We swung back through the south of Jordan and head north to Petra via taxi, staying at a quaint and tidy little backpacker called Petra Gate Hotel. Our taxi driver Odeh spoke perfect English and invited us to his home for some tea before dropping us off at the hostel. We talked of the difference between Muslims and Westerners when it comes to marriage and learned that Muslim men are able to marry more than one woman. ´´No secrets in the Muslim family and no mistress like in the West´´ Odeh told us with a smile, adding that he only had one wife and that ´´is enough.´´ We drove by a large group of people on they way to the hostel playing soccer near a bus. Odeh pointed to them and said ´´see, that is one family. Four wives and over 20 children.´´ Even the previous King Hussein had four wives but current King Abdullah has one. Apparently it is a choice for the family to make and it is not frowned upon.
In the lobby, we met two great American travelers, Regina and David, and spent the evening sharing stories with them and gearing up for our early morning to the historical city of Petra.
We purchased the 2-day pass to the site and proceeded through the Siq, a winding, narrow pathway in the midst of large sandstone bluffs before arriving at the main attraction, the treasury building. The treasury building gained a bit of notoriety after being featured as the site where Indiana Jones found the Holy Grail in the Last Crusade. Most features in the ancient city of Petra are carved into the sandstone. For some additional history of the site, click here. Be sure to check out the photos as well. After snapping some photos we continued on past the Tomb and climbed the numerous stairs to the Monastery, which I actually found more impressive than the Treasury as it is bigger and looking to the West you can see Israel. We relaxed for a while at the summit and were given some Bedouin Tea, black tea and sugar steeped with sage leaves, by a local Bedouin jeweler. Descending the mountain, we returned to our hostel by 11 a.m. to beat the afternoon heat and returned later in the evening to watch the sunrise. On the second day, we ventured back to Petra and climbed up the backside of the tomb to have a birds-eye view of the Treasury before heading back to catch our bus to Amman.
We actually spent a couple of days in Amman before going to Israel but given our itinerary, decided to save it for this post. Amman doesn´t have much going for it besides previously being named Philadelphia. The sites can be seen in one day so we visited the Citadel, the Mosque, and the Roman Ampitheatre. Our hotel was named Mansour and I would recommend it to anyone travelling through Amman.
The people we met in Jordan were extremely hospitable, from Nasser at Petra Gate Hostel and our taxi driver Odeh, to Mike at Mansour Hotel in Amman. I would be lying if I said I did not have stereotypes of Muslim people before arriving in this part of the world, but I can honestly say that all of my preconceptions were thrown out the window. In the States, we are filled with negative media attention about a small group of extremists that give the faith of Islam an extremely bad name. Just as the Crusades and Inquisitions gave Christianity a bad name. We are off to Turkey next where 98% of the population claims to be Muslim, the highest percentage in the world and I am looking forward to learning more about the religion to gain a better understanding of the people and their culture.