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The Last Crusade

April 13, 2011

I sincerely hope that most of you recognize the picture above.  It is taken from the third Indiana Jones movie, “the Last Crusade”.  The story line tells about the race to find the Holy Grail and beat the Nazis who are in search of it as well.  The movie came out when I was just five years old, but I think even since that time I have wanted to visit where it was shot (that is probably an exaggeration but give me a break).  The three horsemen above are in front of Al Khazneh, otherwise known as the Treasury in Petra, Jordan.

Exploring the Siq

Not only have I wanted to visit Jordan for the longest time but Jen has wanted to go for probably even longer than me.  So, after our trip to the Dead Sea and the Baptismal Site, we took off across the country in search of Petra.  I say in search because street signs are terrible in Jordan and we inevitably missed our turn and ended up in the middle of nowhere.  After having tea with some police officers on the side of the road, they pointed us in the right direction.  We then proceeded to cross the mountains on a washed out dirt road in the middle of the night with Mike Traner driving – a potentially lethal combination.  Don’t worry, we eventually made it to the hotel and got a good night’s sleep before our journey into Petra.  The entire process only took 4 years off of my life.

The next morning we woke up extra early to eat breakfast and try to beat the crowds.  Turns out, there were not many crowds due to the recent political unrest in the Middle East that you have been seeing on the news.  This wasn’t so great for the Jordanian tourism industry but was fantastic for us.  We cruised through the ticket booth (which was sponsored by USAID) and even picked up a guide to show us around.  The only thing that wasn’t great was the fact that it was raining but that ultimately subsided.  Not sure why it kept raining on us in the desert but it did.  The locals absolutely loved it, we didn’t so much.

In front of the Treasury

After passing the main gate, we walked for several kilometers learning about the history of the Nabataean people who created Petra as well as local customs, climate, architecture, etc.  Eventually we came to the siq, which is the narrow passageway that leads to the Treasury.  On each side of this passageway were carved water systems that took water for several kilometers to the village.  The Nabataean’s also managed to control flash flooding and have it work to their advantage by building dams and cisterns.

At one point after wandering through the siq for a while, our guide had us come close and look up to see the highest point and then look back the opposite direction.  Before I knew it, there stood the Treasury peeking through the last bit of the siq.  It really was a magnificent sight and took my breath away for a second.  We ventured closer, took pictures, and relished in the awe inspiring carvings.  After tea, our guide decided to tie traditional head coverings on me and Jen and then took a lot of pictures.  Not to mention, he let me explore one of the original pillars to the Treasury.  I was certainly a little timid being around a 3,000 year old piece of history.

Moving along, we spent a great deal of time exploring and learning more about the Bedouin culture.  We even met one man whose mom was originally from New Zealand but while backpacking Petra she met a local man, fell in love, got married, and had children. After her husband’s passing, she wrote a book about her life and the complete change she went through becoming a Bedouin – Jen is currently reading it.

On the donkey headed up

Next, we chose to do a long hike up the mountain to the Monastery, which was a great decision.  It did not seem like it at the time since it was hot at this point and we had not eaten in several hours but in retrospect, we are glad we did.  Terry, Jen’s mom, actually rode a donkey up to the top for a few dinars.  The pictures were quite funny.  Once up top we got to take in the magnificent sight of the Monastery and go inside of it to explore.  Plus, we decided to stop and have our picnic that the hotel packed, topped off by a Dr. Pepper that was being sold by a guy in a hut.  We had not seen a Dr. Pepper the entire trip, so go figure it was in the middle of nowhere on the top of a mountain.

The Monastery at Petra

Soon, we were all refreshed and decided for one last push up the mountain to get to the “best view of Petra”.  It certainly was a sight.  Not only was it great for the Monastery but we also got to see all the terrain we had crossed the night before on the washed out roads.  Also, Terry met another friend along the way.  She was an 11 year old girl that helped motivate her almost all the way to the top … and then tried to get her to buy jewelry …which she did.

After taking in the view for a while, we decided it was time to head back down.  The long walk back was not as bad and I got to stop frequently for some short explorations of side trails.  Finally we came back upon the Treasury.  It was then that Jen and I decided to stay for a while longer by ourselves and enjoy the fact that we finally made it to Petra.  We are glad we did because during this time, there were not many people at all in front of the edifice and it was splendid.  The sun was going down and would pass behind clouds changing the color and shadows of the building.  It was a great way to end an awesome day spent exploring this part of Jordan.

And no Brad, it probably still is not wise to name your next son “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Smith”.

Steven

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