Tuesday, March 8, 2016

OMG Petra!


It was wonderful to relax yesterday afternoon. No one was in the steam room or the sauna, so we had the place to ourselves. We had plenty of time to get ready to take in the sunset over the Petra mountains. Ate dinner -  lovely dining room with a great view.

We actually went out last night for the Petra at Night event. It is a two km candlelit walk down through the Siq to the Treasury. No laser show or amplified music - just a local Bedouin playing local music. Sitting in the ground, you take in the expanse of the scenery and the night sky. No way my camera could capture the effect. In fact, I think cameras and cell phones should be banned from the experience. Too many flashes and clicking.

Not going into details, but we switched rooms last night before we went out. Got a much better room and woke up to a beautiful vista this morning.

Petra is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and after today, I know why. It was absolutely amazing walking through during the daytime. Last night gave us a tease of what was to come.
Petra, originally known as Raqmu to the Nabataeans, is a historical and archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved.
Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan's most-visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited byflash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of damscisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.
In ancient times, Petra might have been approached from the south on a track leading across the plain of Petra, around Jabal Haroun ("Aaron's Mountain"), the location of the Tomb of Aaron, said to be the burial-place of Aaron, brother of Moses. Another approach was possibly from the high plateau to the north. Today, most modern visitors approach the site from the east. 
At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh (popularly known as and meaning "the Treasury"), hewn into the sandstone cliff. While remaining in remarkably preserved condition, the face of the structure is marked by hundreds of bullet holes made by the local Bedouin tribes that hoped to dislodge riches that were once rumored to be hidden within it.
A little farther from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, positioned so as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. Theamphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-colored mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers. 
The Monastery, Petra's largest monument, dates from the 1st century BC. It was dedicated to Obodas I and is believed to be the symposium of Obodas the god. This information is inscribed on the ruins of the Monastery (the name is the translation of the Arabic "Ad Deir"). 
It is about a little over a mile to the Treasury from there it is about another mile and a half passing the tombs and the theater to the basin. If you want to see the Monastery, the only way is to go up the 800 to 1000 steps to the top. Coming back the same way it is about 3 miles round trip. There are several methods of transportation, even taking a donkey up the mountain, but we chose
to walk. We had spectacular weather. The air was cool and the skies were blue. We arrived at the basin around a little before 10, had an
espresso for the road and up we went. The climb was beautiful and the views from the top were awesome. There are stall shops all the way up.  Once you reach the Monastery, there is another short steep climb up for an even broader view. Couldn't miss that. Starting out early gave us the advantage of not a lot of people. At the very top, there was another couple from Toronto, so we talked sports. Big baseball and basketball rivals!

Trekked back down to the Monastery level and joined some folks sitting around at the cafe. Had a Jordanian drink of lemon and mint - very refreshing.  Got back down to the Basin Restaurant to meet up with Omar at 12:30.  Hit the lunch buffet just before the tour groups arrived. It felt good to sit and relax but we still  had another 3 mile walk back.  Again, here you have the option of a camel, horse, donkey, carriage, whatever, to get back.

Mohammad pulled up in the car just as we were walking out of the visitor's center. Really glad to see him! That's the end of this day's activities. We will be heading back down for another steam and sauna before sunset.

A half a day left in Jordan. We cross the border to Israel tomorrow afternoon.

Next time.... Wadi Rum



  1. WOW! Now I know why it is one of the world wonders, thanks to your camera. What can one say? I will say it must be a long way up judging by the look of those camels. I hope you bought a couple of the rocks for presents (if not, you'll have to go back, I'll pay for the donkey).

  2. These pictures and the experience you wrote about are just breathtaking. I love seeing these and seeing you two there. You must feel so inspired!