Petra - A Listed Wonder

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March 9th 2011
Published: March 27th 2011
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Petra, the jewel in the crown of Jordan’s tourism. A monumental piece of architecture from over 2000 years ago and the highlight of many a persons trip to Jordan. We were no different. I had read some interesting quotes on Petra, but the one that amused me the most was about the Monastery….

As impressive as the entrance was, it was still a cave. Yes, it has good “Kerb Appeal”, but once I stuck my head inside, there really was nothing to it. If you add that to the fact that it was out of the way and you had to climb over 800 steps to get to it, it’s fair to say that if it was on Location, Location, Location, it wouldn’t be on my shortlist. - Karl Pilkington

. This comment was of course was not meant to be taken seriously but if you use his logic, it makes a bit of sense. The monastery though, is not on Location, Location, Location. It is tucked away in the mountains of Jordan and is a treasured icon.

Our day started out with a quick breakfast at our hotel of cereal, eggs and flat bread. We had arranged the night before to have a packed lunch made for us so we could trek through Petra and not have to worry about paying for food at the over priced restaurants on site. The walk to the ticket office was about 20 minutes or so. I was adamant we would be there early as all reports hinted at large tour groups and frustrating crowds. We got there at about 7:20am and a little queue had formed at the ticket window. It had been open by 6am and for those who like places without tourists I would advise them to arrive at that time. Even getting tickets started to get a little stressful. Everyone was eager to get inside. A man at the top of the queue refused to pay the fee for his child and argued it was too expensive. He tried his damnedest to get it cheaper. In the end he paid just like everyone else had to. A passport was required to buy tickets for more than one day. This was quite clear yet when people got to the top of the queue they had to fumble around for ages in their bags for their passports or ID’s. Even the clerk behind the window was getting stressed. He began to tell people to step aside unless ready and served us quickly. End of rant!

The sky was clear blue but the wind was whipping the sand as we walked along the pathway towards the Siq. As we entered the Siq, which is a passage way between what was formerly one piece of rock, we could feel the excitement of knowing that the Treasury awaited. The Siq is a 1.2km walk with 200m high walls. The different colours along the walls were incredible. People rarely stopped to admire the Siq, instead choosing to head straight for the Treasury, me included. Anyway, I would have to pass back through the Siq again when we were finished. My aim was to get as many photo’s as possible without any people in them. As we reached the end of the Siq and the first glimpse of the Treasury was revealed, we stood for a minute to marvel at it. As we emerged from the Siq the full view of the spectacular piece of work became apparent. I only wanted one thing before I could sit back and take it in. A photo without a tourist in it. The majority of people had lined up in acquiescence so that no one would get in someone else’s shot. Of course one (there’s always one) guy emerged from the Siq and proceeded to walk right into everyone’s photo and straight up to the front door of the Treasury. There was a collective sigh as people armed with all sorts of SLRs and digital cameras retreated, to wait for this one guy (who I have pictured), to get out of the way. He did eventually and we all got the photo we coveted. Now we could relax. The Treasury was built around 100BC and 200AD. When you sit back and stare at it, you see the astonishing craftsmanship. The detail in the building is remarkable. It’s the façade that’s the most intriguing, as all that’s is inside is a big empty room. After staring at it for a good few minutes we began our walk towards the street of Facades, where we would climb to the High Place of Sacrifice.

There was the option of getting a donkey up to the High Place of Sacrifice, which or guide book had down as a 45min climb, but we decided the walk would be good. The path way to the top had steps most of the way and was relatively easy. It was very windy at the top and it started to bring in clouds. We explored around for awhile, looking down below at the facades crafted into the sides of the mountains. We decided to go back down the other side of the mountain towards Wadi Farasa. We couldn’t find the trail to get down and had to abort from a few routes when it became apparent that we were going down the wrong way. The signposts seemed to have directional issues which didn’t help. We eventually asked a local Bedouin woman and she pointed us in the right direction. Lets say the signpost pointed east. She sent us north. That’s how bad it was signposted. The best thing about this part of the trek was that we were the only ones making it. We didn’t see another person for nearly two hours. We passed by tombs and monuments and sang the theme tune to Indiana Jones a few times. Do da do do, do do, Do da do do, Do da do do do. Needless to say Michelle gave me a few funny looks. As we got near the end of this particular trek we came to a fork in the trail. The signpost wasn’t even pointing in the direction of the two trails leading away so we had to take a guess. This I left to Michelle as her navigational skills have never let us down. I’m afraid though, there is a first for everything. We circled around the mountain only to find steep edges. The goats even looked at us thinking what the hell are you two doing here. It eventually came to the stage where we could go no further and we returned the way we came and followed the other trail. We were soon back to the rest of the tourists and kind of glad to see people again. We had lunch here and rested for awhile. On a trip to the toilet Michelle heard three local lads conversing. As she was wearing her Keffiyeh, the black and white check one which is closely linked to Palestine, it led to a rather inquisitive and funny conversation.

