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Published: November 20th 2007
Floating In Salt After A Day Of Petrafication
After spending a couple of days seeing Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, and Biblical lands you’d think we’d be tired of the old stuff. In most cases I would agree with you. I have a longer shelf life when it comes to ruins than Kel does, but even I have my limits. After a couple of days of solid ruins rumination, it’s usually time for a break for this traveler.
But (there it is, the big but you knew was coming) Petra is a place that overcomes tourist fatigue. Petra is a place that inspires dreaming and imagination. There are few sights on the planet that can compare with the mystery and almost fairy-tale quality of the remains of this huge sight located in the southern part of Jordan. While almost everyone in the world has seen pictures of Petra thanks to the third Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade
, nothing really does the ancient sight justice. This is one of those places that you have to see for yourself to really understand.
Petra’s biggest sight is the Treasury, a large almost Roman building carved directly into
the side of a canyon cliff. It captures the imagination of anyone who sees it. What was it used for? How was it built? How has it survived? The only one of those questions that is really answerable is the last one. Given the dry climate and sheltered state of the Treasury, if makes sense that it would have remained pretty untouched by weather. Men, when they found it, did their damage but thankfully not much.
To enter the huge Petra area you have to walk through an almost impossibly narrow canyon referred to as the Siq. The formation of rock which makes up the walls of these more than 100 foot tall cliffs is almost a marvel in itself. Given the high density of metal deposits, the cliffs seem to striate into many shades of red, yellow and orange. But, just as you believe that you’ve seen all of the majesty of Petra, you catch a glimpse of the Treasury between the cliff walls. Much like the picture somewhere in this blog entry, the walls totally obscure your view of everything but a narrow slice of the huge edifice built into a cliff face perpendicular to the path
you are walking. This tantalizing glimpse of greatness is merely an aperitif for what Petra has to offer because the Treasury is merely a small part of the overall complex.
After spending a few minutes staring at the Treasury you can continue on to see the rest of Petra. Further down the path the canyon disappears and you see hundreds of acres of rocky desert and almost anywhere you look there are tombs carved into the sides of the many rocks sticking up from the desert floor. Some of these tombs are at least as impressive as the famous Treasury and well worth at least a few minutes of contemplation.
After our guided tour we set off for another of our famous hikes uphill. There have been a few of these treks uphill which will go down in our memories like Sintra in Portugal or the 600 step lookout view in Tasmania. The 800 step walk up to the Monastery at Petra will easily compare as one of the more draining uphill walks of our lives. We could have taken donkeys up half way but decided that a bit of exercise was good for us. In the end
we felt proud of ourselves for making it to the top but the desert heat and the uphill climb combined to wear us down with exhaustion.
The Monastery at the top of the climb is well worth the walk. Similar to the Treasury in the middle of the Siq, this building is carved directly into the cliff side. Unlike the Treasury, it isn’t quite as ornate and hasn’t been damaged by man. With a location on top of the cliffs, this building has remained free from human interaction for a much longer period time and therefore is in almost pristine condition. I would highly recommend the hike to the top as the view of the Monastery and the view of the surrounding desert and cliffs is really amazing and beautiful. Petra Cooking Class
Once back at sea level we decided to get some food before heading back to our hotel for a few hours rest prior to our evening activities. Kel, thinking ahead as always, had gotten us a reservation to spend the evening at the local Jordanian cooking school. We, and about 20 new friends, got a chance to work together to make some
local food which we later got a chance to eat.
Kel, being the lovely friendly type, managed to befriend one of the ladies who helped run the school - making a connection in very limited English, a little Arabic and a lot of smiling. She subsequently got to spend the whole evening seeing the intimate details of how each dish was cooked. Meanwhile, I was stuck cutting up parsley and eggplant. This may not sound grueling but I promise you that cutting a whole bowl of parsley into small enough pieces that it looks like it’s been through a food processor is enough to give anyone wrist problems. Since almost no one else at the school that night had decent knife skills, I found myself cutting, cutting, cutting. Whew!
Ultimately our meal was amazing. Kel had learned the intimate details involved in actually putting the ingredients together and I had gotten a work out. We really enjoyed the company of one couple who was from England. With good food, a beer and some new friends, the evening turned out to be one of our best in Jordan. A Brief Stop On The Way To The Dead
The next day we set out pretty early for a decent day of driving north. From Petra we had planned a brief stop at Karak, the sight of a crusader castle, on the way to our final destination in Jordan, the Dead Sea. After a couple of hours of driving we arrived at Karak and were immediately disappointed. Considering the number of castles we’ve seen in the past year, Karak is a pretty raggedy setup of ruins and loose stones.
What we had planned as an hour or more stop along the road became merely a twenty minute pit stop. Our guide was a little disappointed with our lack of enthusiasm and let his emotions show when we gave up on the tour and decided to move on to our next destination. We were disappointed and I think he was too!
Less than two hours later we arrived at the Dead Sea and checked into our hotel before getting some lunch. The rest of our stay was pretty dull, at least dull from a blog perspective - but very nice for us. We spent most of our next day relaxing by the pool enjoying the
We did get a chance to take a dip in the famous Dead Sea. This giant salt water lake is slowly but surely disappearing from the planet. By the year 2050 the Dead Sea is supposed to be completely dry unless man can figure out a way to add water to the present location. Unfortunately the world’s fascination with products like Dead Sea mud and Dead Sea salt don’t help the lake’s fight against evaporation. Whole sections of the lake are devoted to industry which use the lake’s waters to create these luxury products.
Due to the high salination level it is nearly impossible to touch the bottom when you get in. Even in a mere few inches of water you find yourself floating. Kel, who floats like a buoy in water, was nearly out of control from the moment she got into the water and couldn’t stay vertical for anything. I had to anchor her down to ensure that she didn’t float away. It was pretty hilarious!
After our day at the Dead Sea it was time to move onward. From this point forward we are heading in one direction, west. With only a
few destinations to go we started our countdown to setting foot in the USA. Despite our love of travel, we can’t help being excited about going home. Soon enough!!
Hope everyone back home is super wonderful! Thanks for reading!
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