We were up early and met Nashat at 7 am at the breakfast buffet in the hotel. We were soon at the entrance to Petra and on our way in to take a look at the magnificent place in the daylight. Though early, it was already hot. The day before, in our discussions of today’s itinerary, Nashat explained to us that our stop at Petra would be brief. We had to make a drive to Wadi Rum before evening. We thought he said something about being done at Petra by noon. So when we arrived we hit the ground running.
The entrance was the same path we followed the night before, and it was thrilling to see the red rock canyon in the light. It’s awe-inspiring. I walked with my neck craned up and head tilted all the way back, and yes, I did lose my balance and nearly tip over a couple of times! There were many people walking with us. It is the peak of tourist season, and many many languages surrounded us on all sides. The local entrepreneurs are ready to accommodate. Margaret was goofing around with one person who was trying to sell her something while speaking English, and she said “Nyet, spaciba!” The man immediately began speaking to her in Russian.
The path to Al Khazneh (The Treasury) in Petra, is through a deep canyon. The path is smooth and easy and flat, and the walls are steep. I spent a lot of time looking up into the sky, mouth open, gaping at the fabulous canyon, called the Siq. We had made the journey the night before, so we knew how long it would take, but in the dark we had not seen how beautiful it was. Even the walls that appear smooth hold carvings and monuments along the way.
Since we got such an early start, we had coffee at the shop in front of the Treasury. We saw some splendid military uniforms that we found out later were the Bedouin branch of the Army. We saw the begging dogs and cats. We talked to many locals who were hoping to sell us something: a ride on a donkey, or a scarf, or a trinket. We bought Turkish coffee, loaded with cardamon. Most of all we gazed at the inspiring Al Khazneh in front of us.
It is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabatean Empire from the 1st century BCE, which grew rich in trade – mainly of spices. Petra was later annexed to the Roman empire and continued to thrive until an earthquake in 363 CE destroyed much of the city. About the same time, trade routes changed. Combined effects of the damage from the earthquake and reduced trade resulted in the decline of the city. By the middle of the 7th century, Petra was abandoned and forgotten by all but the local Bedouin people. In 1812 a Swiss explorer disguised himself as an Arab and tricked a Bedouin into showing him the city. Ever since then, popularity has grown, and now the place draws constant tourists.
We began walking hard. We knew we had a lot of ground to cover and that would involve climbing stairs. We heard “1000 steps!” from the people trying to sell us a donkey ride, but I think it’s actually 890. In any case, that’s a lot of uphill. It was already hot, and we went fast to take advantage of the temperatures and shadows of morning. The scenes along the way are phenomenal as we headed for the next most famous facade: Ad Deir (commonly called The Monastery).
We rested, looked around the plaza a little (definitely fewer people at this monument, which I believe is better than Al Khazneh), and then began trucking back downhill. If we hurried, we could get back to the parking lot by noon.
We made it back by noon! We were relieved and tired. We called Nashat who was very surprised that we were out already. We had misunderstood his instructions and we did not need to rush through the place after all. No one could remember where the idea of getting out by noon came up. Darn. Well, I’ll just come back later then. (When it’s cooler)
Yeah, so, I typically love the desert weather. But that’s when I get to wear what I want. In this primarily Muslim country I have to wear long sleeves and long pants and it’s frigging hot! ha ha. So I’ll come back to Jordan when it’s cooler and the clothes aren’t a hardship.
We got into the car and headed south again, for Wadi Rum, or Rum Valley. We were going to camp out in the desert.