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Notes for Travel Watch:

Ancient Wonders Are In Petra

By Norma R. Hagan

If you are fascinated by the ancient wonders of the world, love archaeology, are physically fit, and want to treat yourself to an unusual travel experience, then you should consider a trip to Petra, in the Middle East.

Petra is located in the country of Jordan, and was the capital of the Nabateans from the 3rd century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. It is a trip back in time, and is very difficult to believe that such a place exists in today's world.

The city of Petra was carved out of huge, reddish-colored rocks by ancient men who found a safe haven in the interior of the rocks. A giant but rather narrow crack in one rock forms a canyon that allowed these early settlers to enter to the rocks' center and carve out a city. The canyon is about two-thirds of a mile long. Many bands of roving marauders threatened the peace-loving Nabateans until they finally settled in Petra.

Since the only entrance to the city of Petra was through the crack that formed the canyon, the Nabateans were able to guard this relatively small opening that only allowed a handful of mauraders to enter at once. The Nabatean guards simply bludgeoned suspicious intruders to death and thus protected their people. With this rather simplistic military system, they were able to establish a peaceful lifestyle and live in harmony for more than a hundred years.

During their time in Petra, they carved magnificent monuments out of the rose colored rock. The most striking in "El Khazneh," the treasury that is the tomb of their king. This impressive monument is nearly 140 feet high and 90 feet wide.

Beyond the treasury, visitors are surrounded by hundreds of temples, tombs, a Roman theater that seated 3,000, baths, staircases and ancient markets. They are all awesome. There is so much to see that it is difficult to manage it all in one day.

The ground through the canyon entrance is rough and uneven, so most of today's visitors enter by horseback or camel. The horses and camels take you about halfway; then you switch to a horse and buggy. It is really a fun trip if you're not afraid of the animals. It is possible to walk but it you do, you will be forced to keep your eyes on your feet so that you do not stumble and fall. It's a shame to walk and miss such spectacular scenery.

The path through the canyon is downhill and filled with loose gravel and small rocks, so you must be very careful. The horses and camels don't seem to have a problem with the walk into Petra. It takes about 20 minutes for a slow-paced horse led by a native guide to get to the halfway point. The guides assist those who are not proficient horseback riders. At the halfway point, you switch to the horse and buggy.

Once inside, you are on flat manageable ground and can enter the treasury that is a tomb but has the appearance of a temple.

Those who know how to ride get there much faster and have the option of seeing more of the city.

Enter Petra by horseback or camel is a treat. It gives you time to notice the beautiful, pinkish-red flowers that jut out from cracks in the rock, and see the many caves that were carved as homes by the Nabateans.

There is a wonderful and unusual hotel near Petra called "Taybet Zaman." I would recommend staying there at least two nights. The rates when I was there were $130 plus 20 percent tax (or $156.00), double occupancy. You can book it through your travel agent. The Taybet Zaman hotel has modern facilities but still manages to give you the feeling of living in an authentic Jordanian village. April and May are excellent months to plan a trip.

Petra is one of the most stunning surviving wonders of the ancient world. If you're adventurous and enjoy unusual sightseeing, this is a vacation for you.

[Printed originally in Gulf Coast Woman; reprinted by permission of the author]


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