Eilat, Israel & Petra, Jordan
We checked into a swish resort hotel in Eilat after a long day of driving, and got up early the next morning to go to Jordan. I was able to take a few shots of the view from our balcony at sunrise before we left.
Picked up in the morning in an open-aired truck, we were dropped off to the border by the Israeli driver. After a lengthy wait at the Israeli side of the border, we crossed over to Jordan and were greeted by our Jordanian guide - Ali. We gave him our passports (reluctantly, its a bit weird to hand over your passport to someone that you just met) and stood around for another long wait at the Jordanian side of passport control. We then met Wael, our driver, and hopped into a small van to get a quick driving tour of Aqaba before heading to Petra.
Although still developing, Aqaba is quickly becoming the Jordanian version of Eilat. Located directly across from Eilat on the Jordanian side of the Red Sea, many investors including those from the U.A.E., Europe, and the States are pouring money into developing resorts in Aqaba. It most certainly helps that the Western-educated ruler of Jordan, King Abdullah II, has maintained positive foreign relations with the Western world, Israel, and other Arab countries, mitigating the political risk associated with being in the most volatile region of the world.
On our long drive to Petra, we stopped off in the middle to take a quick restroom break. We also got some freshly made Turkish coffee (with cardamom, mmmm), which I was very much in need of given my lack of sleep the previous night due to the snoring roommate (I thought I was bad, but he was worse!). There was a group of Arab tourists that stopped off at the same place, and we were treated to a group of men singing and drumming at the rest stop. I really like Arabic music, with its energetic and infectious beats.
So once we get to Petra, Ali starts to tell us about the history of the place as we walk through al-Siq. And we were pretty much paying attention, until we got to the main part of the city and saw the amazing edifices carved into the stone.
This building, although known as the Treasury, was more likely a burial ground for royalty, evidenced by the urn shown at the top. The little divets on the side were used to climb up the side of the mountain to carve and touch up the building. Petra was the capital city of the extensive Nabatean empire, built on trade and the transport of incense from southern Arabia into Europe. We only brushed the surface with our tour - one day is definitely not enough to explore Petra fully. But we made the most of our day and were able to climb up onto some of the mountains and get stellar views during our walk.
Oh, and there were camels. Because no trip to the Middle East is complete without them.
The grandeur and scale of this place was truly amazing - hopefully some more pictures will help to relay that. We got back to Israel pretty late in the day, and woke up the next morning to indulge ourselves in the massive breakfast at the hotel before taking off to go back north.
p.s. We missed the suicide bombing in Eilat by 2 days.