The Gallery: Buildings

Treasury at Petra

We’ve seen a lot of buildings during our travels but my favourite one is also probably one of the oldest. This is Al Khazneh, otherwise known as The Treasury, in Petra, Jordan.

It was built in the first century AD and you can see it wasn’t so much as built, as carved out of the beautiful rose-red sandstone that comprise the rock faces and canyons of this area. It was originally built as a mausoleum and the inside is basically a series of doors and very plain hollowed out rooms, in contrast to the beautifully detailed exterior.

The building was named ‘The Treasury’ by  local people after legends told of treasure kept in the urn right at the top of the facade. The mythical treasure has been said to belong to the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, or a group of bandits and pirates. The urn has been shot at many times in the hope that the valuables may tumble out, but it has been proved that the carved urn is in fact solid sandstone and it is unlikely the treasure ever existed.

Many of the smaller details of the exterior carving has been eroded over time but the figures are fittingly supposed to be various figures from mythology associated with the afterlife.

We visited Petra as a family four years ago along with other places in Jorden, and it was one of our best family holidays ever. There are many other buildings to explore in the ancient city of Petra, but a lot of tour groups just come down the the Siq, look at the Treasury, and leave again. That’s why there are so many people in this photo. The rest of the ancient city is much less crowded and if you go all that way it seems a pity not to explore just that little bit further, so we spent the best part of a day there.

Deserted Petra

This post was written for this week’s Gallery theme of Buildings. Check out this week’s post over at Sticky Fingers

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Holidays For Easter: Jordan with Kids

We took our children, aged 4, 6, 8 and 10 years, to Jordan for a week, with Families Worldwide. We also took a Granny ( see photos below).

We accept this is not a traditional holiday destination when you have kids, but we all had a fantastic time and would highly recommend it if you would like to do something a bit adventurous and interesting with your family.

I’ve blogged about our holiday in detail here ( Click ‘next’ to read about the next days adventure) so thought I’d just go over a few general points about travelling through Jordan in this post.

1/ If you travel with a tour company, such as FW, you will be accompanied by a member of the Tourist Police. We were told this is a long-term arrangement and has nothing to do with the trouble in Syria at the moment. The Tourist Police are supposed to make sure your travels in Jordan are trouble free; ours didn’t seem to do much. But he was perfectly pleasant and tagged along with our tour, disappearing and appearing periodically on the periphery of the group. You can say no, you don’t want them to accompany you, but it’s considered best to just go with the flow.

2/ Jordan is a country of contrasts and there is always something to look at out of the window. Their approach to driving is fast and furious, and they seemed hoot their horns to say ‘hello, I’m here’ as well as ‘get out of my way’. Crossing roads can be tricky; if a car stops for you, then make sure someone else isn’t going to overtake it at full speed and plough straight into your group. Don’t assume you are safe on a pedestrian crossing either; keep your wits about you and remember they (usually) drive on the right hand side of the road in Jordan.

Jordanians also like to pack as many people as possible into a vehicle. Car seats are unheard of and seat belts are often disregarded. If you hire a taxi or car, you may be expected to squeeze more people into it than you feel comfortable with, so be prepared to have to insist on a bigger vehicle if necessary.

3/ There is a lot of litter in Jordan. Make sure your children know not to pick up anything they see lying on the ground.

4/ Things aren’t cheap in Jordan. Breakfast was provided with our tour, but we had to pay for lunch and dinner, as well as snacks and drinks. Tipping is expected, and although we were told that we should just give whatever we felt like, I had two occasions where I was told I hadn’t tipped enough. DH never had a problem with this, so I wonder if this was a different attitude to women? A 10% tip is a good rule of thumb. We spent around 20-30 GBP per person, per day on average.

5/ Petra is amazing but there is a lot of walking. If you have children, and want to explore a lot of the site, be prepared to hire a donkey or mule for your children to ride.

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After the end of a long day’s walking, you can hire a carriage in to take you back from the Treasury to the site entrance. You can squeeze 1 adult and a couple of kids into this, along with the driver, but it’s very bumpy along the Siq and the drivers whip the horses quite badly. Be prepared for any older horse-loving children to be upset.

6/ Food consists of alot of flat bread, chicken, rice and vegetables. The starters are often dips made of yoghurt, hummus and aubergine. None of ours starved but our youngest lived on bread and cheese for about a week. Take some boxes of cereal bars along with you if you have slightly fussy eaters.

Only drink bottled water, and wash all fruits and vegetables before eating. The water is safe to brush you teeth with though.

7/ If you are going to stay in the desert, make sure you have some warm clothes with you. It gets very cold at night. We slept in our normal clothes with a fleece over the top, and socks in our feet.

8/ Finally a word about the loos. All the toilets we used had seats but most of them had signs saying not to throw toilet paper into them. Used paper goes into bins to the side of the loos. Taking your own paper into any toilet is a good idea, but if there is someone handing out paper, you will be expected to leave a small tip. I got caught without money at one point and the attendant wasn’t happy.

So, if you haven’t seen Jordan before children, but wish you had, then don’t let your offspring prevent you from travelling to this country. Jordanians love children and our younger two were very popular with the local school children. The travelling isn’t arduous and it’s not a dangerous or unpleasant country to visit. What are you waiting for?

