Before Sunset

Waiting for sunset, Wadi Rum

Earlier this week, I wrote on my Snap Chat post about how challenging it is to take a good picture of sunset. This is a photograph taken before sunset, in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordon. We climbed up some rocks and found our vantage points to watch the light fade over the valley.

~ Spotted Cow

Finding St George in Jordan

St George church Madaba

Today is St George’s Day. St George is Greek, and I haven’t worked out how he came to be England’s patron saint, but the English flag bears his cross.

I’m going to skip across the lands today. This post-card is from Jordan, where I came across the Greek Orthodox church of St George in the town of Madaba.  I knew it was the same St George because there was a mural of him slaying a dragon to save the princess.

The special thing about this church is that it has a 20-foot wide 6th century mosaic map of The Holy Lands. It’s on the floor in the middle of the church. At its heart is an enlarged pictorial representation of Jerusalem, inscribed “The Holy City”. It’s impressive that something fragile like this can survive the carelessness of time.

Historians dated it by noting the existence of the Jerusalem structures in the map and they worked out that it was made somewhere between 542 and 570. I thought that was a very simple and clever way to get it down to a 30 year window. My wild guess would’ve been carbon dating or some such method.

Incidentally, Madaba is Mosaic Central, if you’re of the art history or interior décor bent.  There are mosaics everywhere, a tradition passed down from the Byzantines and the Muslim Umayyads.

~ Spotted Cow

Mosaic map Madaba Mural of St George

Dead Sea mud

Did you know that the Dead Sea is landlocked? It is a lake, and also the deepest hypersaline lake in the world.  On the shoreline, you’re sub-sea at 393m below sea level.

We did what you would expect, which is jump in the sea and try to swim … but the salinity makes you just bob along.  Don’t fight it. Get one of your friends to pose for the classic picture where they’re floating about reading the newspaper.  We forgot to do that and the beach was steep and a bit of a faff to get out again.  I took my one floaty picture of a random swimmer and jumped in.

Afterward we smeared our bodies with handfuls of therapeutic Dead Sea mud from large buckets sitting on the beach.  I’m sure it was someone’s idea of a joke. It’s a demon and a half washing the dried mud off !

~ Spotted Cow

Dead Sea mud Dead Sea shores Dead Sea floater  Dead Sea salt

Petra, Jordan

Petra is vast. What I showed of The Siq and The Treasury were the mere beginnings of two very full days walking and climbing around the city inhabited by the Nabateans.

It seemed like every corner you turned and every staircase and path you climbed, there was an immense slab of rock-cut architecture or a breathtaking vista waiting. Some have mysterious and haunting names like the Monastery and the High Place of Sacrifice. Others are giant stones of solitude. One big rock I came upon looked like a huge chameleon.

You can be assured that wherever you take your cup of tea, the view will be impressive. And if your legs can’t keep up with your curiosity, you might find a Jack Sparrow lookalike happy to rent out his camel, or one of his mates their donkey.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking, and you’ll see why Petra is on a lot of traveller bucket lists.

~ Spotted Cow

Jack Sparrow lookalike tea garden PetraNabatean tombs PetraHigh Place of Sacrifice PetraPetra architectureThe Monastery Petra

Making an entrance

Entrances are usually instantaneous. You step up and you step in. But not the Siq. The Siq is the main entrance to the ancient city of Petra, and it is a corridor in the rock, a mile long and in some places not 10 feet wide. Geologically, it is a tectonic fault. This mile-long stroll is an exquisite deferred gratification, especially when you’re excited about visiting Petra.

Enjoy the walk – the golds, reds and browns of the canyon rock, the shallow ledges that hold sacred stones, the plants that eke out life from the stone, and simply watching other visitors.

If you are lazy or you just fancy a ride, you can hire a horse-drawn carriage for a handsome sum in Jordanian terms. Or you can negotiate a horse ride on one of their beasts with flaring nostrils. You’ll get to The Treasury quicker (and bumpier), but your journey won’t be nearly as rich. I reckon, better to do the carriage in the evening, when you’ve finished your long day at Petra.

~ Spotted Cow

Siq signcarriage Siqrocks Siqvisitors SiqAl Khazneh