You’ll marvel at Jordan’s majesty
By Laurette M. Veres
Looking for adventure with a little dose of romance on your honeymoon? Think outside of the box. Considered by some to be the Switzerland of the Middle East, Jordan is the most progressive of its neighbors. This nation whose landscape you may recognize from “Lawrence of Arabia” is also home to one of our world’s modern wonders, Petra.
Below Jordon’s capital Amman is the Dead Sea. From the Dead Sea you travel several miles to reach the ancient city of Petra. Photographs cannot portray the magnitude of size, colors or beauty, and it’s hard to select words to describe Petra. Recently added to the list of seven modern wonders of the world, its majesty is best witnessed at a slow pace.
Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a natural narrow gorge more than a mile long. The path is lined with beautiful soaring cliffs on both sides; you walk on cobblestone roads that are thousands of years old. Much has been written about this area and the ancient Nabataeans whose 2000-year-old settlement is the most popular attraction in Jordan.
The view walking through the Siq is unbelievably gorgeous, yet pales in comparison to the first work of art you will see, the Al-Khazneh (Treasury). This meticulously crafted monument is more than five stories high and was hand carved out of sheer, dusky pink rock. It was created as a tomb and has been unbelievably preserved for our viewing pleasure.
Everybody stops. In fact, I feel it is impossible to ignore the beauty of Al-Khazneh and keep walking down the path. It feels like a movie set, and was. In “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” it was the entrance to the final resting place of the Holy Grail. While tourists take in the massive monument, street vendors mingle with the crowd selling postcards and trinkets. Some are selling camel rides, or at least photographs of you on the beasts.
As you continue walking, more tombs become visible and the vast expanse of space is revealed. There are hundreds of elaborate rock-cut tombs with intricate carvings throughout this national treasure. The tombs were carved to last. Further exploration uncovers a Roman Theatre and more beautiful carvings. Missing are the homes for the city’s residents. They are long lost to earthquakes and age.
A set of steep steps leads up to an old meeting area that was once a Byzantine church. The range of colors on this ceiling is so vast it seems unreal at first, but these beautiful colors exist in nature.
There are no automobiles allowed here. It’s a strenuous walk back. If you can’t make it, there are plenty of horse-drawn carriages for the handicapped, elderly and tired. As you make the mile long trek back, begin dreaming of your next day at the Dead Sea.
Lap of Luxury
The Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa is an oasis in the dessert. The meticulous lobby welcomes weary travelers and provides a welcome reprieve from the desert heat. Three resort pools create a serene and relaxing setting for your picturesque walk to the Dead Sea. You’ll need the provided plastic shoes to protect your feet from the sharp rocks as you descend to the base and get an up close look at the crystal clear sea.
The sharp and uneven rocks make it difficult to keep your footing as you near the water – enter with caution. The water is like none you’ve entered before. The Dead Sea is so full of nutrients and salt, it creates buoyancy beyond all oceanic experiences. When you sit back, the water so buoyant, it’s like you are sitting in a tube floating down the Guadalupe. But, you’re not sitting in a tube; there is no tube. Trying to get vertical is a challenge, but once you do, you don’t have to tread water to float perfectly upright.
Many people come here for natural treatments and the medicinal benefits of the mud. The Dead Sea mud is said to have healing powers to cure diseases, rashes and arthritis. Each morning the staff harvests mud into terra-cotta buckets. It’s a blast to cover yourself in the mud and wait for it to dry. When the mud washes off, your skin is tight and soft making the long trip to Jordan worth every frequent-flier mile you’ve earned.