9 May - Al-Omari to Amman Entering Jordan from Saudi Arabia
Travel Time: 2 hrs.
Accommodation: Ambassador Hotel, Amman
Highway 35, Jordan: From the Jordanian border post at Al-Omari, it took about 2 hours to reach Amman. We had treated ourselves by booking rooms at the newly built Ambassador Hotel, which overlooked the eastern part of the old city, with a breath-taking panoramic view, and more importantly a bar! Relaxing on our first day by the pool, we arranged a trip for the following day to the Roman ruins in Amman, the Crusader castle at Kerak with an overnight stay in Petra.
In the centre of Amman stands the Citadel, considered to be among the world's oldest continuously inhabited places although most of the visible structures are from the later Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods, which include the Temple of Hercules, the Roman amphitheatre, a Byzantine church, and the Umayyad Palace. The ruins are sometimes referred to as Philadelphia after Ptolemy 11 Philadelphus, the ruler of Egypt, who rebuilt Rabat Aman in the C3rd BC. Subsequently coming under Greek, Roman and Byzantine rule, it was finally re-conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate in the C7th AD who restored its ancient Semitic name of Amman.
10 - 11 May Amman to Petra Visiting Kerak and Petra
Travel Time: 3 hrs.
Accommodation: Govt. Guest House, Petra
King's Highway, Jordan: After visiting the ruins, we were driven to Petra along the ancient King's Highway, through the region known in history books as the Kingdom of Moab, stopping at Kerak on the way. Its medieval castle, called Crac des Moabites by the Crusaders, built on the southern end of a plateau and surrounded on three sides by steep hills, is a classic example of a “spur castle” and one of the largest in the Levant. Construction had begun in the 1140s, under Pagan and Fulk, King of Jerusalem, and was strategically important throughout the Crusades, the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. Kerak Castle suffered considerable damage during the Ottoman period and the peasants' revolt in Palestine with locals removing many of the stones due to their saltpetre content, used in making gunpowder.
Arriving in Petra, we stayed overnight in a government guest house before visiting the famous ruins the next day. We bought keffiyehs (or ghutras as they are known in Saudi) to shield us from the sun and engaged a guide who persuaded us to ride on along the Roman road, passing the amazing Obelisk Tombs and entering Petra through the Bab-al-Siq, a narrow gorge. This opens up to the Al-Khazneh (the Treasury), one of the most elaborate Arab Nabatean temples carved out of the sandstone rock face and believed to have been the mausoleum of King Aretas IV. It became known as the Treasury in the early C19th as local Bedu believed it contained treasures.
Petra, known primarily for its Hellenistic architecture, was built on a terrace, split in two from east to west by the Wadi Mūsā (the Valley of Moses). As we left the Treasury we passed along the Street of Facades, a row of monumental tombs carved into the southern cliff face. A further series of four distinct tombs – Urn, Silk, Corinthian, Palace – are carved into the western slope of the Jabal al-Khubtha rock massif and are known as the Royal Tombs as it is believed they were built for senior city officials and princes.
Other examples of Hellenistic architecture include the Monastery, a nymphaeum, an amphitheatre and other smaller tombs. In 1985 this extraordinary city was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Up Next - Israel and occupied West Bank
Richard, Stan, Graham
© Words Richard Thom
Credits: Stan Peters and Graham Edgson
© Richard Thom
*Original article edited for cultural and geopolitical sensitivities.
About the Author
Richard Thom grew up in Ahmadi, Kuwait 1954 – 1969 where his dad was Chief Health Officer for the Kuwait Oil Co. He worked in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia between 1976 and 1980 for Aramco’s Internal Audit and Contract Cost Compliance departments. He undertook this journey halfway between two contracts.
When not working, playing rugby, squash or trying his hand at amateur dramatics, he used his organising skills on the Aramco Employees Association and was Treasurer 1976/77 - 1978/79 and Chairman 1979/80 for the Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club (DRUFC).
He continued with a varied finance career in shipping (Japan) automobiles (Guam) and dance education (UK), before finally retiring in 2015.
Richard has contributed a number of articles to AramcoExpats including a review of Not the May Ball 3 in September 2022; a 10-part serialization of the unofficial history of the Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club; a look back on life after Aramco “Dance in the Desert” and “Jimmy Abdul McGregor, and Other Stories: Tales from the Yemen”.
Richard published his book Dance into Business in 2018 a how-to guide for dance students, teachers and professionals wishing to start up a dance studio or go freelance. It contains helpful tips, practical examples, and points to consider whether just starting out or already in business. It is available from Amazon websites as a printed book, or an e-book priced locally.