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Published: July 26th 2012
Bus to Petra
It all started with a public transport bus packed with a few tourist groups and then one big group of 17 loud, fun arabs. I was in the latter. The 3 hour bus ride to Petra from Amman seemed short with the different arabic songs being sung and plenty of new people to get to know. The group was made up of a lot of Laila's friends I had already met, but a few new ones as well. By the way, I heard horrible things about Jordanian Public Transportation, but they must have really upgraded their buses and infrastructure since these reviews because it was a very smooth, comfortable trip - and only 8 dinars as well. It was a great deal so I'd recommend it to anyone going to Petra, Wadi Rum, or Aqaba from Amman.
The scenery on the way south was breathtaking! The road ahead of the bus stretched through the vastness of the desert terrain and I watched out the window as we passed a tiny village every once in a while. The desert stretched to both sides literally as far as the eye could see. Observing the
terrain, I was reminded of so many different stories - both fiction and non fiction - along the way. My thoughts weren't confined to the writings of T.E. Lawrence, I was even more reminded of the novel The Gunslinger
by Stephen King. If you've read the novel then you know that the main character, Roland, makes a treacherous journey through the desert on his quest to find the Dark Tower. His adventures in the novel were probably the first thing that popped into my head and, like him, I started looking for any source of water in the wasteland. I wasn't able to find any.
The trip was made easier with a stop at a "Dead Sea" tourism shop meant to rip off tourists who are on the way to one of Jordan's popular travel sites south of Amman. Bedouins camp out around the shop begging for money and food, which is a hard sight to see, but at the same time its common knowledge that many of these bedouins are quite wealthy and come to Petra and the surrounding areas to rip off tourists. One must also be careful as some bedouins have been known to
harrass tourists, especially women. We actually had a young one do this and I'll explain more of the story in a bit.
When we entered the "actual" city of Petra (yes, people live there, outside of the ancient city, of course) we rode along a cliff overlooking houses and mosques on a hillside. A really beautiful view! When mountains started appearing among the terrain I knew we were close.
As I mentioned in my last blog, the ancient city of Petra has an admission price of 1 Jordanian Dinar for Jordanians, arab nationals, residents, or students (must be a Jordanian university). Any one else (foreigners) must pay a hefty fee of 50 JD ($70) for admission! Well damn. Cuz out of 14 of us only I and one other girl did not fit any of the 1 JD admission ticket requirements, leaving us to pay 50 JD's.
To get to Petra's main attractions, it's quite a walk. Or ride if you'd rather hire a cart. As soon as you pass through the admission gate you're on an outside path winding through some tall rock ledges, but with plenty of open air.
Nothing like what is to come in the Siq. There are a few interesting caves and architectural carvings out of the rock face on the way and you follow this outdoor path until you reach the first of many small bedouin tents selling water, candy bars, and souvenirs. We didn't find any real food (none candy) at all in Petra so if you're planning on going, have a nice breakfast first.
After this first tent you enter the Siq, a tight gorge situated between high rock cliffs. The rock walls are smooth and colorful. Most of them with a light rosy red color and with swirly patterns (left by erosion maybe?). The Siq is about about a mile long and you will come across groups of bedouins - even children - trying to sell small souvenirs to tourists. Bedouins are a tribal people from ancient times who learned to survive in desert conditions. They're still found in Jordan and in different areas in and near the Arabian Peninsula.
I tried to speak to a young bedouin girl in Petra. The kids were what really pulled on my heart strings. Poor
children begging for tourists to buy postcards or photos. I gave in finally because the price was so low and I really wanted to help, I felt really bad for them. But after I gave her the money she followed me further, asking for "akel akel" - food. I reached into my bag for some but Laila's friends stopped me. Although everyone wanted to help, they said the girl, after finding a tourist who would buy things and give her food, would tell more kids and they would harrass us for the rest of the trip. There are many bedouins in and around Petra and most are strong from physical labor all day. Not only that, but the bedouins form tight-knit groups and know each other, so starting anything with one means you're starting something with all of them. I'm not what he did to start it, but one bedouin boy started harrassing the group for a good section of the trek. He would yell taunts to the arab guys in our group and cuss words he'd learned in English. It really bothered some of the guys in the group but we were able to ignore him and shake him
Besides that, the Siq walk was a beautiful hike through the gorge. The colors and and designs that nature left on the stone walls were worth it even without seeing the rest of the attraction. Occasionally there would be a man-made carving out of the rock or different types of small desert trees, vines, or bushes growing up high or out of a wall. I was stunned that plants could grow in such a hot dry area!
