Over a weekend in April, I took a trip with a few friends to Jordan in search of the Holy Grail.  Although we did not find the object of our quest, we had an amazing time exploring the ancient city of Petra and venturing into the desert landscape of Wadi Rum.  Our journey began with a 6-hour bus ride through the desert from Tel Aviv to the southernmost Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea.  We spent the rest of our first day snorkeling in the coral reef and enjoying the amenities at the Orchid Hotel.  The next day we rose at dawn, crossed into Jordan, took a taxi into the border city of Aqaba, and after some negotiation we hired a driver to take us 2 hours north to Petra.  There we explored the ancient city carved into the desert sandstone, took a detour off the main trail for scenic views of old and new Petra, and attempted to capture the scale of the natural beauty in myriad photographs.  While riding horses along the central tourist path, we befriended a Bedouin named Abdula who offered us lodging in his family’s campsite.  At the end of the day, Abdula drove us to a few roadside outposts for views of the sunset and then onto his family’s land.  The Bedouins were very accommodating: for 20 dinar/person (~$30/person) we received two meals, beds, nargileh, and all the tea we could drink.  The following morning, we departed from Petra and traveled south to Wadi Rum where we hired a local villager for a tour of the landmarks.  In complete awe, we saw etchings by prehistoric cultures, the impressive Mount Rum, sandstone that appeared to be melting from wind erosion, and a monolithic sand dune.  Experiencing the massive expanses of desert at high speeds from the backseat of a decrepit SUV was humbling as well.  In all, this trip set the record for the most pictures I have taken in a 48-hour period, awakened my appetite for the typical Arabic spice set, and instilled within me a reverence for the earliest human cultures.

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