MIDDLE EAST - part II
From the Holy Land to the Nabataean deserts of Jordan & Saudi Arabia
> Journeying 5 months across the Middle East where part II covered Israel, Jordan & Saudi Arabia's Tabuk province <
This is leg two on a longer journey across the Middle East. We kick off this leg by exploring the charms and chaos of Jerusalem – one of the single most admired, contested and loved cities in the world with a cultural and religious make-up like no other place on earth. From there, we cross Israel’s three vast deserts: the Negev Desert, the Arava Desert and the Judean Desert. We have seen most of Israel, and surely the most interesting part is the desert regions with its many national parks, nature reserves, and the freshest air in the country. Along the way, we opt to always stay in charming farm settlements – either in kibbutzes or moshavs – placed in rural areas and marked by the harsh desert elements. It isn’t the Sahara, but Israel's deserts are big enough to justify a few weeks here. We finalize the desert loop by exploring the Dead Sea, from where we cross into Jordan.
From Amman, we visit all of the important sights in the Jordan Valley in north, before traveling along the King’s Highway down to the deserts in south. From Bethlehem to Petra, exploring this part of the Middle East is in many ways like taking a time machine through the history of mankind. It has a historical past and pedigree that can be argued to be one of the oldest on Earth. The region been inhabited throughout the centuries by nomads, biblical prophets, merchants of the exotic, conquering armies of the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders and Ottoman Turks. All of these civilizations have left their mark here. History-buffs will love finding settlements dating back 10,000 years BC, ancient Roman cities, Petra of the Nabatean kingdom, crusader castles and castles of the Islamic era, Jesus Christ' place of baptism, Moses burial place on Mt. Nebo, the oldest Mosaic map of the Holy land, and so on.
Finally, we reach the desert region of southern Jordan and north-west Saudi Arabia. This region offers some of the most dramatic and enchanting desert landscape of sand and rocks on earth. With a reputation for conservatism (and the fact that it can be difficult to obtain a visa for Saudi Arabia), very few travelers come here. But this region is very charming, full of remote Bedouin communities, bewitching villages and Nabatean tombs. We do a lot of trekking and arrange several 4x4 trips into the deserts. This part still has some of the charm that allured the 19th century explorers into Arabia. It still has the rumor of a forbidden kingdom - a land worth visiting because it is so unknown, difficult to enter and furnished with exotic impossibility.
Continue to Middle East part III for leg three on this journey.