Lawrence of Arabia Tour Report

Tour Guide Eamonn Gearon writes:

Jordan is a beautiful country, with a great variety of landscapes to admire. These include some magnificent desert scenery, notably the legendary Wadi Rum; the Dead Sea, the lowest place on the face of the earth; verdant, rolling hills and mountain peaks. And a trip to Jordan in March has the added bonus of – usually – warm weather and glorious displays of wildflowers blooming everywhere. There was so much more to this trip than the First World War, which everyone said made it all the more special.

In eight days, not only were we able to see some of the most important sites pertaining to Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Revolt, but also the gamut of Middle Eastern history, including pre-Roman remains, Roman cities, outposts of the early Islamic Empire, Crusader castles, Ottoman forts, and the welcoming face of modern Jordan. There simply wasn’t a day without a “Wow” moment, whether for the natural splendour of Jordan’s countryside, or when listening to some particularly dramatic tale from history.

As I explain the story of Lawrence and the Arab Revolt, there were two phases: before Aqaba and after Aqaba. The fort here is not the world’s largest, but for the story of the First World War I in the Middle East it was of vital importance, and it’s great to stand within its gates and to introduce the drama of that particular theatre of war … separating facts from fiction in the process. David Lean and the Hollywood machine has a lot to answer for!

Petra never fails to delight, both first-timers and old hands, and once again, it worked its magic on our party. We had the added bonus of being able to do “Petra by night,” an early evening, candlelight walk through the one-mile canyon that leads to this ancient city. Those guests who took part loved it, and found the simplicity of the flute playing and story-telling rather more moving than the standard, kitsch “sound and light” shows.

It’s always fun taking people to a place they’ve never been, and perhaps weren’t even expecting. On this trip, I think Jerash was that site. One of the largest and intact extant Roman cities, guests were genuinely surprised and impressed at the extent of the Roman ruins. With its theatres, temples, shopping arcades, and forum, this is a city that allows you to explore all sides of a once thriving Roman city in an afternoon.

There’s nothing like standing in the same spot as figures from history, and on this trip guests said they real got a feel for both the First World War in the Middle East and the broader spectrum of regional history, from the rise of Islam to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and on into the present day politics.

Wherever we went in Jordan, we were blessed by the fact that we could walk without being pestered to buy souvenirs, and without being cheek-by-jowl with thousands of other tourists, even at Petra, recently voted one of the world’s new Wonders of the World. Jordan’s sad economic loss was certainly our party’s gain.

 

10-April-2015

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