The Rose City

Trip Start Feb 24, 2008
Trip End Mar 03, 2008

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Finally Annie gets to realise one of her travel dreams!
When visiting Petra it is really important to be there in time to see The Treasury with the sun shining directly onto it.
We left the hotel at 8 AM and, after a short bus ride, started our walk down the Siq, the long tectonically created passageway through the mountainside that leads to this hidden city. It is quite amazing that the Nabataean's found this place to create their city. Apparently what has been excavated and we would be seeing is only around 5% of what Petra really is!
As we were approaching the end of the Siq Cheryl, our tour leader, got us to turn around and walk backwards to the point where we would get our first glimpse of The Treasury. At the appropriate point she told us to turn around. There were all the ooh's and aah's but, to be honest, for me, the "moment" was when I could see the entire Treasury that was carved into the rock face.
This really was one of those "WOW!" moments. Looking at this massive structure that was created so many hundreds or even thousands of years ago is a real pleasure and such a privilege! I know we snapped off a bunch of pictures that can give you some idea of what is there but it is so unfair to try and do this justice by photo. The Nabataean people created and later the Romans added to something so special that the only way it should be experienced is in person.
The first half of our visit was a fascinating walk through both busy and quiet areas of Petra taking in quite a lot of the different structures. These included: The Treasury, what an amazing structure; The Theatre, over 2,000 years old with seating for about 3,000 people and a section for an orchestra! The Romans later enlarged this to seat around 8,500, equalling around 30% of the Petra population; The Royal Tombs, some amazing colours in the rock face; and The Petra Church or Byzantine Church with the most magnificent floor mosaics.
We sat and had a snack lunch with Maria, a Portuguese lady who lives in Canada and another member of our group, and reflected on what we had seen so far today.
We were free for the afternoon so chose to walk up the more than 800 stairs to The Monastery. One of the challenges on this walk is not just avoiding the people walking up and down but also the donkeys carrying people up or down or even just rushing up or down sans passenger! It is quite scary how quickly they run up and down the stairs and how close they get to the edge, I preferred the walk!
The Monastery is another truly amazing and spectacular structure. Standing looking at this work of art that was a Nabataean tomb is quite humbling. You have to wander how all these ancient civilizations managed to create what they did and yet they could not survive as a people. Why?!
While we were looking at The Monastery we noticed a guy climbing up the rock face at the side of it. A few minutes later he was standing on the very top of The Monastery! Apparently he is a crazy Bedouin who does this dare-daring jumping across from ledge to ledge on a regular basis. Personally I think he is insane!
Being so high up provides some enormous views across the Jordanian mountains and deserts to Israel and its deserts and mountains.
By now we were cutting it very fine for making it back in time to catch the bus back to the hotel so we hot-footed it down the mountainside and back through Petra via Qasr Al-Bint, Castle of the Pharaoh's Daughter, and The Colonnades Street. No matter how quickly we were walking we still had to look around and even stop for a photo or two :-)
By this time of day the light had changed the colouring of The Treasury to the rose red where this ancient city gets its name from.
The walk back through the Siq seemed a lot longer than we remembered from the stroll in and a LOT steeper too! We kept hoping that the end was "just around the next corner". As it turned out not only were we on time but the first there! We celebrated with a toilet visit and then delicious ice-creams :-)
Wait, even with all of this, the day's activities are not yet done! We returned to our hotel room for a shower and relax before supper. We were treated to a beautiful sunset and, much to our amusement, we saw a policeman on a horse riding over the hill and literally "riding off into the sunset" :-)
After supper a few of us went to the Salome Hamman for the most wonderfully relaxing Turkish Bath. We had the full treatment of steam room, lying on a warm concrete slab, having basins of cold water thrown over us (we did pay for this!?!) and finally a good scrub and massage. After all of this we showered and then relaxed and drank tea. I think I need to find a Turkish Bath in London as this is the second time in my life I have had this and it is a wonderful way to relax.
We followed this and ended the day by meeting up with some of the others from the group for a drink at The Cave Bar which is built into a 2,000 year old Nabatean tomb!
Wow, what a day we had. The last two days have, without doubt, been the highlight of this trip.
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