If you’ve blogged about a holiday you’ve taken during the Easter period, within the UK  or abroad, then please link it up here. It doesn’t even have to be this year’s holiday, post a link to last year’s destination as well if you want.

 

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Days 7 & 8. Floating And Bumping.

The hotel we stayed in in Aqaba was pretty central, therefore quite noisy, but I didn’t hear a thing all night. The kids were the same; we were officially shattered.

We woke to a rather cloudy day but a great breakfast including the most luridly coloured, obviously extruded breakfast cereal I have ever seen. I heard one American woman tell her son that he wasn’t allowed any in no uncertain terms, but I let ours have a bowl each. It turned out they didn’t like the taste anyway, but it turned the milk the most amazing shade of blue!

Our first task on the bus was to drop one of our families off at their hotel down the coast a bit. It was a 25 min coach ride away and was right next to the American Naval Base which had the Mum fretting that they were going to be wiped out by a badly aimed missile. I laughed, but only because I would have been thinking exactly the same thing.

It was sad to say goodbye to this family as their children had been good companions to ours but we plan to keep in touch. read more

Day 6 Camels And Coral

When I say I woke up around 6am Friday morning, I mean I opened my eyelids. I  had spent most of Friday morning awake, thanks to the rampaging Jordanian doctors. Apparently our tour leader had asked them to quieten down shortly after midnight, with very little success.

So my first bit of advice  is if you are going to spend a night ( or two) in one of these camps; try to find out who you will be sharing it with.

Anyhow, I rolled out of bed needing the loo. This was a problem because the toilets were some distance away, and I knew they weren’t going to be pleasant. There were dry toilets in the camp, which means you did what you had to in a plastic bag fitted beneath a toilet seat, then you threw a couple of handfuls of chopped straw on top of your leavings. The loos had been fresh enough when we arrived, but were not going to be so clean after being used frequently by a group of health professionals who had had no interest in going to bed.

After I’d finished in there *shudder*, I was heading back to the tent when I noticed a bunch of people leaving the camp and heading towards a big sand dune to the West. I checked the kids were still asleep, then followed the walkers and was greeted by this sight. read more

Day 5: Wadi Rum

We were all a little late getting to breakfast on Thursday morning.

There had been various optional activities available the previous night. One was ‘Petra by Night’, where they light a lot of candles as you walk down the Siq to the Treasury, where you sit and listen to some traditional music. We decided to skip this as our kids had done enough walking, and besides, any one attending was asked to stay quiet. Our children are not capable of being quiet so we gave it a miss. The people who did go enjoyed it but agreed it wasn’t really suitable for younger children.

Others in our group went to the local Turkish baths and had a great massage and hose down. This appealed to me more but I didn’t fancy it with two kids tagging along, so we all got an early night. read more

The Gallery: Easter.

It’s a late entry for the Gallery this week as I had no internet access last Wednesday.

Our Easter break was a game of two halves this year. We spent the first week in the UK going for walks, and preparing for the second week when we hopped on a plane headed off to Jordan.

I’m halfway through blogging about how we spent our days in the Middle East, but wanted to use this week’s Gallery entry to put up a few of my favourite Jordan photos.

I’ve mentioned before how fascinated the Jordanian school children seemed to be by the smaller kids with our tour. DS soon got fed up with being ‘papped’ and went into camera avoidance mode early on. On observing that our 4 year old was not going to cooperate and have his photo taken by her, one teenage girl asked my DH what was wrong with our son. ‘He’s shy’, he told her, to which she replied, very seriously, ‘Shy is not so good for a man’. read more

Day 4: Petra

After a good sleep for a change, we woke raring to go. Our collective good mood was buoyed by an excellent breakfast with stuff that DS would actually eat. Until this point, the only thing he seemed to have eaten was the round flat pita-like bread along with the odd Organix bar we were carrying with us. But in Petra he added a kind of processed cheese to his menu, and accepted it squashed between two bits of bread. This concoction became known to our group as ‘ a squashie’.

It was good that DS chose today to eat a decent breakfast. We all knew today was going to involve some serious walking as we were heading into Petra, ‘the rose red city half as old as time’.

Petra is Jordan’s most famous tourist attraction. It was built by the Nabateaens in around 6 B.C., and was an active, important  trading city even when the Romans took it over in around 106 A.D. Then, about a century later, it went into decline due to trade routes being diverted away from it and a large earthquake in 363 A.D. destroying buildings and the water system. The ruins were known of in the Middle Ages but weren’t rediscovered by the Western world until a Swiss traveler learned of their existence in 1812 by living among the Bedouin, who often camped among the ruins. Petra is now a World Heritage Site and is said to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

History lesson over,  we headed off to the entry to the site, stopping to buy DH his 3rd pair of sunglasses for this trip, and a couple of head scarves for DD1 and I.  read more

Day 2: Amman To Jerash.

I never sleep well the first night away from home, and last night was no exception. I woke bleary eyed only to find we had no light in the bathroom.

Both kids were still asleep so I got on with my shower and then had to wake them so we’d be on time for breakfast. Breakfast was sparse; all anyone would eat was toast and plastic cheese although DS did peel an egg, purely for something to do, it would seem.

We had to be packed and downstairs for a tour briefing at 8:30, so we’d be ready to leave at 9, so that was a bit of a rush. We made it though and weren’t the last family to arrive. read more