Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jordan: Petra

We drove straight from Karak to Petra arriving at 2pm.  We checked out a couple of hotels on our way in to get an idea what we were in for.  Petra is of course the biggest tourist attraction in Jordan so there is little doubt this would be used to everyone's advantage in the form of ridiculously high prices.  We were surprised to be able to significantly talk them down on room prices, but we waited to make a decision so we could have more time in Petra our first day.  We went to the entrance and paid the 55 dinars (around $) for 2 days.  Its 100 dinars if you only stay one day, don't ask me why.  We walked the 15 minutes to the opening in the narrow canyon that led into the main canyon.  We were hassled light heartedly by people offering horses or donkeys down.  They asked if we needed a taxi or maybe a Ferrari.  We said no about a million times and went by foot down the narrow windy canyon.  Along the way were remnants of ceramic piping used to get water down to the people, also, parts of the cobble road was still in place.  We stopped for lunch along the way enjoying the canyon and eating our packed chicken sandwiches.  We set off again, soon to round a corner to get a glimpse of a tomb through the opening of the canyon.  It was the Treasury made famous in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  It was incredible.  It was carved right out of the canyon wall.  A line of camels waiting for passengers lay in front of it making it even more enchanting.

After filling our eyes with the treasury we continued on down the canyon as it widen out a bit.  There were lots of tombs carved out the rocks on either side most of which you could go into.  The inside of the tombs were far less impressive than the outside.  It was usually just one room, often filled with trash and the smell of a bathroom.  There were lots of natural openings in the rock utilized for centuries as tombs, sleeping quarters, or stables.  We spent four hours exploring before it began to get dark.  We started heading out the way we came when we were invited to tea by some Bedouins living and selling their goods in the canyon.  We excepted despite the encroaching darkness.  We sat around a small fire built at the opening of a shop with 4 men in their early 20's.  They spoke only a bit of english, but were entirely friendly and told us a bit about their life living in Petra.  We discovered there is a village at the other end of the canyon where many Bedouins live who walk in everyday.  Alot of them just sleep in their shops or have found one of the caves that suites them and sleep in there. One of the Bedouins told us his 2 donkeys, named Shakira and Isuzu, also had there own caves.  At the end of the day, they were simply released and they would hike up on their own to their chosen abode for the night.  We stayed for a bit longer then decided it was time to go.  It was almost completely dark.  We hitched a ride to the top on a carriage pulled by a beautiful white horse itching to get home.  I was scared I was going to fall out most of the ride up.  He knew he was going home and was ready to be there already.
We stayed the night at the Sella hotel.  A supposed 3 star, which was nice in a lot of ways, but many things didn't work.  We enjoyed our rest though and the next morning we got up early, picked up a lunch to pack in, then took a taxi to the Bedouin village were we hiked in from like the locals.  We were the only tourists there so we had many of the tombs on the way in to ourselves.  We hiked into what is called Petra city center where there is a temple, a street lined with columns, and lots of other ruins.  All of which were beautiful and fun to explore.  We hiked up a side canyon to what is known as the Monastery later that morning.  It was my favorite place in all of Petra.  The hike was a windy trail up the canyon and when you got to the top there was the most spectacular tomb.  From there you could walk out to the edge to a beautiful but very windy vista.  It was far too windy to stay at for long with the sheer drop offs on all sides. We stopped for Bedouin tea on the trail with 2 women who had seen us hiking in from their village that morning.  They were very sweet and welcoming.  One woman's baby walked over to me with unsure footing and crawled into my lap.  He reached up to my shirt and start to pull on it.  The women laughed when they saw my eyes get big.  They said, "He just wants your milk!"  It was pretty funny.  When we were getting up to leave the baby had a tight grip on my hand and wouldn't let me go.  I gentle freed myself and gave him a big smile, but he still cried as I walked away.  It was sweet. 

We spent the afternoon wandering about looking into the various, tombs, cave, and rooms in the rocks.  We hike up a hill poking into all the nooks and crannies.  Our goal was to make it to the sacred high place, but as we were trying to find our way a big sand storm blew in darkening the surrounding hills and canyons.  There would be no point in going up there now.  We were getting pelted by sand so we headed toward the canyon we came into the first day that led to the entrance.  We stopped for a bit at the Treasury again and just admired it before heading up.  By then it was nearing 5pm.  We had finished with our time at Petra, but felt like we could have easily spent several more days there.  There was litter, bad smells, and annoying salesmen, but it was worth it all.  Petra is beautiful and an impressive example of human ability. 

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