February 20, 2023
On the Road to Petra
If Egypt is part of your travel dreams, don’t skip the short hop to Jordan! Our visit to the archaeological site of Petra was one of the highlights of our trip! (Although, we had to get there first. The site of Petra is coming up in the next post, but the "getting there" today had several unexpected delights.)
We were up early for the short walk from the Cairo Airport Meridien Hotel to our one and one/half hour flight to Amman, Jordan. Our airport greeter and driver were there when we arrived, and we set off for Petra right away. Some differences between Jordan and Egypt were immediately apparent. We saw very few cars on the roads, even around the city of Amman, and the landscape, while still desert, was much less barren. We passed by farms, small settlements of Bedouin tents, and Bedouin men herding their flocks of sheep and goats.
After two hours, we stopped for a buffet lunch that was held in the New Jerusalem Rest House, which also held an art gallery and market for some gorgeous traditional Jordanian artwork. We browsed through the marble boxes, mosaic landscapes, colorful lamps. We rarely buy large objects on our carry-on only travels, but we loved the Ostrich Eggs that were intricately “painted” with tiny mosaic pieces, so we gave in to the impulse, bought one, and arranged to have it shipped home.
Soon after lunch, our SUV turned up into the mountains where we spotted the ruins of a Crusader castle sitting on top of a hill. The castle is called Shobak Castle, (Qal'at ash-Shawbak), and also known as Montreal Castle as it is atop a hill known as Mons Realis, or Royal Hill. It was built in 1115 A.D. by the Crusader King Baldwin I and withstood several attacks by the armies of Salah ad Din (Saladin) before falling to the Muslim armies in 1189. In the 14th century, it was rebuilt and expanded by the Mamluks, but finally abandoned. It is open for tours now.
There is not much else in this remote corner of Jordan…except “The Smallest Hotel in the World!” Mohammed Al Malahim, also known as Abu Ali, used to work as a guide at the castle. A few years ago, he converted his old VW Bug into a tiny and lavishly decorated hotel room that can accommodate two people. The hotel’s “reception room” and restroom are just across the road, and he and his wife prepare traditional Bedouin food for guests and visitors. I did not realize it when we visited, but his little hotel became quite well known, and he has had a number of distinguished guests over the years.
|The Hotel sleeps two people, and it is reputed to be quite comfortable.|
|You can find his Facebook and Instagram pages at "The Smallest Hotel in the World"|
While we were visiting with him, Mr. Al-Malahim showed us a large white Persian cat. I assumed it was his, but he said it was just wandering the neighborhood. After some discussion, our driver put the cat in a safe container, and it rode with us for forty-five minutes the rest of the way to Petra. The cat found a new home with our driver’s daughter!
It was well into the afternoon before we checked into the Movenpick Petra Hotel. Our corner room had a balcony that looked down on the entrance to the archaeological site and Petra Museum across the street.
|The Movenpick Petra Hotel|
|And the view from the balcony of the Petra Museum|
|The entry gate to Petra in front of our hotel|
We rested a bit, then explored the small town (which seems to have mostly LOTS of hotels and small restaurants and tourist shops).
|The main street of Petra|
|The hills were terraced with rows of rock walls.|
|Rob is happy...two dogs in one day!|
Back in the gorgeous public rooms of the hotel, we enjoyed “Chocolate Hour,” which is offered every afternoon and includes various fruits and goodies we could dip into a chocolate fountain. We followed this up with the drink that had become our “go-to” drink of almost every day of the trip – a delectable blending of lemon and mint.
|The Chocolate Fountain|
|Rob enjoys our favorite refreshment - mint and lemon|
|The Movenpick Bar|
|This man was creating beautiful artwork with colored sand.|
|A great dessert at the Movenpick's dinner buffet|
|Sunset over the Petra Museum|
After a huge buffet dinner at the Movenpick dining room, we were ready for early bedtime. The next day would be a big one - exploring the archaeological wonders of Petra.