If your heart’s yearning for a change of scenery, surrender to NANCY ROCKETT’s new places to fall in love with in 2017. First stop, Petra, Jordan.
More thrilling, possibly, than watching Omar Sharif emerge from the sand dunes in Lawrence of Arabia is seeing the remarkable rose-gold Treasury appear at the end of a beautifully atmospheric tunnel, or rather, gorge – Petra’s sculptural Siq. Is it a mirage or is this reality? That you’ve already seen this exquisite temple in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade doesn’t take away its unparalleled majesty in real life.
Carved into sandstone rock by the Nabateans in around 1BC, it is the jewel in the crown of a truly awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s studded with treasures, from the amphitheatre to the vistas from the Monastery and High Place of Sacrifice (donkeys and dromedaries are available if your calves can’t hack the pace). While being the polar opposite of “new”, Jordan has sadly fallen from public consciousness due to being landlocked by its comparatively unstable neighbours Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Lebanon. Contrary to perceptions, though, Jordan is one of the safer Middle Eastern countries after its younger, shinier counterparts – the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain – and is infinitely more beautiful, making its tourism nosedive (a drop of 66 per cent since 2011) all the more bittersweet. The fact that camels now outnumber selfie-stick-wielding tourists – and the locals remain sweeter than the mint tea they quaff in astonishingly large quantities – make this the ideal time to visit this “New” Seventh Wonder of the World.
From its shisha-scented rooftop bar (open for the season from May to November) to its outdoor swimming pool, the five-star Mövenpick Resort Petra is an oasis of Arabian elegance. Tastefully designed and styled, it’s a luxurious bolthole to relax in after pounding the “streets” of the Rose City, movenpick.com.
Learn from the locals how to cook authentic Levantine cuisine at Petra Kitchen, where less than €50 buys the meal you’ve all prepared, soft drinks, souvenir recipes and a mezze masterclass you’ll remember forever, petrakitchen.com.
Fly from Dublin to Amman via London or Istanbul with a combination of Aer Lingus, British Airways and Turkish Airlines. Hire a car for the three-hour drive to Petra, take a five-hour bus – or hire a private cabbie for as many days as you want to explore the country.
This article originally appeared in the February issue of IMAGE magazine, on shelves nationwide now.