Published: April 4th 2009March 31st 2009
The guest house was perched on the side of the mountain
I awoke before the alarm this morning. Not because I wasn't tired but because I thought I'd overslept! 45 minutes before breakfast and I was wandering around in the early morning sun taking photographs across the valley into Israel.
Following a simple breakfast, we packed our bags into the bus but set off on a three hour walk into the Dana Nature Reserve. We walked through the deserted village and headed off through some long neglected gardens and onto the mountain side. Although we saw evidence of porcupines and irises, the only wildlife to speak of came in the form of an eagle soaring overhead. Somewhat disappointed by the lack of fauna, we arrived back at the bus and settled down for the ride to Petra.
In which nothing prepares you for the sight
As we were driving south, there was some discussion as to the events of the afternoon. In theory, we were due to visit Petra the following day and we could spend the afternoon at leisure by the pool, in the sauna, in the town, where ever. However, several of us wished to take a 2-day pass into Petra and try and see something away from
Early morning view into Israel from my room.
the main tourist route. After much group discussion, it was agreed that we'd all go to Petra this afternoon and climb to the highest point.
Having checked into the hotel, which couldn't be closer to Petra, we dined on barbecued chicken, humus and salad, etc. Then, grabbing the camera and leaving the others to their own devices, I set off down the track leading to the Siq - a half mile narrow gorge leading into the hidden valley. Running down the side of the Siq is a channel carved into the rock which originally brought water into the city. There were surprises around every corner even when walking down the Siq whether it be the way the sun illuminated a particular rock or a little carving. However, nothing can prepare you for the view at the end - rounding the last corner and there, in front of you, framed by the dark walls of the Siq, the rose-red Treasury building. Undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring views in the world.
Today's visit though, is not about the main buildings of Petra, so, without paying too much attention, I headed down the main street until I came to a
Just off the King's Highway, this deserted 15th Century village clings to the side of the mountain.
flight of steps heading almost vertically up the side of the mountain. It was slow going in the heat, but I pressed on up the step, along narrow cracks in the rock, all the while getting higher and higher.
Near the summit, I passed two obelisks before finally, after a little climb reached the High Place of Sacrifice. Whilst the archaeology on the summit may not be all that visually exciting, the views down to the Royal Tombs are breathtaking. It's worth the climb just for that! Having had a drink of water, I met up with the two Ninas, who had set off before lunch. They were at the summit admiring the view.
Climbing back down to the obelisks, we decided on a circular route back to the Siq and so headed off down a steep set of steps hidden in the rocks. After a short decent, the Lion Fountain appeared but, with no water coming from the lion's mouth was easy to miss. Continuing down the side of the cliff, we descended steep stairs and, suddenly, rounding a corner, were met by a most amazing site -the Garden Tomb, beautifully lit by the afternoon sun. To
Spectacular views into the Occupied West Bank.
be honest, it looks more like a temple than a tomb.
From here on, everywhere you looked, there were hidden buildings and amazing rock colourations. You could not take a dozen steps before someone would shout out “Oh wow, look at that!”. It was even more magical because there was no-one else around - all the crowds had gone back to their coaches, etc., and there were but a few hundred visitors in the entire city.
Continuing down the valley, we entered the Roman Soldier's Tomb and, although there were no obvious internal carvings, it was still an impressive building. The Garden Triclinium across though, was another site all together. The inside of this building was beautifully carved with pretend pillars and made marvellous use of the incredible colours in the rock.
Finally, having gone into amazement overload
, we clambered down onto the main highway and headed back up the Siq and to the hotel, arriving about 18h30.
After a shower, I met the Ninas in the Cave Bar attached to the hotel - built inside a Nabataean tomb - where we revived our thirsts before heading off for a meal in the hotel.
a day - and with only 5% of Petra having been excavated and having been amazed at the tiny portion of the city seen thus far, tomorrow will be another amazing day.
There are more photos below