Petra, Jordan
30° 19' N 35° 29' E
Aug 01, 2010 21:47
Distance 99km

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Text written in: English

Arrival in Jordan


I awoke this morning to the sound of aircraft arriving at Eilat Airport.  Yesterday had been very quiet indeed with very few arrivals but today is business as usual in Israel.  It was only 0700hrs but it was time to get the family up as we were moving on to country No.10 (Jordan).  Time of course to have one last IYHA breakfast (kosher), remembering that this will be the last time we can eat and drink with abandon before arriving home.  It will be a pain to return to bottled water. 
After a filling breakfast we stripped the beds and placed our bedding and towels in a container at reception.  To think that in the old days we would have to do chores before leaving for the day or checking out.  No such issues today, we simply handed over our room key and left the premises. 
Once out on the street we waved at a taxi and as if by magic we had a lift to the Yitzhak Rabin/Wadi Araba border crossing between Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan.  It is only a little over two miles from the centre of Eilat so the journey was not hard to pay.

"The Wadi Araba Border Crossing (Arabic: تقاطع وادي عربة‎, Hebrew: מעבר-גבול ערבה‎) is an international border crossing between Aqaba, Jordan and Eilat, Israel. Opened on August 8, 1994, it is currently one of three entry/exit points between the two countries that handles tourists...In February 2006, the Israelis renamed their border terminal to Yitzhak Rabin Terminal, after the late Prime Minister.”  

"Passengers who are departing on foot arrive at the gate of the Terminal and undergo an outbound passenger departure procedure, which includes: 

Purchase of a transit permit, if the passenger has not paid the transit fee beforehand.

Customs declaration as required

Border Control

End of procedure inspection at the terminal exit gate.

Departure on foot for the Jordanian terminal." 

"All travellers to Jordan must pay a border-crossing fee before leaving Israel. Fees – Valid from January 1, 2010: 

  • Crossing fee per outgoing traveller – NIS 94
  • Cargo fee – NIS 190 

As we got out of the taxi we were approached by a member of the Israeli border staff who asked to see our passports and then directed us through a passenger gate.  At this point I saw a post box and was able to post my last stamped Israeli post card, the rest can wait until Jordan.   

We bypassed the Change Place office as we had already paid our outgoing passenger tax at the Post Office in Jerusalem.  We felt good bypassing this first queue.  We had nothing to declare at customs so moved to the immigration queue.  Once at the window we discovered that since we had paid our fee elsewhere a receipt had to be issued by a supervisor at the border.  A supervisor was duly called which took time, during which the Change Place passengers caught up with us and went on their way!  Still we did save about 4.5 Shekels each by paying at the Post Office!  Once our passports were stamped and four chits given to hand over at the border gate, we were off.   

It is always a strange feeling when you cross a border on foot, a sort of naked feeling.  We passed the last Israeli checkpoint, handed over our chits and passed into a sort of no man’s land.  A strip of road about 250 yards long which takes you to the first Jordanian checkpoint through a landscape covered in barbed wire fences and the odd disused looking watchtower.  This is not Check Point Charlie in Berlin, the Israelis and Jordanians get on quite well these days, but you get my drift. 

Obtaining a visa at the Jordanian Terminal:

At the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal only, any passenger, Israeli or foreign, can obtain a visa for two weeks at the Jordanian Terminal, free of charge,  with the exception of the citizens of countries from which Jordan requires issuing the visa in advance.

The visa can be extended beyond the two weeks, at any police station in Jordan, up to a period of three months." 

Our first port of call on the Jordanian side was to pass our luggage through a scanner and have some of the bags checked.  Once this was done we were free to approach the Visa office or should I say queue in as efficient a manner as possible (don’t let anyone past you)!  This queue moved painfully slowly and we wilted in the heat outside but were eventually served.  Our passports were then passed across to the next hatch (Arrivals) where an immigration officer stamped them and handed them back to us – no charge at all.  After changing some money in the terminal area we were ready to leave, the last check being at the gate to make sure our passports were stamped.  One point of note – we have been issued with permission to reside for one month, not two weeks as stated in a leaflet on the Israeli side of the border.  Not that it really matters to us as we are only staying a week. 