Local Lad No. 1 “ Are you Palestinian?” to Michelle
Local Lad No. 2 “Don’t be stupid she’s Japanese!”
Local Lad No. 3 “She’s not Japanese, look at her eye’s!!”

We rested some more before building up the energy to climb the 800 odd steps to the Monastery. Many people chose the option of donkey, but I would like the satisfaction of knowing when we got to the top we had done it ourselves. It didn’t take that long and was only slightly strenuous. As we reached the top and turned the corner, may favourite part of Petra was revealed. The Monastery. A lot bigger than the Treasury but in similar design, the Monastery is breath taking. The now apparent sand storm was also breath taking but in a different way. We were constantly crunching sand between our teeth. It was frustrating but we couldn’t and didn’t let it ruin the Monastery. Michelle got a seat for us inside a cave across from the Monastery. This was quite clearly the best seat and best view in Petra. We had some tea and coffee and sat back for a while and took it all in. I was kind of sad as well. The whole fun of getting to these places is the adventure of getting there. When we reached the sun gate above Machu Picchu a few years back there was a realisation that the journey was over. All that we had thought about and planned was now near an end. I have to say Michelle found it hard to get me to move at all from the cave but eventually I did. Karl Pilkington also observed that

It was much better to look out of a hole at a palace, than live in a palace looking at a hole. I think the same rule applies with humans. I think I’d rather be an uglyish looking person than a beautiful one, as how often do you look at yourself? If you’re quite ugly and your sat facing someone who is pretty at work, who’s got the better deal?

I think this puts his quote at the top of the page into perspective!

After getting back down we made our way to the Royal Tombs and had lunch again. I made friends with a donkey, who a young girl informed me was called Donkey. I fed him my apple and then the girl (around 10) guilted me into buying a chain. We explored the royal tombs and then stopped off at the Theatre for a quick look. Designed to hold around 8,500 people it was most impressive. Finally we were back at the Treasury again. We found a seat and sat back to admire it for one last time. We were lost in a trance staring at it when a rather bizarre and disgusting thing happened. A little old Chinese woman wormed her way onto our bench, using her ass as a battering ram to move Michelle. No please, no eye contact or gesture to see if it was ok. We forgot about her and went back into our trance which the Treasury had put us in. Then out of nowhere the little old lady gathered up the biggest amount of phlegm in her mouth for I’d say at least 10 seconds. It seemed to go on for ever. She then widened her knees, arched her back a bit and spat it out in front of us. It was the single most disgusting thing I have seen (and heard) on all my travels. It was rotten. I made it clear to what I thought of it. From what I know though, it’s common place in China. China Please Read: It is not common place anywhere else.

That night we ended up having a barbeque on the roof of the hotel with the owners and a Lithuanian couple. It was freezing but we found it very interesting to listen to the owners and his friends and their views on the world. Petra had come to an end but it was an incredible day. We still have a two night stay in the desert to look forward to, and a little bit of Bedouin culture to experience.

In a bit. DH

Quote of the blog: Do da do do, do do, Do da do do, Do da do do do!! (sang in the tone of Indiana Jones)

Additional photos below
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7th April 2011
Last view of the Treasury

haha, was so funny reading your little part on the chinese woman. it really sums up china as a whole. i lived there for 5 months and that was the one thing i could not get used to. Men, women, young and old just spit everywhere!!

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