Among the Ancients-Back in Petra

Amman- I spent two very long days hiking around the remains of the Nabatean kingdom in Petra in Jordan’s Ma’an governorate. I first explored this site back in 1998 when the surrounding area was far less developed and it was still slightly off the beaten track in terms of global tourism. Of course the internet was in its infancy back there and smartphones and social media wouldn’t come about to almost a decade on. I watched The Last Crusade in a dusty hostel on VHS with other western backpackers under the starry night in Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses), the then bare bones tourist town outside the site.

I never seen any place on earth that has this kind of spellbinding sandstone. ©2023 Derek Henry Flood

Jordan now has the hi-tech Jordan Pass system which works as a tourist visa-nationwide historic site all in one entry bundle bought online before arriving in the country. It also gives one priority entry at immigration at Queen Alia airport as an added bonus. I chose not to put this in the video because I wanted the vlog to narrowly focus on my own hiking experience and ad hoc interpretation of Petra’s storied yet still mysterious history but something I noticed at the Petra Visitors Center really, really irked me.

The Monastery at Petra. Simply superb. ©2023 Derek Henry Flood

There was a sign adjacent one of the ticket counters proudly displaying that the American taxpayer had supported the modernisation of Petra in partnership with an arm of the Jordanian government. Wait, what? Am I the only one aware of King Abdullah II’s place in the 2021 Pandora Papers leak? Jordan is the 2nd largest recipient of US aid after its neighbour Israel. On the surface I suppose that’s sort of OK. Jordan is a barren land in a tough neighbourhood and a staunch American ally and there really is something to be said for that. It’s an oasis of relative calm wedged in between war zones with no oil of its own to speak of, saddled with a massive refugee population (and not solely Syrians and Palestinians-there are Yemenis, Sudanese, and Somalis here as well). The King is lauded for not engaging in ostentatious displays of wealth that could risk alienating him from his subjects while annoying foreign donors undergirding his monarchy. But then we find out he owns a constellation of luxury homes from Washington to Malibu bought via shell companies that help him to offshore his massive wealth. If you love Jordan but loathe such hypocrisy, I recommend this piece on his secret homes by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Aside from Petra’s famous historic treasures from the golden age of the Nabatean people, its natural beauty should not be overlooked either. ©2023 Derek Henry Flood