As soon as we left the last security check we heard that familiar call, “Taxi, Sir?”  We politely declined and moved to the car park where a man stood with a sign saying ‘Duncan Burnett’.  It was 1055hrs and we had agreed to meet at 1100hrs, perfect timing.  We were off to Wadi Musa, via the desert highway.  Time for a bit of history.   

"During the Great Arab Revolt of 1916, King Hussein's great-grandfather, Al-Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca and King of the Arabs (later he also became known as King of Hijaz), led the liberation of Arab lands from their domination by the Ottoman Turks. After liberating the lands of Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Hijaz, Sharif Hussein's son Abdullah assumed the throne of Trans Jordan and his second son Faisal assumed the throne of Syria and later Iraq. The Emirate of Trans Jordan was founded on April 11, 1921, and became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan upon formal independence from Britain in 1946."

It is interesting to note that both the current monarch of Jordan (His Majesty King Abdullah bin al-Hussein - 43rd generation direct descendant of Prophet Mohammed), and his late father, King Hussein, attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  In my opinion this is one of the best training establishments in the world.  

As we passed through the outskirts of Aqaba I recalled the exploits of Lt Colonel T E Lawrence. 

"When Germany and Austria declared war on Britain, France and Russia in 1914, they aligned themselves with the Ottoman Empire. Though destined for eventual independence, Egypt was then a British protectorate in the front line against the Ottoman forces, which had dominated the Middle East for four centuries. Britain wanted to push the Ottomans out and prevent other powers from controlling the Suez Canal and the region's oil reserves. 

Initially, Britain underestimated the Ottoman Empire, and regarded the Ottoman Sultan's war as a nuisance rather than a danger. Although France and Russia were at that time Britain's allies, historic rivalries would resume after the hostilities. Anticipating this, and unwilling to commit British troops, much needed in Europe, to the Middle East, Lord Kitchener - the War Minister - made contact with Emir Hussein of Mecca in 1914. The Arabs were encouraged to revolt and fight to drive out the Ottomans, with independence promised as a reward. 

In October 1916, Lawrence sailed from Egypt to Jeddah to meet the sons of the Emir Hussein. He became convinced that Feisal was the son who should lead the Arab cause. He also saw that the Bedouin would be better fighting a guerrilla war than a conventional one. Prince Feisal duly became the Arab field commander; he requested that Lawrence be made his British liaison officer. In the two years that followed, Lawrence was to be instrumental in keeping the Arab movement alive and directing it to help the Allied war effort. 

One of the secrets of Lawrence and Feisal's success was their ability to survive in the desert while remaining undetected by the Turks: the Bedouin had millennia of experience in living off the land and their local knowledge was invaluable... 

In one of the campaign's most celebrated manoeuvres, Lawrence and Feisal took the fort at Aqaba, then a sleepy fishing port but a vital gateway for the push north to Damascus. Today, Aqaba is a popular seaside resort just across the frontier from the Israeli resort of Eilat (itself just a frontier line away from Egypt), and offers a quieter alternative to both. Just a few yards from the Red Sea you can visit the Aqaba Fort, taken by Lawrence and the Arab forces in 1917."
The Independent - 22nd May 2004

The desert campaign was later imortalised by David Lean in his film entitled, 'Lawrence of Arabia'.  Lawrence was certainly a capable officer, who had the full support of General (later Field Marshal) Allenby. As Allenby later said: 

"I gave him a free hand. His cooperation was marked by the utmost loyalty, and I never had anything but praise for his work, which, indeed, was invaluable throughout the campaign." 

 We could have chosen to take a taxi into Aqaba and potter about for a few hours.  But this option was not really practical with luggage in tow.  Instead engaging the hotel taxi service to take us direct to Wadi Musa was the most painless option. We also, due to time constraints, passed on an optional side trip to Wadi Rum, another place made famous by Lt Colonel T E Lawrence.

 Wadi Musa is the closest town to Petra, one the new Seven Wonders of the World.  As such its entire modern development is planned around the rather captive tourist market.  There is little else bar Petra and Little Petra. I believe that Wadi Musa means 'The Valley of Moses' and is allegedly named as the location where Moses struck the rock and produced water.  It is also believed that Aaron died in the vicinity and is buried on Jabal Haroun (Mount Aaron). 

