I will never forget my first view of Petra’s Treasury (el-Khazneh), glimpsed one early morning over seven years ago after a long, winding walk through the ancient city’s famous Siq (canyon). I have returned many times since, and the view never fails to swipe my breath away. This view of Petra is an iconic one, and has hardly changed since the Nabateans carved their city out of the sheer rockface of the spectacular Shara mountains of southern Jordan around the first century BC. Then, two hundred years ago this year, on 22 August 1812, young Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt also experienced the same breathtaking view when he entered Petra after it had been lost for many hundreds of years. The city is now celebrating its rediscovery, and my piece for TIME Magazine, giving Five Reasons to Visit Petra, was published to coincide with the events. (If you are not a TIME subscriber you can read the PDF version here).
When in Ramallah, I was lucky enough to be offered a stay at the new five-star Mövenpick which has recently opened up in the city. It was a gorgeous and opulent hotel, as you’d expect from this luxury chain, and in any other part of the world, its existence would have been unremarkable. But the fact that its opened in a city which suffers from so many economic and other restrictions is testament to the enterprise of its people, and the vision of the Mövenpick hotel chain. As the general manager, Michael Goetz, told me: “To the Palestinians this is not only a hotel it’s a monument, a symbol of a new start, a good future, economic stability, of hope and peace.” Part of the interview I did with him was published as a ‘Letter From … Ramallah’ in the Sunday Telegraph’s SEVEN magazine (scroll down the page to see it).