Will I Actually Get to Petra?

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
Trip End Oct 17, 2008

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Monday, September 1, 2008

Last night I met up with some Australians and explored around Amman after dark.  There were some great views of all the lights and the streets were hopping.  The big thing going on here last night was if Ramadan was going to start or not and everyone was on pins and needles awaiting official word.  I was on pins and needles, too because it somewhat affects my quality of life in terms of being able to buy food during the day.  No way am I fasting along with them.  Other countries had already declared it so Jordan was left to wait.  Evidently someone high up in the mosque system watches for a quarter moon or something and the fun begins if you want to call it that.  During daylight you aren't allowed to eat, drink, smoke or do anything like that.  Word finally came that Sept 1st sundown officially marked the beginning of Ramadan in Jordan.  What's that saying about when in Rome?

I finally got stuck in the hotel elevator after I used it against my better judgment.  It kept going up and down violently like a pinball and I was actually getting tossed around in there a little bit.  Of course I was stuck in this tiny little cubicle of a thing with a smelly Frenchman of size.  Picture something the size of an outhouse with an access door that swings out and that's about what it's like.  I kept pushing the holes where the buttons should be and it finally stopped long enough on the second floor so I could push the door open. 

All the action on the elevator had made me hungrier than I had been before so I set out to find some food from a place that didn't look dirty enough to poison me.  That is no easy feat in Amman.  I finally found some take out falafel joint in a back alley and hunger made me go again against my better judgment.  I prayed that what went down wouldn't revisit me later on that night.  So far so good so that is where I will eat again (under cover of darkness of course due to Ramadan).   

Five times a day the muezzin sings the faithful to prayer via loudspeakers that are mounted on top of the mosques.  The mosques are evenly spaced thoughout the city so everyone is within earshot of one, including my hotel room.  The final prayer comes well after sunset and the first is around 4am.  I picture some wizened old man climbing the steps into the minaret but found out they just sit downstairs and do it via a microphone. 

The hotel manager had me worried I wouldn't make it to Petra and back because I didn't buy my bus tickets ahead of time.  So all night night long I laid in bed wondering if I would make it or not since Petra was my whole reason for coming to Jordan.  After a fitful rest in a run down hotel room, I woke up at 4:45 am and walked the 1.5 miles to the Jett Bus office.  The hotel manager had warned me repeatedly that if I wasn't there by 5:45 to buy a ticket for the 6:30am departure I most definitely wouldn't get a seat. 

Of course there are no taxis that time of day and the walk was actually uphill the whole way.  Some beat up old minivan pulled up next to me and the driver asked if he could take me somewhere.  Shoot no I wasn't getting into some strange van at 5:30 in the morning on some deserted pitch black street.  I eventually got close to where I thought the bus station should be and accidentally walked right on past it.  I looked at my watch and it was 5:50 by now and I had been walking 40 minutes.  I was hoping the manager was wrong about having to be in line already and started  rationalizing that maybe Petra wasn't all it was cracked up to be if I don't make it.  I worked up the nerve to ask a guard with a large machine gun at some government building where Jett Bus was and he pointed me back down the hill (with his hand and not the machine gun thankfully).

All I could think was that Petra may not be in my future and again, that was the whole reason for coming here.  As I was rounding a curve in the road I saw a blue sign full of Arabic with a very tiny English "Jett" in the center.  This was not a real bus station, just an office so that's how I had missed it.   There was absolutely no one there except for some French and Italian people already sitting in the lobby.  It turns out there was no problem getting the roundtrip ticket and there were only 8 of us on the bus, all foreigners.  I hung out with these French and Italian people at Petra and had a really good time.  So much for worrying about getting there early.  I could have slept later and gotten there at 0625AM!

The ride to Petra is 3 hours on a modern highway with absolutely nothing but dusty expanses to look at just about the whole way.   The ruins at Petra were worth the ride and the stressful walk trying to find Jett.  This is September in the desert so it's over 110 degrees with full sun and the total walk around the ruins is about 8 miles.  I did it all and it was worth every drop of sweat.  I drank 4 liters of water in the 4 hours I was there and was still thirsty by the end. 

Petra dates back to 100 BC and it's these really cool dwellings and temples carved right into the faces of the mountains by the Nabataeans that make it such an attraction today.  I have no idea who they were but they created a really neat city.  The whole area was abandoned by the 14th century and was forgotten until rediscovered in 1812 by some Swiss guy.  It is truly amazing to see and I will just let the pics I am attaching tell the story. 

Tomorrow morning I leave for Dubai so I will see you there.
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