5.27.2014

Jordan in pictures and words (pt.2 aka Petra)

 I am going to start this by being totally candid. Everything I knew about Petra up to last month, I only knew because in high school I had a friend whose older sister's name was Petra and it intrigued me. I remember meeting her and scrambling home to look it up in an Encyclopedia because, yes, it was long enough ago that I didn't have home internet and Wikipedia. So that was my first introduction to this magnificent place... fast forward fourteen years and I found myself with an unexpected extra day off in Jordan. I originally didn't plan on going to Petra at all because I thought I should take two days there (which I didn't have) but then I found out it could be done in a day trip from Amman. Then I didn't plan on going because it seemed like it was really expensive and I wondered if I would feel like it was worth it. I was completely and utterly wrong and in retrospect would even pay more if it helps to conserve the site.

 Petra is an ancient city that was probably established around 6th century BC (!!) by nomadic Arabian tribes. Not only was it a place for trade, but it was also a Holy Site where sacrifices took place and over 500 tombs were carved directly into the beautiful sandstone. It was most populated around the time of Christ then slowly trade routes moved. It underwent a brief revival but eventually was essentially 'lost' to all outsiders. It remained a secret place until the early 1800s when a European explorer, disguised as a Muslim holy man, found it by saying he was vowed to make a sacrifice at the tomb of Aaron. He heard that to get to that tomb you had to pass through these ancient ruins hidden away in Wadi Musa.  He was allowed in and therefore essentially brought Petra back into the known world. I couldn't stop thinking about this piece of history as I entered into the ancient city. It is really easy to imagine how it must of felt to him, coming through this long beautiful gorge and laying eyes on The Treasury. Then after every turn there are more and more tombs carved high into stone, places of High Sacrifice, monasteries, an amphitheatre... it is indescribable so I will do my best by showing pictures but nothing can ever do it justice.

When you enter into Petra you start by walking through the gateway to the Siq, this is where you see the first tombs and carvings and it definitely gets you excited for what is coming.



Then you enter the Siq, it looks like a gorge but it wasn't created by flowing water, it was created by the walls getting pulled apart by tectonic forces and you can actually see that many of the walls match like puzzle pieces! The Siq itself is incredible. I felt so tiny in there and just envisioned all of the pilgrims who came through this canyon centuries ago. It is a pretty long walk but I savoured it because I knew I would be too exhausted at the end of the day to enjoy its beauty.



Then after about 1.2km, through the narrow cleft at the end of the Siq, you see Al-Khazneh known to us as The Treasury. It literally took my breath away. Al-Khazneh is not only a tomb but legend has it that a Pharoah hid treasure inside it in a rock urn. Another Al-Khazneh claim to fame: It was where Indiana Jones found the Holy Grail in The Last Crusade.

 (the first glimpse of Al-Khazneh 

(Al-Khazneh in its morning glory)

 After sitting and soaking in its magnificence for a while, I headed on past through the street of facades and went straight for the trail to the High Place of Sacrifice. One hour, 800 steps, one asthma attack (my allergies were horrible the whole time in Jordan) and one litre of water later, I beheld a panoramic view of the city. With a little imagination you can envision the holy sacrifices that took place here so long ago.


 (on the climb to the High Place of Sacrifice)

(the street of facades)

I went back down the way I came (amidst some really off-putting racist remarks by local Bedouins) and because at the end I had a serious case of jelly-legs, I stopped at a tea stall and prepped for more walking. I guess I thought I had seen the most beautiful or inspiring parts already so I was completely taken aback when I came upon the Royal Tombs. I actually welled over with tears at my first glimpse looking up into the rock faces in complete stunned silence. I climbed up and inside the tombs; they are really fancy outside but basically just big rooms inside.


 (the Royal Tombs)

 (my favorite of the royal tombs)



I actually didn't stay too long at the Royal Tombs because I wanted to keep going. I wandered through Colonnaded Street and then sat in The Great Temple and snacked on some nuts and fruits I brought. I really wanted to go to the monastery but it was another 800 stair journey. I didn't thing my lungs could handle it so I spent some time sitting in the shade then decided to go back to the Royal Tombs. There is a short hike near the Urn Tomb to another high place. Almost no one seemed to go up that way so I headed there and ended the day with a beautiful view of Petra in complete quiet. I could've stayed there for hours imagining the past, wondering if it is good or bad that hundreds of thousands of tourists tread through this delicate sandstone city every year. Eventually I had to leave to start the walk back. I stopped one last time at The Treasury to enjoy everyone capturing their last pictures of the day in front of the changing light.






The walk back seemed so much longer than the walk there! You definitely have to plan to take more time getting out, my legs were so tired and the sun was beating down in the late afternoon so you move pretty slowly. I kept turning around during the walk to take in The Siq one last time, I doubt that I will ever see Petra again and I hope that the images, sounds, feelings never ever fade from my memory.


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