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From a desert oasis to Petra’s wonder walls | Travel News | Travel

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Riding camels and walking through the narrow rock formations towards Al Khazneh at Petra (Image: nc)

Occupying a 2,000-year-old burial tomb in the grounds of Petra Guest House Hotel, it has been carefully re-fashioned into a cocktail lounge and filled with lanterns casting light on to the sandstone walls. Sipping gin and tonics, the sweet scent of hookah pipes swirls around me as I take in its very significant location. It sits at the entrance to Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

With caves, tombs and temples carved directly into the blushing pink sandstone cliff faces, this ancient Jordanian city was once a thriving trading centre and the capital of the Nabataean empire.

But following an earthquake in 363, it became “lost” to the western world and inhabited only by nomadic Bedouins who were desperate to keep it a secret.

That was until 1812 when Swiss traveller Johann Burckhardt “rediscovered” it, tricking his way into the fiercely guarded site by pretending to be an Arab from India.

Now a popular tourist hub, up to 5,000 visitors a day stream down the long and narrow gorge known as The Siq to reach The Treasury, Petra’s most famous monument.

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SALT SHAKER… Float in the Dead Sea with its 40 per cent salt density (Image: nc)

Featured in the closing stages of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, camels rest outside its six-pillared frontage, awaiting their next passengers while Bedouins mingle with the tourists to hawk their trinkets.

I travelled to Aqaba in Jordan on easyJet’s brand new route from Gatwick. The first non-stop link from the UK, the port city boasting beaches, coffee shops and souks, is part of the “Golden Triangle” along with the tourist hotspots of Petra and Wadi Rum.

Following the five-hour flight, I reboot with a meze dinner of silky hummus, tzatziki and baba ganoush at the luxurious Al Manara hotel.

Located on the shores of the Red Sea, named so because of its high concentration of pink coral, snorkelling is a popular pursuit here.

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LIFE ON MARS… The Sun City camp in Wadi Rum looks very space age (Image: nc)

If you don’t fancy getting wet, take a motorboat from Aqaba harbour, then peer over the sides at the smiling turtles and reefs teeming with fish.

The cast of Star Wars stayed at the Al Manara while shooting Episode IX on location in Wadi Rum, a protected desert wilderness in southern Jordan.

Nicknamed The Valley of the Moon, its spectacular lunar landscape of oddly-shaped monolithic rock formations bearing prehistoric carvings proved the ideal backdrop for the sci-fi adventure.

You can experience its other-worldly sensations for yourself on an overnight excursion to the space-age Sun City Camp.

Sleeping out in one of its 20 luxury “Martian Domes”, with very comfortable beds, shower rooms and star-gazing windows, I wake at 5.30am for a jeep ride into the heart of the desert to watch the sunrise.

While still in darkness, Bedouin guides gather scrub desert wood for a fire to make much-needed hot coffee and sweet tea on a chilly desert morning.

Then as the first glimpses of blood orange peep over the furthest ridge of mountains, I sense the primitive wonder the Nabataeans must have experienced more than 2,000 years ago.

On the camel ride back to base camp, I feel like T. E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, who crossed these very same sands during the First World War while masterminding the Arab revolt to overthrow the Ottoman Empire.

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The 2,000-year-old Cave Bar in the grounds of the Petra Guest House Hotel (Image: nc)

From here I drive northwards to Amman to experience the natural phenomenon of the Dead Sea.

With 40 per cent salt density, no life survives in this great expanse of water. Unless that is, you count the tourists who flock here to cover themselves in the mineral-rich mud and float in its tension-relieving saline solution.

Taking the plunge myself, I find it impossible to sink under the surface. The dense weight of salt keeps me afloat as I gaze over to Israel on the opposite shore.

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FORCE IS STRONG.. Star Wars cast stayed at the Al Manara while filming in Wadi Rum (Image: nc)

That night I check in to the five-star Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, which boasts the biggest spa in the Middle East and features Dead Sea-inspired treatments.

After dining at the hotel’s Ashur Pizza & Grill restaurant overlooking the infinity pool, I stroll down to its pristine man-made beach to dip my toes in the vast salt lake one last time. 

At 400 metres below sea level, it claims to be the lowest place on Earth. But after experiencing Jordan’s ancient treasures and natural wonders, I am certainly left on a high.

