As Nautica recently departed the Mediterranean and sailed for Asia, the ship transited the Suez Canal and paid a visit to Aqaba, Jordan’s only seaport. This region north of the Red Sea boasts a rich history and several archaeological digs, as Aqaba’s location made it a major junction for historic trade routes between Africa, Asia and Europe.
Oceania Cruises guests enjoyed an excursion from Aqaba to the hidden city of Petra. This trip illuminated Jordan’s ancient past as well as some stories from more recent history. The motorcoach route traced the path of the World War I adventures of T.E. Lawrence, a British Army officer instrumental in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. An archaeological researcher prior to the outbreak of war, Lawrence was side-by-side with Arab rebels and helped lead the attack on Aqaba. With the seaport secure, Lawrence and the Arabs conducted various exercises throughout the region that would eventually lead them to Damascus. Lawrence later wrote about the exploits, and his tales ultimately inspired the movie Lawrence of Arabia.
Photographs of Petra might indeed remind you of a movie set, as you may have seen it in films before. Even though Lawrence of Arabia was not ultimately filmed in Jordan, various movies have used the region as their backdrop. The structure carved into the vibrant red cliff below is known as Al Khazneh, or “The Treasury.” Various legends indicate it was a repository for either pirates’ loot or the bounty of Egyptian Pharaohs. You might recognize it as the temple featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Ad-Deir is known as “The Monastery” and can be seen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Regardless of whether they’ve been featured in film, all the sights of Petra are astounding and worthy of a visit if you have the opportunity. The entrance to the Great Temple dates back over 2,000 years and features both Roman and Byzantine enhancements.
Archaeological projects have unearthed a Byzantine church with a number of fascinating mosaics.
Natural rock formations provided the infrastructure for aqueducts and cisterns that enabled Petra to not only survive, but even prosper through drought. The Nabataean people established Petra as their capital around the sixth century BC, and their control of the water supply here led them to thrive in this desert oasis.
Petra’s vast stone cliffs not only served as the raw material for the rock-cut architecture, they also provided a means of creating permanent records.
The final stop on Oceania Cruises’ excursion was the magnificent amphitheater carved into the hillside.
The journey to Petra was certainly a memorable one, and it is easy to understand why many travelers have rated Petra amongst the world’s must-see destinations.