I confess, I am a history nerd – selective of course; ask me about the House of Plantagenet and you would receive a blank stare, but if you want to discuss the impact of the 365 Crete earthquake on the Middle East or the lengths young Johann Ludwig (Jean Louis) Burckhardt went to in his quest to discover the fourth-century BC capital of the Nabataeans at Petra, I’m your girl.
I lived in the Middle East a while, quite like the food, can understand and speak the language, but until we landed for our last visit, I did not realise I was traveling with a secret weapon, my son. Middle Eastern people in general, adore kids. Their eyes light up while their usual gregarious and generous natures are amplified tenfold – we were continuously invited home for dinner, offered gifts at every turn, engaged in conversation and if I ever had a problem accessing wifi in the hotel, I learnt unashamedly to send the child as any and every problem would be sorted immediately.
The mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea have been attracting visitors all the way back to King Herod and Cleopatra. My son bobbed happily around on top of the water pretending to read a German newspaper as that was all we could lay our hands on for the obligatory photographs.
The wonderful sixth-century mosaic floor map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox Church of St George in Madaba was our next stop. The town has one of Jordan’s largest Christian communities and incidentally, does a great falafel sandwich!
Arriving into Wadi Musa we thought we would stop at one of two possible locations where Moses supposedly struck a rock with his staff and water flowed forth for thirsty Israelites. The trickle of water inside a simple modern domed building left us feeling decidedly underwhelmed.
That changed as we got up bright and early the next morning to explore Petra. The ticket includes a horse ride down to the siq, the narrow entrance carved through rock. Fortunately, the gentle creatures are not as wild-eyed as their owners who are keen for lively banter, mainly in pursuit of a big tip.
Humming the Indiana Jones theme tune, my son and I stepped out of the siq as the façade of the Treasury soared above us. We stood agape at the magnificence of it all before spending the rest of the morning creating stories as we explored amphitheatres, caves, tombs, temples and a monastery — all carved from stone.
Monastery with blue sky in background high in Petra mountains
Travelling with children allows you to see the world in quite a different way. Suddenly finding gladiators playing the bagpipes at Jerash is not kitsch but fascinating, and being stuck in a sandstorm is not an irritation but an opportunity to stop for ice-cream so we can marvel at the power of Mother Nature.
He loved every moment and yes, we have a second selective history nerd in the family as a result.