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Travel & Escape

How to win the lottery — 7-time lottery winner shares 5 important tips

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Incredible as it may seem,the odds of matching all the winning Powerball numbers are 1 in 292.2 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. It means you’re much more likely to date a supermodel, get bitten by a shark, become the president of the United States, get struck by lightning, amongst other incredible feats than win the lottery.

However, despite the high odds of winning the lottery once, Richard Lustig has won the seven lottery grand prizes. Due to the rarity of his feat, Lustig wrote a book titled: Learn How To Increase Your Chances of Winning The Lottery, where he discusses the do’s and don’ts of playing the lottery and how to better your odds of winning the lottery.

Here are some of the useful tips shared by Lustig to better your chances of winning the lottery.

1.  Avoid “quick-pick” numbers that are autogenerated from the stores

While it might appear like every number carries an equal amount of “luck” in the quick pick method, but according to Lustig, it is advisable to not be lured by this.

“Every time you buy a quick pick, you get a different set of numbers; therefore, your odds are always going to be at their worst in that particular game, whatever game you’re playing. In this case, the hype, of course, is all about the Powerball right now,” said Lustig in a Forbes interview.

2.  Exhaust all your options

For many people who play the lottery, they typically limit their choices to “special dates” like anniversaries, birth month and dates and the likes.

While these dates carry precious memories, choosing them means you’re limiting yourself to less than half the numbers available from 1 through 31. Therefore, ensure you exhaust all of your options in terms of picking numbers.

“If you pick your own numbers and only play birthdays and anniversaries, you’re splitting the pot with 20-40 people. If you spread the numbers out across the whole track, you’ll either be the only winner or will split it with only one or two people,” said Lustig.

3.  Ensure you stick with your guts

In his book, Lustig recommended a specific way to find the numbers that you’re most comfortable with, but ultimately, never go back on a group of numbers that you believe would win you the jackpot.

“Remember, a set of numbers wins the grand prize, not individual numbers,” notes Lustig.

Therefore, while it is alright to repeat one or two numbers, it is necessary when playing multiple cards to have enough variety when grouping selected numbers. Doing this helps maximize your odds.

4. Maintain consistency

If you want to increase your chances of winning a particular game, it is important to consistently follow past and future drawings to get an insightinto the winning patterns—if any.

“Never miss a drawing in the game you’re playing. Every Saturday, every Wednesday, every week,” said Lustig.

5.  Know your limits and don’t be carried away

Winning the jackpot can be a life-changing experience for not only you but your loved ones, however, it is important not to invest so much money into lottery tickets than you’re willing to lose.

While buying 100 tickets gives you a better chance that buying 10, but only do this if you’re able to afford a loss—as lottery tickets are not a regular investment.

“One of the things that I preach to people all the time is budget, budget, budget,” Lustig says. “Set a budget of what you’re going to spend. Do not get caught up in what’s called lottery fever”

“Don’t spend grocery money. Don’t spend rent money. Figure out what you can afford to spend. Don’t worry about how much Joe Blow down the street is spending. … Figure out what your budget is, what you can comfortably afford to spend, and stay within that budget,” he continued.

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Travel & Escape

48 hours in . . . Bruges, an insider guide to Belgium’s city on water

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Little Bruges, the perfect pocket-sized medieval city, was a Sleeping Beauty. Laced with canals, it was one of the great North European trading ports in late medieval times. The magnificently detailed paintings of its artists, such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling, record its wealth in clothing, jewellery and ornament. Then it fell rapidly into decline and slept until rediscovered and restored to glory in the 19th century.

Today its new riches are in tourism, carefully managed and constantly refreshed by year-round cultural events, so that it retains the dynamism of a living city. The best way to appreciate all this is to stay a few days, luxuriating in the dreamily romantic boutique hotels, and visiting the rewarding museums and churches at your leisure. Above all, this is a place to walk and wonder, and there are still plenty of quiet corners to discover, where historic Bruges sleeps on.

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Travel & Escape

Europe’s most incredible cosy cabins for watching the Northern Lights

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The Northern Lights are a phenomenon likely to appear on the wish, bucket or to-do list of any intrepid traveller. And what better way to experience them in Europe than by bunking down in cosy cabins, surrounded by miles of forest, still water or the peaks of mountains. They might be pared-back but still boast polished elements, whether it’s a heated hot tub in Sweden, an ‘igloo’ extension in Norway or a glass roof above your bed in Finland. Nothing distracts as the Aurora Borealis flames across the sky – curl up under a blanket and take a look inside. . .

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