The Globe Trotter: 17 August
Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra
Of all the marvellous ancient monuments I have been lucky enough to see, Petra is the most memorable. Carved from the dusky-pink rock of the desert mountains around the 2nd century BC by the Nabataean Arabs, it lies 225km from Amman, capital of today's Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
It's the only reason you need to visit the country, renowned as the safest and friendliest in the Middle East under its popular and progressive ruler, King Abdullah II. This month would be an excellent time to go, too, as 22 August marks 200 years since Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt rediscovered Petra, bringing this archaeological wonder to our attention.
Now thousands of tourists a day arrive at the Unesco World Heritage Site and trek – and horse and buggy ride – through the narrow passageway called the Siq, to reach the remote, mysterious city.
You will recognise its most iconic image, the huge, elegant façade known as The Treasury, as featured in the 1989 Hollywood movie Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. The site is huge though, with dozens of tombs, temples and a Romanstyle theatre, too. It is estimated to see it all you'd have to walk 18km. But you can do as much or as little as you please.
While Petra, recently voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, is undoubtedly the best of Jordan's attractions, it's not the only one. The curative powers of the Dead Sea have been understood for centuries – fans included Cleopatra. Today's tourists appreciate the benefits of the salty water and mineral-packed mud in treating skin conditions such as eczema, as well as high blood pressure, rheumatism and arthritis.
Resorts nearby – including my favourite, the Kempinski Ishtar – have first-class spas offering scrubs, floats, facials and massages, too, or it's fun to just bob about for a bit in the buoyant water, so dense it's almost impossible to sink.
Another favourite place is Wadi Rum, a mesmerising desert you can explore by 4x4 vehicle and on foot. The landscapes are amazing, in so many colours – beige, bronze, gold, vibrant rust-red, dark slate.
It was here that Lawrence of Arabia and Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein established their headquarters during the Arab Revolt. David Lean's famous account of their exploits, starring Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, was filmed here – it's the 50th anniversary of its release this year.
Among other sightseeing highlights there's Jerash, one of the world's bestpreserved Roman provincial towns with ancient temples, baths, theatres, fountains and colonnaded streets. Jordan has some stunning nature reserves where you can walk and enjoy nature, too, especially wild flowers in spring, including the black iris, the national flower. After sightseeing and a few days in Amman enjoying the shops and restaurants and new National Museum, Aqaba on the Red Sea offers relaxation.
Its many new five-star resorts offer all the leisure facilities you need, from fabulous pools and beaches, to excellent spa and sports facilities, restaurants, marinas, souks, clubs and bars. A Star Trek theme park is planned for 2014, too. No wonder so many UK holiday companies offer tours of Jordan; indeed, luxury tour operator Western & Oriental has just added the country to its programme. Just make sure your trip includes Petra.
Western & Oriental's seven-night Essential Jordan Tour, from £1,319 per person, includes flights, accommodation, private chauffeur-driven vehicle and guided sightseeing, including Petra: 020- 7666 1234, www.wandotravel.com or for more on Jordan: www.visitjordan.com/uk
Florist at The Dorchester in London's Park Lane, is giving floral masterclasses by designer florist Wendy Black in the run-up to Christmas, where you can create a pinecone wreath decorated with dried fruit and a posy candle arrangement. From £250 per person, with afternoon tea and all flowers and materials: 020-7629 8888.
Brit Movie Tours and three other companies now offer guided Midsomer Murders tours of South Oxfordshire, taking in favourites such as Wallingford and Thame, which both double as Causton. Meanwhile, to help fans find other locations, the local council has launched: www.visitmidsomer.com
Victorian country manorhouse hotel Brockencote Hall, near Kidderminster in Worcestershire, has been given a £6m facelift. To celebrate, deluxe rooms for two with breakfast are available from £95 per night, saving £55, until the end of this month (August).
This luxury hotel by a scenic lake has an AA two Rosette restaurant and 70 acres of landscaped parkland to roam around in: 01562-777876, www.fihotels.com
Daily tip from the lady archive
"BE careful with your mouth make-up. By careless work you may obliterate well-cut lines, and you will always achieve a badly groomed look if your lipstick is smudged and badly applied."The Lady, Make-Up for Mouths, 8th January, 1942