Before the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, young Israelis would sneak across the border, make their way to Petra, send a postcard to prove it, and make their way back. Occasionally they would get caught and the government would have to intervene to get them home safely.
Now, one crosses to Jordan through the Yitzchak Rabin crossing just north of Eilat and takes a two-hour drive through beautiful mountainous desert terrain. Although the population of the area is sparse, the presence of Bedouin is scattered throughout the area. Although they still herd goats, most now live in permanent homes rather than tents (at the insistence of the government) and it is not unusual to see a satellite dish on their homes. The same is true of the Bedouins who populate the Negev in Israel.
Petra is an ancient Nabatean city, which most of us are familiar with from Raiders of the Lost Ark. But seeing the carved facades in person is incredible. We spent about four hours walking through the area that contains these carvings. Although much was preserved through the centuries, a lot has been restored. After the Nabateans, the area was home to the many other groups, including the Romans, Byzantine Christians (who built a church with a Mosaic floor that reminded me of the synagogue floor from Bet Alpha), and Ottomans. While each group left its mark on the area, an amazing amount of the original Nabatean carvings remain. Seeing them was an experience Barbara and I will never forget.
Tomorrow it is off to Jerusalem.