Petra and desert camping

The beginning of the path into the old city of Petra.

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.

Inside Petra. The structures are still in shadow in the morning. This is Bab Al Siq, the gateway to the Siq (the narrow path).
The path to the Treasury is narrow, with high walls.
The people who created this city were the Nabateans. They were excellent architects and engineers, and created an elaborate and effective system of water collection and dissemination.
It was hard to capture the glowing red rocks with my camera, the way our eyes saw it, but in this photo you can finally see what we saw. I captured the moon too!
Another attempt to capture the red colour.
Three statues of humans are now nearly gone.

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.

Rami n Crystal
Rami asked if we were interested in a donkey ride. We were more interested in how he looked like Jack Sparrow. Photo by Margaret Campbell
Rami
We thought he was beautiful. Photo by Margaret Campbell
Bedouin Army
Members of the Bedouin Army. Photo by Margaret Campbell
Al Khazneh (commonly called The Treasury) is recognizable to fans of Indiana Jones movies.
Al Khazneh contains a couple of rooms, but they are somewhat small and simple. This is not a building, but primarily a facade.
Ok, I’m going to dash that pristine image you have, and show you how much tourism industry is in the canyon. There’s a cafe and trinket shop just a few steps from Al Khazneh.
This dog is tuckered out from asking tourists for breakfast.
Standing below Al Khazneh.
A fascinating amount of detail remains here, while other places have been nearly worn smooth.

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.

The space in front of Al Khazneh was filled with people.
A lot of walking is required to see the place, and many people opted for other modes of transportation.

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).

Roman influence on the Nabatean city is obvious in several places.
The Royal Tombs are one of the many side trips we could have taken, but skipped on our way to Ad Deir.
Qasr al-Bint, the most important temple of Petra, dedicated to the god Dushara.
Walking through the valley was jaw-droppingly amazing.
These Roman guards let me hold a staff and shield. See, look, Will? I DID wear a hat!
The terrain sloped up as we walked, and sure enough, we found the stairs.
Lots of stairs.
Looking back down at the path we had climbed.
Margaret and a friend take a breather on the way up.
Many of us tourists stopped to take photos while we rested.
His name was Faisl, I think? He worked hard to make fresh pomegranate juice, which was delicious and restorative. People passing asked, “How much further?” Faisl answered, “15 minutes without the juice. With juice, 10 minutes.”
And suddenly, there it was! Ad Deir (the Monastery).
Standing below Ad Deir and looking up.
Monastery
Margaret is so great at selfies. Photo by Margaret Campbell

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.

Goats on the rocks above us.
We spotted things we had not seen on the way up, like this, because we had faces forward and were hurrying.
We spotted the theatre on the way back. HOW DID WE MISS THIS? Too much hurrying.
The entire place is picturesque. I think sometimes the animals made it moreso.
Hello handsome.
Possibly it would have been less effort to see the place this way, but I was glad we used our own feet and got the real experience.
Midday light lit the canyon differently on the way back. It was equally stunning as it had been in the morning.

Djinn blocks outside the canyon. It’s a fanciful name to say that Djinn spirits live there, but really they are funeral monuments.

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.

Views along the way.
We got a kick out of this hobbled black camel trying to run away. Nashat said they run faster than horses and need to be hobbled or they would never be caught.
We spotted some of the landscape of Wadi Rum on the way to our camp.
The “tents” weren’t actually tents, but pretty solid structures. Ours had a bathroom!
Each night they cook chicken and lamb in a stove on a fire, buried beneath the sand.
They make a big production out of removing the meat from the stove. It is delicious!
Sunset from our campsite.

10 thoughts on “Petra and desert camping

  1. An awe inspiring, well photographed tour. The figures offer amazing scale. Your time scale reminds me of a ten mile walk I once did in Barbados. I was advised to take the bus, but, if I insisted, leave at 5 a.m. I left at 8 and got the bus back!

    1. That photo is darling, isn’t it? That was an American family hiking at our same pace. The little girl was darling. At one point she was complaining to her dad that a camel sneezed right onto her. “No, the camel didn’t sneeze ON you,” said her exasperated dad. “Yes! It did!” She was clearly disapproving of the camel situation.

      Yes, I often think that I need more space for my photos. I’d have to get an all new blog format, so I’m dragging my feet. I’m glad you are liking them. 🙂

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