Monthly Archives: February 2022

As Salt and Madaba

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The city of As Salt was recently designated a world heritage site. It is a place where people of all backgrounds and faiths have lived peaceably together for hundreds of years and is a model of social and religious harmony.
Golden coloured houses made out of limestone are clustered on the slopes of three mountains
The city is rich with exceptionally kind, tolerant people and crazy steep hills.
The city of As Salt
During our wanderings we stopped for street food. The seasoned kernel corn in a cup was more delicious than it had any right to be!
Just before arriving to El Salt we were invited to share a picnic of grilled pita sandwiches with seasoned ground lamb inside and then sprinkled with lemon juice. A side of yogurt, cucumber and garlic salad, and fermented pickles completed the tasty dinner.
The city of Mataba
Towards the end of the 19th century many Christian families who settled in Madaba used the blocks of the ruined ancient structures already there to build their houses. As a result, floor mosaics were unearthed and can still be found in some family homes today.
Madaba, known for its exquisite mosaics is often referred to as The Mosaic capital of the Levantine.
Stunning mosaics were found in churches and mansions alike, dating to the reign of the Byzantines from 332 – 635 AD. This tree of life was found in the crypt of Saint Elianus
Several historic periods can be found from Roman to Byzantine to Islamic Umayyad. Each period built on what was previously there, giving a glimpse of the continuous occupation of Madaba.
A mosaic of the holy land on the floor of the Byzantine church of St. George is only one of Madaba’s shining stars. I couldn’t fit the whole map in the picture.

A Walk through Petra

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People have lived in caves in the area around Petra for last 7000 years, but it was the Nabateans who built the stunning city of rock between 50 BC and 50 AD. Positioned along the ancient spice route, it flourished and prospered in the first and second century AD. But then it was hit with a drought, a flood, and a big earthquake in 363 AD, which destroyed much of the city. By 500 AD it was almost abandoned. We spent three days exploring the caves, churches, trails and tombs of ancient Petra until our stone cup was full.

El Sig is a natural 1.2 kilometre sandstone gorge that gently winds toward the ancient city. Carved out channels on each side held clay pipes that carried fresh water to the bustling metropolis.
Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by 27 year old Johann Ludwig Butckhardt (who was searching for the lost city). Imagine walking out of the Sig and coming upon the magnificent treasury for the first time.
The Treasury was actually a Nabatean mausoleum and was carved out of a single block. Many archeologists believe it is the mausoleum of King Aretas IV (9 BC – 40 AD)
Amazing how much detail was still so preserved after 2000 years
There were approximately 20,000 people living in Petra during its peak.
The main colonnaded street that ran through Petra’s centre was built by the Romans in 100 AD. It replaced an earlier Nabatean dirt and gravel road and was the main market where frankincense, myrrh, spices and textiles were sold and traded.
Incredible colours on very old rocks
There are still approximately 30 extended families living in the caves in Petra. (Many people in Jordan still live in caves.)
On the walk up the 1000 steps to the monastery.
The Monastery was another huge building carved out of the cliff side.
There was no shortage of donkeys and camels. Caves and ancient carved out dwellings dotted the entire landscape.
We took a break at what was a garden and a bath house along the ancient trade route on our hike up to ‘the place of high sacrifice’
Random (ancient?) writing in the cliff wall along the trail.
The colours of Petra
The ‘Place of the high sacrifice’ and it was indeed high. People would gather for ritual animal sacrifices. All I can say is the Nabateans must have been very fit.
We start the day with an included breakfast (what we would consider supper food) at the hostel. We have had hail, snow and freezing temperatures and so decided to de-thaw in a hostel for a few nights while exploring Petra without our packs.
Sunset over Petra.
A Salaam

Desert Bliss at Wadi Rum

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We have spent the last few days hiking in the desert around Wadi Rum. What a place! Unique, colourful, towering cliffs with astounding formations, coupled with vast expanses of soft, red sand unlike anything I have experienced. The sand was tough to hike through with our heavy packs but I can feel my body resetting to a better place and that makes me happy. As does the silence and solitude.

Starting out
Desert boot camp
A warm fire on a cold night
A caravan of camels

Our first morning I was sorting out breakfast when I saw Gord running across the sand with the tent bouncing along in front of him just out of reach. When the wind blows in the desert there is nothing to stop it and when a lightweight tent has nothing in it, it blows away fast. Happily he rescued it with both of them none the worse for wear. He returned out of breath and looking forward to his coffee. Our water drops did not work out as it was too cost prohibitive. We can each carry three days worth so we will do three day stints and then move on. All this to say that he allocates a portion of his precious water to his morning caffeine hit. So when he accidentally spilled it before his first sip it was a Greek tragedy doubled. “Son of a bitch” he muttered sadly.

beautiful little desert flower

T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawerence of Arabia, spent a lot of time here during the Second World War. It’s also where Dune, The Martian and Aladdin, Star Wars, among other movies, were filmed. It’s no wonder. The landscape feels otherworldly!