It's about time I update on the finishing touches to my Jordanian odyssey! An adventure into Jordan is never complete until you visit one place in particular: Petra - one of the seven modern world wonders.
If you're too lazy to Wikipedia, Petra is an ancient and gigantic Nabataen (NAH-buh-tay-yen) city carved into the desert mountains a few hundred years before the Roman Empire. Crazily enough, it was actually abandoned during the crusades and completely forgotten about for 600 years until a Dutch guy came across it in 200 years ago. What a discovery it must have been! And it. is. magnificent.
A few of the guys and I headed to southern Jordan to see this crazy place. Petra's not exactly a day trip destination. It's so big it takes DAYS to really see it all. We spent 3 days in Petra alone!
Most of the buildings have been washed away by time and erosion, so I can only imagine how intricate everything used to be. It reminds me of that show "Earth After Humans." This would all be about a thousand years after humans.
The trails were pretty killer, but there's one in particular - the monastery trail - with over 800 individual steps! It took us about an hour of climbing (with 2 breaks in between), but it was pretty worth it, I must say.

It's hard to know the scale of the buildings, but they are massive. Compare it to the people in the picture!
I'm not sure if this is what the Nabetaens intended...
Thanks to this awesome wifi connection in Jerusalem, I'll go crazy with the pictures!
Walking around Petra, we drank anywhere from 1-2 GALLONS of water per person every day! Hiking nonstop for 9-10 hours with almost no shade, you can imagine how thirsty you get. Not to mention, carrying around all that water probably made us sweat even more. A water paradox, I suppose.

Thank God Jordan is nice and cool (compared to Dubai, of course). If Petra were in Dubai, we would not have made it out alive.
I'm also starting to miss vegetables. Here in the Middle East, there are basically two non-meat choices: cucumbers or tomatoes. You might find an adventurous restaurant that serves zucchini every now and then - but that's it. After 3 weeks of kebabs, shwarma, and falafel, I am dying for some leafy greens! Or noodles!

After our Petra excursion, we went a Bedouin (native) village called Wadi Rum, where we camped with the native tribes for a night!
We ate, sang, and danced with the Bedouins 'till dark and slept in tents under the stars. Though they have cars, phones, and showers now, it was nice to see vestiges of how the natives used to live out here in the desert.
Sadly, the next day I finally parted ways with the awesome group of guys I had met in Jordan - us all having different travels plans, of course.

I headed to one of the most difficult border crossings in the region: going into Israel.

For those of you that aren't familiar with it, going into Israel can be a nightmare. I met people with stories of how authorities opened their laptops, went through all their files and cameras, if they even sensed that you may be pro-Palestinian.

My friend Andrew from Kentucky actually got denied at the crossing twice because he told the truth: that he got an internship in the West Bank (Palestine).

So, I didn't know what to expect.
Not surprisingly, they went through every single item I was carrying and questioned me suspiciously about my water filter. Really? It's a water filter.

They also bombarded me with some pretty intense questions.

"Why are you traveling alone?"

"What were you doing in Jordan?"

"Are you planning on going to the Palestinian Territories?"

"When are you leaving Israel?"

Being a flexible backpacker, I didn't exactly know when I was leaving, which made things worse. I pretty much had to explain my entire trip (and my life story) to them to get that stamp. I feel like Israel is like a club and you have to go through some kind of initiation to get in.
After three weeks of hearing Arabic, Hebrew was a bit of an interesting change... and for the first time in a month, I actually felt nice, cold water during my beach day at the Red Sea.
Another thing about the Middle East that I love (and will surely miss) are the FRUIT JUICES! I pretty much do my splurging on juices as there are juice smoothie stands everywhere! If only these were popular back home...
There are a few things that have surprised me about Israel so far. I was always under the impression that Israel was a pretty western country where English would be enough to get by with.

Instead, most Israeli products don't even have a single word of English on them. I'm talking water bottles, chips, fruit juices, the basics. This makes buying beyond water a bit of a guessing game. I suppose it's good to be proud of your language, but I have a feeling a lot of it is political and - dare I say it - xenophobic.

As for the people, I can see why they call it Arab hospitality because it's way different here. Going from an Arab country to an Israeli one has been night and day in the sense that Israel is more like the US: everyone's just doing their own thing. It may be because Israel gets more tourists, yet somehow I felt a friendlier vibe in Italy, one of the most tourist-packed countries, so it can't be that. We shall see.

A few pics of hostel living (for Dad):
Logan
9/12/2012 02:49:14 pm

before today, I never heard about PETRA, cool historical place, I am sure you had enough exercise so far.
good thing is, you went to Dubai first, now you get better weather everywhere.
take care!

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