Petra: The Definitive Guide
Al-Beidha (Little Petra)
Petra Nearby Attractions
Less than an hour north of Petra stands an impressive castle as a lonely reminder of former Crusader glory, crowning a cone of rock, which rises above a wild and rugged landscape dotted with a grand sweep of fruit trees below.
It is today known as Shobak, but to the Crusaders it was Mont Real (Crak de Montreal) or Mons Regalis, the Fortress of the Royal Mount. It was built in 1115 by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Damascus to Egypt, and was the first of a string of similar strongholds in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Salahuddin Al-Ayyoubi (Saladin) attacked it on several occasions, finally capturing it in 1189 (only 75 years after it was raised) when the Crusaders were losing their foothold throughout the Holy Land. Inscriptions by Saladin's proud successors appear on the castle wall. In 1260, it passed to the Mamluks whom restored it in the following century, adorning its walls and towers with Arabic inscriptions which testify to their work. Since then it has lain largely untouched, gradually falling into greater disrepair.
Feel the romance of the Arabian Desert in the springtime or anytime, at Wadi Rum 120 km (75 m - 1¼ hour drive) south of Petra. Let the fabled T.E. Lawrence come alive, whether through memories stirred from the screen version or from the pages of history and the actual exploits of the legendary British officer.
Wadi Rum is like a moonscape of ancient valleys and towering weathered sandstone mountains rising out of the white and pink colored sands. Much of David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" was filmed here and it was also the location where T.E. Lawrence himself was based during the Arab revolt.
Today Wadi Rum challenges climbers to scale its sheet granite and sandstone cliffs, to hike along mountain trails and valleys, to trek deep into the enchanting landscape in four-wheel-drive vehicles, or to join 2 or 3 day desert safaris on camels' back or 4*4 vehicles.
Aqaba, 188 km (117.5 m - 2 hours drive) south of Petra, enjoys a spectacular Red Sea setting of purple colored mountains and sandy beaches where one can swim, sail, surf, and water ski, or dive into a magical world of exotic fish and corals.
From as far back as 5500 years ago Aqaba has played an important role in the economy of the region. It was a prime junction for land and sea routes from Asia, Africa and Europe, a role it still plays today. Because of this vital function, there are many historic sites to be explored within the area, including what is believed to be the oldest purpose-built church in the world.
Aqaba's main attractions include some of the World's finest scuba diving and snorkeling sites, a full range of water sports from beach-front hotels, an extensive aquarium, and a museum.