Return to Petra and Roman Ruins in Jerash

Remember when my family visited and we had an amazing Jordanian desert adventure in Wadi Rum and Petra? Well, a few week’s ago, it was Mr. Em in Jerusalem’s family’s turn and back to Jordan we went – the land of wide open spaces, mountains, desert, camels, goats, donkeys, and ruins. This time, it was Petra, Amman, and Jerash.

Petra is not all that close to Jerusalem — if there were no cross-country borders, it would take about six hours to get there —  but it’s so spectacular that if you’re in the region, you should make an effort to see it. Like last time, we started the trip with a four-and-a-half hour drive down through Israel, but instead of staying in the Israeli Red Sea town of Eilat we stayed in the Jordanian Red Sea town of Aqaba. Unless you’re going to scuba or snorkel or stay at a fancy resort with glistening pools, both these towns are skip-able. But stopping does help to break up the drive. After an overnight in a hotel in Aqaba, we arrived in Petra in the morning. It was my third time in the ancient Nabatean site, but my first time there with a busted knee. (Tennis accident, totally the husband’s fault). After a day of hiking in absolutely perfect weather (mid-March was a great time to visit), we stayed the night in nearby Little Petra in Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp. Great sleeping tents with comfy beds and lots of blankets, a cool communal tent with lots of foreign tourists warming ourselves by the fire and checking our phones courtesy of the strong wifi, live night music, and hot showers.

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IMG_5538The next morning we drove to the nearby Shobak Castle, a 12th century Crusader castle pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

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IMG_5545 Then, it was on to Amman, which my first visit to Jordan’s capital city. I can’t say the short visit left much of an impression on me, other than ruleless traffic, which Mr. Em in Jerusalem handled like a champ. But the ancient sites in the middle of the city were interesting, like this old amphitheater and the Citadel.

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We’ve been seeing a lot of ruins lately – particularly after the recent trip to Athens.  I am perhaps getting ruin-fatigue. So I was apathetic about our plan to visit Jerash, an old city with lots of ruins. But I have to say – wow!- this place has more ruins than Rome and we spent a great sunny few hours strolling through a large ancient city on a hill that has been excavated only during the past 70 years. You really get a feel that this was a vibrant city nearly 2,000 years ago when you walk down paved and colonnaded streets, visit the ruins of baths and fountains, shops, public squares, statutes, and a beautiful theater. If you ever visit Jerash, bring a good camera and eat at Lebanese House after, a fancy-ish nearby restaurant that was hands down the best meal of the trip.

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From Jerash, it was a pretty drive to the Jordan’s northern border crossing, past rolling hills and picnicking families, almond and olives trees, and through the Jordan Valley. And back to Jerusalem for the rest of the visit.

The fam has since departed, and we’re gearing up for a big holiday weekend: Both Passover and Easter. More soon!

To family visits, and to Jordan,

Em in Jerusalem

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