Hydrology: Ask the Ancients

The kingdom of Jordan is hard at work on a peculiar problem: how to keep tourists from drowning in the desert. Such startling accidents actually do occur. Last spring, when a flash flood from a rare rainstorm roared down the Siq, a vertical-walled cleft that leads to the famous dead city of Petra, a group of French travelers was trapped, and only two out of 26 survived. Jordanian authorities are anxious to keep the tourists coming, though, and the ancient Siq, reputedly opened by Moses with the flick of a magic rod, is the most dramatic approach to Petra. It...

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