Petra Travel Blog› entry 7 of 15 › view all entries
Today was Petra! This was the goal, and there were only a few bumps along the way.
We kicked off from the Dana Guest House around 9AM with Clowda (sp?), the Irish back packer from yesterday's hike. During all the gab yesterday we mentioned driving down here and she eventually asked if she could hitch a ride --- she has been traveling by bus and a bit weary of that mode. I admired her courage, being a woman venturing solo through Arab lands, but she was comfortable with making sure she had accommodations secured for each night. In addition, she pointed out the annoyances had abated considerably once she started wearing a fake wedding ring!
On the hour drive to Wadi Musa, the town outside Petra, we learned Clowda is a college student in Brisbane (Australia) and has been roaming the planet since February.
As it turns out, her hotel was about the first place we crossed in Wadi Musa, and after carrying her bags in and wishing her well, we pushed on. Our destination was the offices of the tour group I had arranged all of our Petra investigations with, Petra Moon. We pinned down their location without ado, very near the Petra entrance gate, and after correcting the bill for the next three days (they had MULTIPLIED rather than divided when converting currency, thereby doubling the price!) got introduced to our guide, Ra'ed (pronounced "Rod", to make it easy - you have to ululate the 'a' a bit). Ra'ed came down from Amman Sunday and had been told he would be hosting a large group of Canadians, lol.
In addition, he had not been informed that we wished to hike in through Petra's back door --- Little Petra, where our camp site would be for the next three nights. Ra'ed didn't look like an avid hiker and quickly dissuaded us from the original itinerary. So it wasn't long before we did the standard entry through the main gate, but DANG: we were going into Petra!!!
It is probably about a kilometer from the gate until you enter the Siq, the narrow passageway into Petra, along a sandy track. But there are Nabatean ruins even along this entrée , and it only adds to the excitement. There are a lot of horse carriages racing along this stretch, which is annoying, but there is too much magic about to be terribly bothered.
Soon we entered the actual Siq, a narrow fissure between two rock walls. As we walked through, Ra'ed (who holds a Masters degree in Languages and speaks Arabic, English, German, Russian and French!) pointed out the concealed pipes built by the Nabateans on either side. Originally they were unnoticeable, a remarkable aspect of this amazing civilization. There were also niches for gods and various pieces of artwork woven into the walls, just a fascinating journey all the way.
Around each bend in the Siq I was expecting to be floored by sighting the Treasury's facade, but the Siq persists for quite awhile. I confess that Ra'eds continuous monologue caught me off guard when he had the three of us line up against a rock wall, hold hands, close our eyes, make a wish, and walk seven paces towards the other side.
Petrais a place where your fantasies get fulfilled and then expanded. I won't dwell on all of the miscellany I've read about this massive facade or the tidbits Ra'ed added, but it simply takes your breath away. I simply cannot fathom how modern man, let alone folks two thousand years ago, could craft such a marvel. We stopped for tea and just reveled in the majesty. It was time well spent.
Then it was on to the Outer Siq, where the canyon is still somewhat narrow and proceeds past a myriad of tombs in varying states of decay.
After the Theater things open up completely towards the CityCenter. Much of this landscape is entirely littered with rubble, a testament to how much of Petra is gone (virtually everything that wasn't cobbled into a mountainside). To your right is the impressive East Cliff, which requires a visit. Here is the home of the Royal Tombs, including my favorite, the Urn Tomb.
We climbed back down from the East Cliff to check out the Great Temple. This is an enormous Roman addition which they only discovered and began excavating in 1993. The columns here are magnificent and this temple sits right beside the Palace of Pharaoh's Daughter. Ra'ed told us that this temple, built by the Nabateans, withstood earthquakes because they had incorporated wooden planks into the walls to absorb the shocks.
At City Center are several places to dine, and we enjoyed lunch at the downscale buffet (still 8JD), which was okay. Then we scaled the wall right behind the café to the Archaeological Museum, which was free, but very small and not terribly informative.
After lunch we braced ourselves for the ascent to the Monastery, starting about 3:15PM. The way up is steep but entirely safe and not difficult. It is also studded with more facades and monuments almost the entire duration. We arrived at the Monastery a little after 4PM which I highly recommend, because this masterpiece is bathed in sunlight at that time and beyond description!
It was rather incredible that Ra'ed accompanied us here.
The Monastery was a highlight for me. Not as ornate as the Treasury, but so immense. There was a solitary Bedouin playing a flute in the Monastery's main chamber when we arrived and this added a dreamy air to everything. Unlike the hoards of tourists around the Treasury, the crowd here was sparse. We were surprised because this is the time of day when the facade is bedazzled by sunlight.
We excused Ra'ed to return while we scampered about a bit, as there are other ruins and some great views towards Israel from these heights.
Tim walked back with us to the gate, probably about an hour and a half long trek, and we bid goodnight to him and Ra'ed. We headed for the Amareen camp site, a Bedouin camp which would be home for the next three nights, and arrived just in time for dinner at 7:30. Our tent was a spacious canopy comprised from woolen blankets suspended above the ground.
The Amareen camp site is situated just beside Little Petra and nestled in rock faces that make you feel like you never left the Siq. There were about twenty other guests, all belonging to one of two separate groups of French tourists. Since we couldn't communicate with the guests, we had a lovely time sitting around the campfire with our Bedouin hosts drinking tea. Although the English was sparse, it was certainly enough to have a good time. I was terribly impressed with one of the younger Bedouin, who shared he could get by in five different languages, all learned from sitting around this very same fire.
We retired to our tent and started the next Spite & Malice contest for bragging rights to Petra, which abruptly ended at 9:45PM when they switched off the electric to the entire campsite.