Thursday 24 October, 2012

I won’t go as far as to claim that we left the best till last. But I think I speak for every member of our group when I say that eye-popping, mind-boggling Petra has been the icing on the cake. You can read about it, study pictures of it, watch Discovery Channel programmes about it, whatever … but to actually GO there yesterday, get our feet dirty by actually WALKING the dusty cobbled road in (and out), and actually SEE this ancient site for ourselves is an experience we’ll never forget.

The Middle Eastern Kingdom of Jordan specialises in amazing backdrops – from the red sands and palm trees of Wadi Rum to the lifeless, mineral-rich Dead Sea. As we drove from the airport to the capital, we were agreeably surprised and impressed with Amman – the buildings limestone-white, the streets tidy, the whole place much more modern than we’d expected. And on our 3½-hour drive the next day to Petra, we spotted plenty of biblical scenes – like Bedouin tents amongst the sand-dunes, sun-blackened men in full-flowing robes, leading herds of livestock across the timeless desert.

But let me talk about Petra …

More than 2000 years ago the Nabataeans (a tribe of nomadic Arabs) carved a city out of the rose-red rock and built a thriving empire based on agriculture and trade. Petra was protected for several hundred years by a ring of impenetrable mountains, breached only by a several-kilometre-long split in the rock (in places only three metres wide), known as the Siq. When the Romans finally captured Petra in 106 AD (after several failed attempts), it was a large, thriving and beautiful city.

Some of our group bounced and lurched their way through the Siq on rickety horse-drawn chariots – the rest of us walked. And, at the end, through that famous narrow crack in the sheer sandstone cliffs, we encountered the iconic Treasury (Al Khazneh). Fantastic! And further on down the canyon lay the Monastery (an enormous temple sculptured out of the mountainside), the Nabataean Roman Theatre (in the centre of the city), the High Place of Sacrifice (still stained with animal-blood), and the Royal Tombs.

Have you read the book ‘Married To A Bedouin’ by Marguerite van Geldermalsen? This heart-warming account by a Kiwi woman (who met, fell in love with, and married the handsome Bedouin she met when touring Petra many years ago) gives some colourful background to this uniquely different location and its uniquely different residents. And, yesterday, some of us met her son, Raami, in the little souvenir shop he runs … and, later, we clambered up through crumbling rock and ankle-deep dust to the hilltop cave that was once this happy family’s home. Double fantastic!

So Petra: a dramatic finale to an unforgettable 31-day adventure? Without a doubt! And, this morning, after another HORRIBLY early wake-up call, we Kiwis left our Amman hotel, loaded bags and bodies onto the coach for one last time, and headed to the airport where we’ve begun our long journey home.

It’s been a BLAST, this combination of luxury-at-sea and discovery-on-shore. We’ve had a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience … we’ve made some great friends … and we’ve got stories and memories and photos to prove it!

Is everybody happy? You bet your life we are!

Bedouin camp


  • Come Feb/Mar next year, we’re cruising around the bottom end of SOUTH AMERICA – including the rounding of Cape Horn … a day in the Falkland Islands (weather permitting) … the awesome, thundering Iguazu Falls … and the spectacular Lost City of the Incas: Machu Picchu. We’ve still got a few places on this fabulous cruise/tour, but you need to act now.
  • We also have places left on next year’s RHINE & DANUBE Cruise (June). If your ‘bucket-list’ includes destinations like Amsterdam, Cologne, the castles of the Rhine Valley, Nuremburg, Vienna and Budapest … decide now that you’re going to join us.
  • If the vast, wild, wintry regions of ALASKA are on your ‘bucket-list’ … why don’t you come with us in September next year when we’re heading off on a 17-day cruise along those glacier-clad shores – including two spectacular days on the Rocky Mountaineer scenic train? Plus, for those interested, we’ll add a second 9-day cruise down the eastern coast of CANADA & NEW ENGLAND.
  • Call Roger (Lion World Travel) on 0800 277 477 – or email [email protected] – to request an InfoPack and register your early-booking.

Yours bloggedly – JOHN