AN UNFORGETTABLE DAY IN PETRA, JORDAN
By RJ Furth
It was never my intention to use Globewriter to simply sing the praises of places I visit. Those who have read Globewriter know that I try to honestly tell – as I see it – the good (eating oysters at Cancale on the Brittany coast), the bad (dog shit on the sidewalks of Paris) and the ugly (air pollution in Beijing). This is not a website that focuses on the nicest aspects of a destination, but rather tries to portray a real picture of what I’ve seen and experienced. When it comes to our trip to Jordan, however, I can honestly say that after five days I only have praise for this country. For those who have written off the Middle East as a dangerous region best avoided, I suggest that you reconsider. Yesterday in Petra was one of those unforgettable days that justifies all the possible hassles of travel.
Sandy and I woke early and spent six hours walking through the ancient Nabataean ruins that were abandoned nearly 2000 years ago. Consisting of tombs, monuments, a monastery and a Roman style theater carved into the mountainside, Petra is an amazing place that ranks up there with Macchu Pichu, the Pyramids and a few other sites. (There are no dwellings since the Nabataeans lived in tents.) The only historical site that stands above – and alone in its magnificence – is the complex at Angkor Wat. I won’t go into detail since you can see photos and read details online. What I will say is that six hours only allows you to scratch the surface of what Petra has to offer. It boggles the mind to consider what men without machines were able to carve and build out of sandstone. As well, the various colors and swirling textures of the rocks continually cause you to pause in wonder.
After a brief rest in our hotel room we walked to the Petra Kitchen. Although cooking your own dinner may not appeal to everybody, Petra Kitchen is actually a cooking class in Middle Eastern food that culminates with a feast that you’ve prepared. The chef, Tariq, led us through a relaxing two hours of chopping, mixing and cooking traditional Bedouin and Jordanian dishes. We (yes, we, including a delightful Italian couple) produced an outstanding lentil soup, four salads (warm tomato, cucumber and yogurt with mint, tahini and vegetable, and baba ganoush from roasted eggplants) and a main course of chicken, tomato, potato and onions flavored with garlic, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. The dishes featured the excellent fresh vegetables that abound in Jordan as well as the spices that have been used in Jordan for over 2,000 years.
I am writing this overlooking Israel and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 1,300 feet below sea level. We return to London tomorrow. As Sandy remarked this morning at breakfast, this has been one of the best trips we have ever taken. Pleasant, intelligent people, an incredible history and richness of historical sites, and a flavorful, mild cuisine, and quality hotels make Jordan a top destination. It is worth repeating: don’t let fears and prejudices about the Middle East keep you from visiting stable, fascinating Jordan.