Friday, June 13, 2014


After heading down to the Dead Sea and back in one day, we were back on track the next day for our scheduled visit to Petra.  Zuhair advised us that we’d want to get an early start, due to the heat at mid-day and the crowds. Plus, the grounds at Petra are expansive, and it is a 3 km walk just to get from the entrance to the Treasury, the building seen above, the one you probably recognize from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The walk through the canyon itself was beautiful. You could see the channel on the left side of the photo, where the water supply ran into Petra. Petra was a city built as a trading center, but they didn’t want every Tom, Dick, and Mohammed coming into town with their goat hair tent, their string of camels, and all their wares. They were welcome to bring a sample of their goods in to shop them around, but that was it.  This narrow opening to the city helped them accomplish this goal, as well as having the effect of an awe-inspiring entrance.
These photos give you an idea of the scale of the canyon, which was massive.
It was right about here that Zuhair told us to turn around and look behind us at the top of one of the canyon walls. He pointed, we couldn’t see anything, he told us to step back a couple of steps, a couple more. Then he said there was nothing to see and told us to turn around, since the view was actually behind us.
The Treasury building was just coming into view. We all exclaimed, but Lana felt a little cheated that she didn’t get her own moment to come upon the Treasury, so she turned back around and made another approach on her own.
It was spectacular.  We were early enough that we had it to ourselves—along with two camels—so it was easy to coordinate with everyone and get our shots without a lot of people in them.  The name of “Treasury” is inaccurate, but very old; it is actually a tomb.
It’s not obvious in the shot above, but recently, an additional story to the Treasury has been discovered hiding under the sand and rubble; two tombs have been partially excavated and are visible from directly in front of the rock face, looking down.
We continued on past the Treasury and reached the areas where people lived and traded.  Steps carved into the rock lead to dwellings, also carved into the rock.
The theatre was excavated late in the Nabataen reign, but before the arrival of Romans, despite it’s appearance.  Older tombs and dwellings were exposed by the excavation of the seating.
Then we started to climb a set of stairs carved into the sandstone; Zuhair told us it was a long climb, but worth it for the view.
The stairs just kept going up, and up…

And up.  At one point, we encountered a herd of goats making their way down; they weren’t concerned by us. And it must be said that they navigated the stairs with much more agility than many people.
Zuhair was right—the view was worth it.  Actually, the hike up was itself pretty amazing.  We sat in a shady spot, eating snacks, and taking turns taking pictures of each other on the overlook.  It was getting warmer though, and soon we pressed on before the heat turned ugly.
The climb up to the Monastery was much longer, and instead of being passed by goats, we were passed by cranky donkeys; some carrying tourists up, other’s being hurried back down for a fresh round of tourists.  They generated a lot of dung, so when you weren’t dodging a kicking donkey, you were stepping around slippery donkey poop.  All the while, staring at the beautiful rock, which we posted earlier in Painted Petra.
At this point we were pretty sweaty and exhausted, and so we decided to head back out of Petra into town. We knew we would be coming back that evening for something called Petra by Night, which was a chance to walk through to the Treasury lit only by candlelight, and once there to hear some Bedouin music and storytelling.
It was a gorgeous night, with the candles in bags to light our way. The entire group didn’t go, but it was the two of us, April, Wendy, and Taka. We walked slowly, talking and enjoying this different view of Petra.
Once we got there we realized we’d spent a bit too much time getting to the Treasury (remember, 3 km walk) and the “concert” was in full swing. We were still able to find seats, however, and were served a drink that we think was hibiscus tea, although it was dark, and over a year ago now. There was some storytelling, some chanting with more playing of the rebab (the one stringed instrument we heard in a Bedouin tent in the Wadi Rum), and some beautiful flute music. The acoustics were perfect for a concert, with the sound amplifying in the narrow space.
After the concert we had about 20 minutes to walk around and take photos (not the easiest thing to do, although the shot below was a cool misfire). In order to get people to start leaving when the show was over, some of the performers walked around shouting “Okay!” “OKAYeee!” which, strangely enough, worked pretty well. Little tip for you there—if you want people to leave, just walk around, clapping your hands together and saying “Okay!”
Finally, we got to visit Little Petra, which was originally our first stop before we swapped days in order to see the Dead Sea before it was closed to visitors for a weeklong conference.  It was a little underwhelming when seen after Petra, but it was still quite interesting, and had its own grandeur—the remaining fresco on the ceiling above was beautiful.  Little Petra was the traders’ campground for Petra itself.  This is where they left their caravans and the bulk of the goods they were trading, and where buyers would come to take delivery of those goods.
After goofing around taking some photos, we headed back to the bus. While we were walking the ubiquitous gauntlet of People Selling Stuff, a ten year-old boy struck up a conversation with us in English. He was trying out his English and his luck at the same time by asking for various things we had. “Can I have that?” was his main English phrase (he asked for cameras, sunglasses, anything he saw), but he seemed just as contented with the squeeze of hand sanitizer Lana shared with him, as he was with the general chorus of “Nos” he got.  We waved goodbye to him as we climbed in the bus and settled back for a drive.  We were headed to see a castle, a mosaic, and a “Moses Was Here” attraction. We would be lucky enough to get a flat tire, have some Philadelphia beer, hear the musical stylings of a local celebrity, and lose some laundry.  But that’s another post.