Tuesday, January 30, 2007



This is the final installment of a 3-part piece reporting on my journeys to vacationlands tormented by terrorist acts, civil war and natural catastrophe. In 2006, I had started my journeys by visiting Jordan and ended by visiting Bali, Indonesia. On the way I had traveled to Sri Lanka.

I should note that there was a suicide bombing at an Ammani hotel the month before I arrived, but there has been no such bombing in either 2006 or 2007 in Jordan.

Americans and Europeans seldom appreciate the huge burden of taking care of and integrating refugees that the poor Middle Eastern nation of Jordan has put up with for over six decades now. This is why well-over three million residents in Jordan now have the right to dual Jordanian and Palestinian citizenship.

The newest great influx in refugees are Iraqi victims of Civil War.

No country has accepted more refugees than Jordan from Iraq since the Invasion in 2003. Naturally, some of these refugees are quite wealthy and some are actually looters of Iraqi capital. (For example, some Iraqis have built humongous hotels in Amman and elsewhere.) However, the majority—either passing through or settling in this relatively dry desert land—are not wealthy Iraqis.

Of course, one of the great refugee groups of history were the ancient Israelites, who after they were chased out of Egypt in the time of Moses wandered the deserts of Egypt. These 1000s of Israelis wandered through the region for many decades. Moses, himself, never saw the foundation of an Israeli state. It was on a Jordanian hill overlooking the Jordan River where the Lord allowed Moses to see but not go into the Promised Land.

On my way to the great city of Petra, I stopped at the church which had been built at the point where Moses had stood and had brought his band of desert refugees over three millennia ago.
Earlier, in Amman City, I had met a young boy with no left eye and a scarred face from Fallujah, Iraq bombings by US forces earlier in the year 2004. That January 2006, this boy was staying in the same hotel as I near the bus station in Amman with his father. They were passing through Jordan on a journey to the United States. [The journey was being sponsored to a Pittsburgh, PA hospital and paid for by American donors and the organization NO MORE VICTIMS. See there website at http://www.nomorevictims.org/hakeem.php ]

Meanwhile, I didn't run into nearly as many Palestinians in or around the ancient city of Petra as I had encountered in Amman, the nation's capital city and known in Roman times as the City of Philadelphia—the city of brotherly love. On the other hand, I ran into more people who considered themselves Bedouin than in northern Jordan. Bedouin had wandered into the caves and troglodyte city of ancient Petra over the centuries after its decline and disappearance into oblivion over 15 centuries earlier.

Only in recent decades had the Jordanian government paid much attention to Petra and Wadi Run regions of southern Jordan. I took a camel and a donkey ride through the valley of Petra over several days and enjoyed lamb boiled in yoghurt at the government relocated homes of the Petra Bedouin.

I highly recommend traveling and hiking through the Valleys of Petra over at least a four day period.

Too many people just take a tour where they walk in and out of a canyon or "eye of a needle" on a two-hour tour. That is such a waste of a trip. One needs to sit in Petra's great amphitheatre carved out of a mountain and soak in the views all around him. As well as hiking, sitting, and marveling at the architecture and scenery, one needs to ride in Petra all the different transport and animals—horses, horse drawn carriages, camels, and donkeys--which make the Petra region so integrated with ancient middle eastern experience.

If one spends time with the many Bedouin and other Jordanians who labor or guide in the park, one will also learn of the importance of tribalism in the Middle East and how law and order in the south may be more dictated by tribal decision than by Jordanian jurisprudance.

Because Jordan has had so many people of Palestinian descent, the government of Jordan had to side with the PLA and Iraq in the Kuwaiti invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91. This resulted in an isolation from other Arab states during the following decade. Tourism was also hit particularly hard as fears of terrorism has affected travelers to the region over the last decade.
There is however now good news for Jordan that is found in the form of a fairly independent campaign to create a world-wide campaign to rename the "7 Wonders of the Ancient World" via an on-line voting system and lobbying by over 20 different nations and groups or organizers.

Recently, on January 16, 2007—one year from the day I left Jordan—Petra promoted its candidacy as a challenger for the Top 7 Title. The combination of both wonderful natural views and the ancient cave dwellings of the Nabatean Civilization make it a site to certainly consider voting for.

Check out how to vote on-line at: http://www.new7wonders.com/



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