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Obama Tours Jordan Archaeological Site at End of Mideast Trip


U.S. President Barack Obama stops to look at the Treasury during his tour of the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, March 23, 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama stops to look at the Treasury during his tour of the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, March 23, 2013.

At the end of his Middle East trip, President Barack Obama has visited one of the world's most famous archaeological sites.

Obama traveled on Marine One, the presidential helicopter brought along for his Mideast trip, to Petra about 55 minutes flying time south from the Jordanian capital.

Petra is Greek for stone. The site is famous for its stunning ancient structures carved into solid rock by the Nabateans as their capital some 2,000 years ago.

Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and only became known to the Western world in 1812 when revealed by a Swiss explorer. It was used in a well-known scene from an Indiana Jones movie.

Jordanian tourist guides recommend at least a day or more to see Petra. Obama had only a few hours.

Petra was shut down during his visit as he received a special guided tour. His guide was the head of the American Center of Oriental Research, one of the organizations involved in excavations and preservation.

There was heavy security throughout. Jordanian helicopters flew overhead, and Jordanian army troops lined the streets.

Obama's Mideast trip otherwise dealt with weighty issues of war and peace, including his effort to take first steps he hopes could lead to renewed direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah he made the case to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he should sit down again with Israelis without preconditions.

And in a major speech in Jerusalem, the president told young Israelis that a peaceful and stable future for Israel depends on their pressing political leaders for a two state solution.

In Jordan, he and King Abdullah discussed the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, refugee flows, and political and economic reforms the Jordanian monarch is gingerly pushing through.

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