grateful, “Yes, how much?” “No charge, sir, horse included with ticket.” So I boosted myself up into the saddle and was led off for my rid. After some minutes came the first sign of trouble. “Where’s your ticket, sir?” I showed it to him. “That is wrong ticket. You need one with picture of horse.” “That’s not what I was told by my guide.” No response, and we plodded on until we got to the gate and with great effort, I dismounted. “You pay me $400, sir.” “No way. All I will give you is a generous tip.” I then gave him $20. “That’s not enough. I have a family with two children. Give me $40.” I gave him, another $10 and walked away as quickly as my weary legs could take me.

Sometimes it’s tough being a tourist.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:25 Archived in Jordan

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