|We left for Petra around 9am yesterday. First stop was Starbucks for a Jordan cup and a latte! It is amazing how many "western" places you see around here - Safeway, Curves KFC McDonalds, Little Caesars and the list goes on.
The drive was interesting - a lot of brown as we drove along the road of a stone desert. You really have to wonder how people live in this land, it certainly can't be easy. We stopped at Qatraneh to see an old crusader fortress which would have been an observation point to watch for invaders. From the outside it looked like a square block of bricks but inside was quite well maintained with rooms top and bottom and look out places with enough room for the weapons. There was an old railway line across the road. Today it is only used for hauling phosperous to the port at Aqaba. There is a great variety of rocks including shale, granite, quartz, etc even though it is desert (I always thought desert was sand). As we drove along you see patches of green, an oasis in a barren desert. There are a number of areas where you see black rocks which apparently are black due to the oil in them. Jordan, however, is not a oil rich country like the other middle eastern countries, or at least a country that has not discovered oil or how to access it.
Issam, our driver, provided lots of information about the area and had many stories to tell. I found it quite fascinating to hear stories from him that come from the Koran that are so similar to biblical stories from the Old Testament.
We passed a number of villages which the government has set up for the Bedouin people (native people in this area). One of the Bedouin men at Petra told us that the King gave them land and houses in exchange for the Petra land but they were allowed to sell things in Petra without paying taxes. Pat also told us that the houses were provided to stop their nomadic lifestyle but they have not always succeeded in this goal.
Very close to Petra we came across quite a green area and a city called Shawbak. The giant oak trees were a surprising site after all the barren land we had passed through. The road was windy into the Wadi Muosa (Valley of Moses) where we had a great panaramic view of the area, including Petra. From there we went down a very steep and narrow street until we were at the Petra Moon Hotel which was a 5 min walk from the gates of Petra.
Our adventure really began from that point on as we entered the Petra site for the first time. There are many different stories about who, why and when the city in the rocks was built. It appears there were many different cultures involved in it over the years and that is reflected by the different structures you see inside. It would take pages to describe everything we saw so this is the short version. After walking close to 1 km we arrived at the Siq, a narrow path between the high 80 metres high walls. This is both the entrance and exit to Petra. The rocks are filled with many colours - red, yellow, greys, blacks and layers that show the history of the rock. It is said the siq was formed from volcanic activity. Lining the rock walls are terraces, dams, water channels, votile niches and special carvings for worship in the walls. The most amazing sight, however is when you turn the corner and get your first view of the Treasury which was almost a pink glow.
Petra is an ancient city carved out of sandstone. It is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and rightly so. There is evidence of a lot of different cultures including Egyptian, Greek, Roman.
The Treasury is an unbelievable carving in the side of a rock mountain and dates back to the first century (size is 30 m wide and 43 metres high). It is believed to have been a tomb and of course some also believe there is a treasure in it. The carving is perfectly done and represents amazing skills and engineering feats of the Nabataean people. It was carved about 2000 years ago by the Nabataean people. The Bedouin believe the Pharaoh's treasure is in a urn at the top of the carving.
As you turn the corner from the Treasury you come across the Street of Facades where you find many caves carved into the walls of the mountain. There are really different opinions about the numerous caves. Some believe they were all burial sites and people lived somewhere else like Little Petra. Others believe they were homes and then there is a belief that they could be both. No matter what you believe, they are very amazing structures. The ampitheatre is also located along this stretch of road. As you look across the way you see the majestic Royal Tombs carved high up on the mountain. Although there has been some erosin other the years, they are still magnificient to look atand strong structures. We didn't have the time to go up and see them but Pat did and he said the view was fantastic and there was certainly evidence that some of the Bedouins were still living in some of the caves.
As we turned the corner we found ourselves on Colonnaded Street which apparently led through the city centre and at one time was surrounded by temples public buildings and shops. This street clearly represents the Roman era with many columns and remains of temples from that time frame.
This was as far as we went the first day. The next morning we went back very early. Morning light made the structures look quite different on this visit. After walking back to the Roman area, Gaila and I started the climb up the mountain of Ad-Deir and the 800 - 1000 steps carved in the rock to the Monastery. No question the climb was hard. Part way up we encountered a young Bedouin girl who helped. She had a great command of English but clearly was there to get us to her family business. None the less, she was interesting. As we got to the Monastery she took my hand and walked me around the area so my initial view was startling! Again, a beautifully carved structure with simple embellishment is carved into the rock. Either tomb, temple or both, the Deir was used as an important pilgrimage site with a large gaterhing space in front. Later, in Byzsantine time, it was probably used as a church. I did jam out at this time and didn't make it to the top viewpoint that Gaila climbed to. The views from this area were absolutely breathe taking and well worth the struggle of climbing.
On our first day in Petra we managed a very short camel ride. Getting on the camel was definitely a challenge for me but once on the camel the ride was quite nice, much smoother than the elephant rides I've had. The young Bedouin fellow was very nice and even recognized us the second day when we passed him. There is no question that the Bedouin men are very good looking with very dark eyes that penetrate right through you. One of the shops we stopped at was run by an interesting young Bedouin with a very strong New Zealand accent. He told us his mother was originally from New Zealand and married a Bedouin. His mother had returned to Jordan and has written a book about her life.
As we left the second day, the crowds had increased and you could see large tour groups making their way through the space (approximately 1 km by 1.5km according to one book). There were huge groups of school children coming into Petra. The first day we saw groups of girls and the second day it was groups of boys - the two don't mix.
Once out of Petra we did discover beer and food at the Movenpick were great sources of relaxing and giving the aching muscles a rest! I can't remember the last time a beer tasted sooooo good.
We left Petra around 2:30 yesterday afternoon tired and happy from our experience. Ahmar was our driver for the 3 hour drive to Amman. As you drive into the city you see the local farmers sellling goods right on the highway shoulder. Strawberries and green almonds or chick peas (not sure which is the right answer) were the main produce but there were other vegetables like carrots and onions. We spent a relaxing evening with Pat and Lori, tired beyond belief.