Rock of Ages

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Monday, January 11, 2010

It’s difficult to find words to express this place.  So many have tried before, but failed miserably in comparison to being there.  In all the places that we’ve been, I’m sure Petra will make the top 5.  So much more than just a ruined city.  It’s endless areas to explore in a natural paradise. 

The grand entrance into the city takes you along a narrow siq, or gorge, between sheer rock cliffs.  The light plays off the surfaces turning the rock to a beautiful rose as we wind around and through.  Rock walls worn smooth from sand that had blown and shaped them.  Almost endless rock towers over our heads and blocks out the sun.  They seem to get higher and higher as the walls squeeze in closer and closer as we walk along.  Then, rounding a corner - there it is!  Through the cracks in the wall, an illuminated glimpse of the Treasury comes into view.  The feeling of being absurdly tiny rushes over you as you gaze upward at the 2000 year old building carved out of the rock face. 

But that is just the beginning.  Walking along, there are endless tombs and carvings in more siqs and wadi’s to be discovered.  The most intriguing, are the ones that are worn away from years of sand erosion.  Almost like a mirage in the desert, the mind imagines images where there may not be any.  But even without ancient carvings, the natural shape and colour of the rock is mesmerizing.  Worn by harsh desert elements, colorful layers are revealed.  Like a petrified rainbow, blues, reds, whites, purples and yellows show through is rosebuds and spirals - as if someone has painted the rock by hand. 

Endless places to wander - both on and off the main track.  Everything is curious and inspiring.  It doesn’t seem to matter where we walk!

Brian was constantly amazed at how these great buildings were carved.  Leveling out the rock face and chiseling the design.  The intricacy of measuring and aligning everything so accurately.  Don’t want to make a mistake - no turning back!  The strangest part of these incredible rock buildings is that it’s all a fašade.  Inside of these great imposing buildings is nothing!  Usually a blank, small, square room.  All effort seemed to go into the outside, making it as grandiose as possible. 

This city stretched for miles in all directions - including up.  Working in such a mountainous area there were many hills to be scaled.  The Nabateans seemed to be up to the challenge, carving stairways right through the rock to get to their sacred high places.  They must have dreamt that their city would be amongst the greatest in the world and worked hard to attain this.  I can just imagine the sound of hundreds of stone masons chipping away, with the sound echoing and amplifying through the valleys for years and years…

Petra Day 1:

Started the slow and ambling walk along Petra’s main streets.  Walking less than one kilometer and hour due to the fact that we were stopping every few seconds to gaze in awe and take photos. 

Soon, after wading through all the anxious children trying to sell postcards and donkey rides, we were heading up steps past women selling necklaces.  Not what I expected to find in an ancient city.  But perhaps it was a bit like what it once would have been with thousands of people busseling and vendors selling.  As forward as the sellers may be, they were really quite funny and friendly if you engaged in conversation.  Shouts of ‘taxi’ for camel and donkey rides, ‘Bedouin whiskey’ for tea, ‘no charge for looking’, and ‘happy hour specials’ lightened the atmosphere.  I had to laugh at the guy who’s t-shirt reads ‘no money no honey’ as everyone seems to ask for baksheesh.  Geeze, it even sounded like the donkeys were asking as well:  ‘baaaaak-sheeeeesh, baaaaaak-sheeeesh’.

However, the image of the nomadic Bedouin living off the land is one that’s changing.  Although they appear to be poor sales people, we found the back road into Petra where all the animals are kept and the people park their trucks.  It may appear that they ride their donkey back to their camp, but most live in a town on the hillside.  I also saw a woman holding her cell phone underneath her scarf, between sales and a man texting behind a tree while waiting for his next donkey ride.  It’s important to remember that this is just a job for these people. 

Rising up about 600 stairs we did manage to get above it for a little while.  Up to the High Place of Sacrifice with commanding views of all the area of Petra and beyond to the more modern towns.  Scanning the valleys far below, I could see endless carvings of tombs and other fronts all along the rocks. 

Trying to make our way down, we were a little disoriented.  But that was a good thing as it allowed up to find a secluded inlet of tombs where no one else was. 

Back into the madness of crowds, we started up the 800 or so stairs to the Monastery.  Traversing back and forth, rising ever further, while the views just got more and more stunning.  The rocks on the mountains in their area look as though they have melted, with streams of colours dripping down the sides. 

Then rising up the last set of steps, we knew we had to be close.  Rounding the corner, your breath actually catches in your throat as you strain your neck backwards to try and take it in.  The sheer size dwarfs the treasury and you feel lost, not knowing where to turn or what to look at.  A complete ‘WOW!’ moment.  Trying to wrap your head around why a people would slave so hard to build something like this, but at the same time being soo glad that they did!

But that wasn't the end.  Our hotel did their nightly showing of Indiana Jones.  A crowded room of foreigners reveling in actually seeing the place of their childhood fantasies...and watching it on an old VHS player that lost sound in placed, crackled and snowed a bit, and needed to be hit every few minutes just added to the atmosphere. 

Petra Day 2:

Having seen the main sites yesterday, we chose to get off the beaten track and explore the lesser seen Petra. 

First stop was down a wadi to where we heard there was a spring.  We were wandering on our own for awhile, but were soon joined by a family with 3 sheep, a father, a mother, and a donkey with 3 cheerful children.  They were lovely company while we picked our way along the rocky path.  We were also passed by several other children.  Their smiles a refreshing change from some of the other children we’ve met.  These have not learned the:  ‘hela, ware-u-fom’, or ‘gimi bon-bon’, so we just smiled shyly at one another.  Met another family along the way and were invited to their tent for tea later. 

Since we were planning to look for the Snake Monument anyways, we made our way to where Abraham said his tent would be.  But we never did find Abraham.  Instead, we were intercepted by Moussa and had tea with him.  Venturing a few steps further we were invited to tea again!  Just amazing.  As soon as you get off the tourist highway, the interactions with people change.  Instead of trying to sell you things, people just want to meet with you. 

Inspired to keep going and refreshed by Moussa’s tea, we sought out to climb Jabal al-Khubtha.  This towering mount gave another sweeping view over all of Petra - well at least the mountainous landscape.  One of the best things about Petra is that all of the buildings are buried into the rock at the bottoms of steep siqs and wadis, so you cannot see anything from above.  Except for in this hidden place.  Creeping carefully towards the very edge of the cliffs, there is a view down upon the treasury.  Quite a unique and powerful perspective, and a perfect way to end 2 beautiful days in Petra (even though my legs were getting pretty sore). 

So with memory card full and backward glances, we left the rose-colored city. 
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lindsayholmes on

Absolutely amazing!
I hope I get to see these places in person some day.
All the best to you guys!

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