Tag Archives: jordan
July 18, 2012

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January 18, 2012

The Siq

The Siq

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The third Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, made the ruins of Petra, in the Kingdom of Jordan, famous.  I’ll admit that the imagery in that movie – namely the huge architectural façade carved out of the face of a sandstone cliff – inspired me to travel there when we found ourselves in the Middle East.

While Petra’s Treasury (or “Al Khazneh,” as it’s known in Arabic) is the most famous monument in the park, I actually found other parts to be more interesting.  The colors of the rock inside the Urn Tomb were much brighter and had intricate veins throughout, while the biggest and most impressive rock-cut temple, the Monestary, stood at the top of a long stone staircase that rivals anything on the Inca Trail.  The Siq, though… The Siq was my favorite part of Petra.

“Siq” is an Arabic word meaning “shaft,” and what an impressive shaft it is!  Beginning at roughly the entrance to the park, it winds gently downward almost a full mile before opening directly in front of the Treasury.  Except for perhaps an hour or two during midday, the sun never touches the bottom and while the rocky walls towering above you are aglow with sunlight, the floor is below is nice and cool.

The walls of the Siq were pulled apart by geologic activity and the lower sections have been worn smooth by countless flash floods.  Part of the restoration of Petra was building a new dam to hold the waters back.  Without the dam, the Siq would be a very dangerous place to be during one of the rare rainy days in that part of Jordan.

Taking a good photo in this natural canyon is more difficult than you might imagine.  During the day, the sky and upper walls are incredibly bright while the bottom lies in shadow.  Expose for the lower walls and the top will be totally blown out.  During the golden hours of sunrise and sunset, the sun is at such an extreme angle that it barely illuminates the edges of the cliffs 600 feet above your head.  Without illumination, those rich golden colors in the wall seem dull and grey.  Sunrise and sunset are usually the best times to take pictures of landscapes, but canyons only benefit from that soft lighting when they’re running exactly east-to-west.

Looking over my Siq photos, I found a few with compositions that I really liked, where the wall’s curves snaked through the photo’s third lines and created interesting shapes with light and shadow.  Unfortunately, the best of those had the sun directly overhead, rendering the floor of the Siq as nothing more than a hard white line.  The sky is blown out in this photo, but it’s such a small element of the overall composition that it doesn’t even matter.  The walls are beautiful, just as I remember them.  I love the lone janitor with his bucket, too, about to go around the corner.  Without him, we wouldn’t have the proper sense of scale.

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 11:34am, 3 August 2011
Focal Length: 24mm
Shutter: 1/50 sec
Aperture: F/4
Exposure: -1.3 step
Flash: No
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Auto levels, minor saturation increase

October 10, 2011

Thoughts on Israel

Toward the end of our stay in Egypt, we began looking for a way to reach Eastern Europe.  Our plan had always been to start somewhere around Turkey and work our way north.  There were many routes we could take, some of which were easily discarded due to visa costs.  Even so, we looked forward to visiting Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia before entering Russia.

But before all of that, we had to find our way to Turkey.  Overland from Jordan was simply not an option, not with the unrest in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.  We thought for sure we could find a cruise ship or ferry or something out of Israel, but that turned out to be next to impossible.  When all was said and done, we simply purchased a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul.  Simple, but spendy.

Because we lingered in Africa, we were in a rush by the time we got to Israel.  I would have enjoyed having a week or more to visit historical sites like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Jordan River, but by the time we crossed the border, we had barely 24 hours before our flight out.

Fortunately, our friend, Michal, was living in Tel Aviv and offered to show us around.  We packed quite a bit into that day and a half and, with her there to answer my questions, we learned a lot about the country, too.

We spoke a lot about geopolitics – I was very curious about how Israelis see themselves, how they fit in in the Middle East, and how religion plays a role in their country’s politics.  I’m not going to get into that here.  I know I wouldn’t be able to do our conversations justice, but furthermore, I didn’t get a chance to talk with anyone else.  While very informative, hers was only one Israeli’s opinion.


October 5, 2011

PVX: McDonald’s in The Kingdom of Jordan

I have to admit that recording this video — even asking to stop at a McDonald’s on the way — felt a little awkward.  I’m self-conscious enough recording videos in a restaurant; doing the same thing with two strangers in the car?  A little odd.  After it was over, though, Tina said I sounded very natural, so maybe it doesn’t come across that bad.

Exercise for the viewer: See if you can spot the continuity error!

October 3, 2011

Thoughts on Jordan

Let me ask you a question:  How many times have you read about Jordan in the news?  Thinking back, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Jordan making headlines.  Now, what about the countries that surround it?  Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.  Can you remember a time when one of those countries made international news?  Maybe once or twice?

Most people only know about the Kingdom of Jordan because of Petra, the ruins that played a part in the third Indiana Jones movie.  To be honest, that’s about all I knew of it before we arrived, too.

We ended up sharing a cab ride, from Aqaba to Petra, with an Australian woman a short time after we cleared immigration.  I asked our cab driver how, in such a volatile region, Jordan doesn’t make any waves.  His answer?  “We’re peaceful – the Switzerland of the Middle East!”

Maybe so, but I just did a Google search for “the Switzerland of the Middle East” and the tagline seems to belong to Lebanon.  For some reason.  Huh.

At any rate, Jordan was a very pleasant change from Egypt.  We noticed many differences right away.