Moses’ Error at Kadesh  

1 Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.
2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. 3 And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.” 6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them.
7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
13 This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them.  

Passage Through Edom Refused

14 Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. “Thus says your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us, 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. 16 When we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. 17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’”
18 Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.”
19 So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.
20 Then he said, “You shall not pass through.” So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.  

Death of Aaron

22 Now the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying: 24 “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; 26 and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.” 27 So Moses did just as the LORD commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.

Numbers 20: 1 - 29 (New King James Version) 

It is recorded that the Edomites built settlements and defensive structures in the Petra/Wadi Musa area around the 7th century BC.  Their civilisation formed the basis of the Nabataean Arab Kingdom around 400 years later. On the way into Wadi Musa our driver stopped and showed us a view over parts of Petra and the mountains beyond.  I could just make out Aaron’s Tomb on the top of one of the mountains.  I had thought of hiking there but clearly this is out of our league as a family. 

We were safely deposited at the Cleopetra Hotel reception and introduced to Mosleh, who runs this establishment.  We were immediately invited to sit down and drinks were brought.  He showed the children a couple of his party tricks, which certainly impressed Ailsa.  We were taken to the 2nd floor, which has renovated rooms.  Indeed though they are lovely I would describe them as a work in progress, air-conditioning being planned over the next six months. 

We went out for a walk around the adjacent streets, first to visit the Post Office, then check out dining options, buy water and finally visit an internet cafe.  When we returned we found work in progress in our rooms but were treated to free juice in the lobby whilst this was completed. 

At 1800hrs we went out on a 2 hour trip to Little Petra, arranged by Mosleh.  Indeed it was the same driver who picked us up at the Israeli/Jordanian border.  The real name of Little Petra is Siq Al-Barid (Cold Canyon).  It is thought this was an agricultural centre and caravan resupply post during the great days of Petra.  I had not planned to visit but we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw.  Yes there was a tour bus party milling about in the canyon but there was room for plenty more.  This place really did take my breath away, especially when I saw the Temple in the first part of the canyon.  The children loved climbing the rock cut steps and wanted to visit the Bedouin who had climbed high up and watched us from above. 

At the end of the canyon we did indeed climb a staircase and squeeze through to a viewpoint with an impressive vista beyond.  If we had a guide we could have walked to Petra or to the Monastery.  I, like the children, was getting very enthusiastic about this place.  But the light was starting to fail and it was time to return to our taxi and hotel.  We did stop at a couple of viewpoints on the way back but I had missed the best of the light. 

In the evening, by popular acclaim from the younger Burnetts, we decided to pass on indigenous restaurants and go to a pizza parlour just down the street.  At least here you can get meat on a pizza!  


Photos / videos of "Arrival in Jordan":

Ailsa Burnett in an internet cafe, Wadi Musa, Jordan. Ruth & Erin Burnett in an internet cafe, Wadi Musa, Jordan. Ruth, Erin & Ailsa Burnett in an internet cafe, Wadi Musa, Jordan. Erin & Ailsa Burnett exploring Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Viewpoint on the outskirts of Wadi Musa, overlooking the Petra area. Duncan Burnett at a viewpoint on the outskirts of Wadi Musa, overlooking the Petra area. Ruth, Erin & Ailsa Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Ailsa Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Ruth, Erin & Ailsa Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Erin Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Looking back at the entrance area to Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Viewpoint on the outskirts of Wadi Musa, overlooking the Petra area. Mosleh Farajat showing Erin & Ailsa a magic trick - Cleopetra Hotel, Wadi Musa, Jordan. A Nabataean Temple at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Steps up the side of a gorge - Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Duncan Burnett standing outside a magnificent Nabataean Temple at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Duncan, Erin & Ailsa Burnett standing outside a magnificent Nabataean Temple at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. A Nabataean Temple at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. A Nabataean Temple at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Ailsa Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Erin Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Ailsa Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Erin Burnett at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Erin & Ailsa Burnett - Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Ailsa Burnett - Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Desert landscape between Little Petra and Wadi Musa, Jordan. Desert landscape between Little Petra and Wadi Musa, Jordan. A Nabataean Temple at Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan. Little Petra, near Wadi Musa, Jordan.