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Places to Visit While You Can Still Walk on the Grass, Jordan Edition

Dec 27 2010
jpenrose's picture

While I'm still on the right side of the grass (i.e., above it), I'm working on my life list.

As-Siq and Al-Khazneh at Petra in Jordan

Jordan may lack the natural resources of its neighbors, but it is home to many natural and cultural splendors. The Dead Sea and Petra (photo, right) are two such wonders.

Chosen one of the seven wonders of the world and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra is truly incredible. Carved from the walls of a deep canyon and only accessible through a narrow opening in a narrow, kilometer long opening between 100' cliffs, called the As-Siq, Petra takes your breath away as you emerge from the As-Siq to the splendor of the Al-Khazneh, tomb. Most people know if from the Indiana Jones film, but Petra is much more interesting than a mere movie backdrop. When there, don't miss the 1/2 hour climb (or donkey ride if you are really adventurous) to Ad-Deir temple and truly spectacular views.

What fascinated me was how the Nabataeans designed elaborate water collection and flood management systems over 2,000 years ago to serve their city and attract the trade caravans that passed (and paid) for water.

Talking about water, the Dead Sea is another fascinating place. Over 1,000 feet below sea level the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. There are a bunch of cool and disturbing things about that. One, when water gets there it has nowhere left to go but up!? Up through evaporation that is, which is one reason that the Dead Sea is so salty. Two, because the salinity is so high, you float like nobody's business (in fact, I had a hard time trying to dive under the water it was so buoyant). Three, with less and less water actually reaching the Sea from the Jordan River (yes, you guessed it, human water consumption upstream), the Dead Sea is actually shrinking at an alarming rate. Scientists estimate that it could dry up completely within 50 years!

Dead Sea Sign in Jordan

Like the Nabataeans over 2,000 years before, the modern Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis are developing an ambitious joint plan to manage their water challenge. In this case, they propose to pipe sea water from the Red Sea over 300 kilometers away. Although ambitious, this plan is clever too: the elevation drop (map, left) can create enough water pressure to turn turbines, generating electricity and powering desalinization plants along the way. 

Linking the two seas sounds ambitious (and like most grandiose plans there will be unintended consequences), but if the cooperation continues, it may end up being called the "Seas of Peace" project. That's one consequence we can all feel good about!

Don't miss the chance to visit Jordan!