From the Dead to the Red – by R. Pierobon (part II)

Few courageous ones decide to go for another healing swim in the Dead Sea and soon after a huge breakfast, we are ready to move towards our next destination. Anas has already prepared the bikes and once we put the luggage in the car, we start pedaling in the direction of the Red Sea. We soon realize we have a strenuous day in front of us: we have headwind up and down the road that runs along the Dead Sea, and Lorella who is the a lightweight, is forced to pedal even when going downhill or the wind won’t allow her to move. The wind finally dies at the end of the coastal road but the heat and the humidity force Teo, Mirella and Lorella to a stop and they decide to use the van instead, while Piero, Giacomo and I along with Anas, decide to proceed on our bikes. Once we start the ascent leaving the valley behind, Piero and I also give up, leaving Giacomo and Anas as the only survivors of the expedition. Soon after though, Ghepard has to go back to pick them up as they find themselves out of energies. On top of the hill where we eat our lunch, a group of Iraqi vacationers is dancing near by. We get closer as they intrigue us and soon we are asked to join them in their dances, starting a spontaneous multicultural exchange between Italians, Jordanians and Iraqis: a fantastic experience! We leave to reach Karak, the city where we will spend the night and where we visit the castle, a Crusade fortress used to defend Jerusalem from the Moors’ raids. The ruins are majestic and after taking several pictures, we get on the bikes again on the road to Dana, where we arrive in the late evening. We spend the night in a village undergoing some renovations: our very simple rooms go well with the ruins context and we dine at the only restaurant there is. A group of Jordanians entertain us with folk chants, music and songs engaging all of us and making this evening unforgettable.

It’s a new day and a new destination. We are heading to Shobak’s Castle, pedaling vigorously. We meet a lot of ancient ruins on the King’s Path since the road runs next to the Promised Land so for this reason, the Crusader built several defense fortresses all along the way. Atef takes us inside the castle through a tunnel dug in the rocks by the Crusaders during the Moors’ siege. We need to use torchlights and we grope our way forward thru countless borrows until we reach the inside of the fortress, where we spend our time taking pictures and shooting short videos. After stopping for lunch and savor a delicious barbeque chicken that Atef has prepared for us and that we have literally devoured, we ride on a paved road (to be precise, our itinerary runs along the actual King’s Path, which is all paved, while we are going on a dirt road for the most part of it).  A descent is suddenly in front of us: Piero, Anas and I don’t miss the change to run downhill like crazy, all the way to the entrance of the city of Petra, where two policemen stop us because we are over the speed limits! We need to thank Atef for interceding for us, saving us from trouble and calling us to order. We have great expectations when it comes to Petra so we decide to spend and entire day here to enjoy a complete visit of this beauty. 

We start by walking towards the entrance of the canyon that leads us to the archeological site. Anas buys the tickets and make the arrangements with the local guide who will tell us everything about this place’s secrets.  We reach the Sik, so it’s the path that leads us to the Al Khazneh “The Treasury” called. After walking along the path and listening to Giacomo’s translation of the stories and the explanations, the Treasury is finally in front of us, light up by the sun and in all its glory. This Nabateans’ building, this is the name of the civilizations that built it in the rocks, had been hidden for centuries and now it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Before leaving, the guide informs use that if we go up the hill we will be able to see another sanctuary and the sacrifice altar. We are not really sure if we should stop for lunch or walk the distance to the altar, but at the end we decide to keep going. There is a “taxi” service available: riding a donkey, and we take advantage of it to make it faster to the top and be back before the restaurant closes.  We negotiate the price and the owner let us get on the six donkeys, explaining we need to hold on tight and move our weight forwards when in the presence of steps. What do you mean? Isn’t the boy going to drive them? Absolutely not!

Right there and then we do not pay much attention to his recommendations but once he set the animals free, they rush ahead, racing each other for the lead. They know their way by heart and do not stop until we reach the top. You can only imagine the screaming and the cursing: just think the path is on the edge of a cliff and some of the passages underneath the rocks are so low and narrow we need to duck in order to get by. And we are not considering the fact that there are people coming and going on the same road!! We reach our destination after sweating our guts out, and finally dismount the donkeys: the Sanctuary is there, a less known building than the Treasury but not less impressive. We are dead tired by the time we get to the hotel but even so, we decide to attend the event that takes place at the Treasury every Wednesday night. We go back to the site and the magical and amazing atmosphere created by two lines of candles that light up the canyon mesmerizes us.  We silently walk engrossed in deep thoughts while admiring the glare of the candles on the side of the rocks and we reach the space in front of the Treasure, also light up in the same way. We take a seat on matting on the floor and we are offered some tea: at the same time the music show starts creating an atmosphere from different times.


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