A Memorable Place
Petra, the hidden city built by nomadic Arab traders called Nab-ataeans, had always been one of my fantasy destinations, so I was thrilled when my daughter, Marian, asked me to travel through Jordan with her before she participated in a workshop for Iraqi scholars.
More than 2,000 years old, Petra was the main attraction for us, and the site exceeded our expectations.
We approached the vast complex of ruins through the Siq, a narrow gorge winding through lofty cliffs for about three-quarters of a mile. It was awesome when we caught sight of the first and most impressive of the many tombs of Petra -- Al-Khazneh, also called the "Treasury."
It was as though a curtain had been drawn back, revealing the tomb's 130-foot facade, cut from a sheer, rose-colored cliff.
Exhilarated -- and ultimately exhausted -- by our explorations through the ruins, we decided to take donkeys to get to the more inaccessible locations. The climbs were always rewarding. There were spectacular vistas with ancient monuments set amid jagged mountain crags.
Yet, as wonderful as Petra was, we discovered that Jordan and its people were equally fascinating.
The desert of Wadi Rum, where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, afforded us a four-wheel-drive adventure where we explored remote rock formations and searched for ancient petroglyphs. We climbed Mount Tabor, where Moses is said to have seen the Promised Land, and stood on the banks of the Jordan River where John the Baptist once walked.
Castles built during the Crusades, Muslim fortresses, Roman ruins, ancient mosaics and swimming in the Dead Sea were all highlights of our journey.
The food was delicious, especially the meze, a variety of small plates of Middle Eastern appetizers.
But most of all, we were delighted with the hospitality we received. "Welcome" was a word we heard everywhere. We were initially a little nervous about the reception we as Americans might receive in this volatile part of the world. However, though there was general distrust of our government's policies, this did not carry over to us as individuals.
Mohammed, our driver in Petra, invited us home to meet his wife, his 7-year-old daughter and his 4-year-old son.
Mansour, another driver, told us: "We Muslims honor Friday as our holy day; the Jews observe Saturday and the Christians celebrate Sunday. Why not all get together; then we can have a three-day weekend. You know, we all believe in the same God."
With these words of wisdom in our hearts, we look back fondly on our trip to Jordan.
Joan Feldman lives in Baltimore.
My Best Shot
Jim Antal, Cleveland
Pedaling in Pennsylvania
I took this photo of my cycling companion, Bill Conley of Baltimore, as he got out of his saddle for an early-morning climb in Laurel Mountain State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. This area, three hours' drive from Baltimore and Cleveland, offers great riding. We cycled a well-marked, challenging course through rolling hills for 40 miles and pedaled a 15-mile section of the beautiful Youghiogheny River Rail-Trail.
Brita d'Agostino, Baltimore
While in Japan, I visited a temple complex just outside Kyoto called Enryaku-ji. It was a beautiful day, and the cloudy blue sky complemented the reddish-orange decor of the temple. The atmosphere was serene. It was a great place to go to escape the crowds of the more popular temples in central Kyoto. It was here, away from the crowds, that I could really appreciate the temple structure for its original function -- a site of contemplation and reflection.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Ed Talios, Berlin, Md.
On the western coast of Ireland, where the Atlantic Ocean meets land, nature has carved the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher. On my visit in May, the day was bitterly cold, and a gale coming off the ocean made the day feel more like October. Perhaps if the weather were more hospitable, more time could have been taken to enjoy the spectacular view -- one of the many interesting views of this fabled land.
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