crossed into Jordan.
While the day was painfully slow (waiting for immigration and the ferry across
the Gulf of Aqaba), it does feel amazing to
now be in a place with such history, in the Arabian peninsular, the very cradle
of civilisation. Jordan saw
the rise and fall of all the great empires, first the various Persian and
Mesopotamian empires that fluctuated across Arabia, then the Greek empire,
was conquered by Alexander the Great in 333 BCE. When Alexander the Great died
his wife was pregnant. His generals got together to discuss the fate of his
empire, and decided to wait to see if the child was a boy or girl. A boy would
get the empire intact, a girl and the generals would split it between them.
Ptolemy, the general who took Egypt
once the daughter was born also took Jordan. The Jordan region was later
ruled by the Persian Seleucids and Sassanians before the Turkish Byzantines took
over, and was then conquered by Islamic empires in 7thcentury, first
the Umayyad Empire, then the Abbasids, Fatimids and Seljuk Turks (in 1037 CE).
The region was captured in 1099 during Pope Urban II’s Crusades, and recaptured
in the 12thcentury by Nur ad-Din, Saladin and the Mamluks. Jordan was ruled by the Ottoman Turks from 1516
until WWI, where the Turks fought with Germany,
to send Lawrence of Arabia to convince the Arabs to rise up against the Turks
on the promise of independence after the war. They did, but England broke the promise, and ruled Transjordan
as a League of Nations colony until after
WWII, when it finally became independent.
Last night was painful with a cold desert camp and an ear-nose-throat
infection, but I got to wake up in the Wadi Rum, the desert valley where
Lawrence of Arabia was based. He got first class Honours for his thesis on
Crusader Architecture. This morning was spent on a jeep safari across the Wadi
Rum. The desert is a yellow sandy desert between barren mountains, but the
unusually heavy rains recently have caused startlingly bright green plants to
blossom from the sand. When the hills roll just so, the plants line up and the
desert looks beautiful and green.
We drove to a cleft in a mountain crag, squeezed in through the siq and found a
2500 year-old Persian map carved into a stone table, outlining water pools and
tracks through the desert. We then drove through to see some natural rock
bridges, Wadak Rock
Bridge and Burdah Rock
Bridge, which I looked at
and Michelle climbed. We saw a few camels, and some normadic Bedouin with herds
of goats. There was much for the goats to eat right now, with the rains, and
they have some very clever ways to survive the dry years. One of the mountains
we saw rising out of the desert contained an 18m deep stone well, craved
straight into the mountain. The entire mountain was then landscaped with
funnels and walls to divert all rainflow into the well. I walked up and down a
tall sand dune (very tough), Hudson would be proud of Michelle for following
the Wiggles advice and running up and then rolling down the sand dune.