After a mile of walking we entered a turn in the Siq and caught a first glimpse of the Treasury. Pictures do its size no justice, its enormous. The Treasury is carved INTO the rock, not out side of it. The facade is actually in the wall. Its amazing that such a beautiful man made creation from so long ago could be preserved so well to the present day. Just about every detailed carving is still visible. Unfortunately, they no longer allow people to go inside the Treasury. You'll probably recognize from the photos that the Treasury was one of the filming sites for the film Indiana Jones and the Last
Crusade. Later when we exited Petra, I even found a few shops using the Indiana Jones name.
Camels are lined up in front of the Treasury for tourists to ride for a picture in front of the wall, but I thought it was bit too expensive so I opted for a longer ride later :D I think God knew I was going to be a traveling child so he made my skin and features easily passable in a lot of cultures. Most places I go people guess I'm either hispanic, iranian, spanish, or arab - in that order. And today someone guess Moroccan for the first time. I was reminded of this when a few of the bedouins tried to sell me on their products in spanish. I'm really thanful for this because it really allows me to blend in to my surroundings and not look like such a tourist (cheaper prices too!). I tan easily but I can also lose the tan to become completely white as well. My real heritage is actually 1/4 chinese, 1/4 dutch, and then 1/2 american hailing from Germany, France, and England originally.
After spending some time at
the Treasury and taking lots of pictures we moved on along the path, past the wall of facades, which looked a lot like caves carved neatly into the rock wall. There were also two areas here that you could climb high if you wished for a better view. After the wall of facades there was an amphitheater (much like the one in downtown Amman) that they also recently closed off to tourists. We took a few more pictures and headed onwards a ways but most people in the group were pretty tired by then and we didn't go too much farther. I thought there was another big carving to see, but no one else had heard of any. I found out after getting back to Amman that there is another called the Monastery. Apparently you have to climb quite far to get up to it though and some of our group probably wouldn't have had the energy. It gives me another reason to go back sometime!
At the end of the path some of the group went up some steps to one of the carvings on the side of a large wall but I stayed back with
Laila and a few others to chill in a cave we found in the side. It offered a nice breeze and a great view of the mountains outside of Petra.
The heat at Petra was scorching, and that was just the morning weather! On our way out it was about 2:00pm and I almost felt bad for the people entering Petra at that time of day. The sun was at its worse and although the heat was dry, the suns rays were destructive. My hattah was able to keep some of those harsh sun beams off of my head though!
Like Indiana Jones, but on a camel!
On the way back I finally got to ride a camel! I had been wanting to since I got to Jordan and on the way back I found a bedouin and hopped on. To get the camel to go down on its knees he made a sort of hissing noise. It took the camel a few seconds because he goes down slowly and front feet first - gets situated - and then goes down on his back knees. I got on his back and could
feel how wide my legs were pushed out from his belly full of water! Without any warning the bedouin called him up and I had to hold on tight to keep from going over the front and falling off. The camels are much taller than I thought! I felt so high up and was able to relax and look at the carvings and walls that we had passed earlier. Riding a camel is a really unique experience and I would recommend it to everyone, especially at Petra! The photo-op is a must :D
Back to Amman
Since our bus wouldn't leave until 16:30 we sat next to it and rested for the 2 hours we had to wait, using the shade of the bus to cool off. I had to eat an ice cream pop on the way out of Petra just to get in some calories to keep from going catabolic because as I said before, there was no real food to be found at Petra unless you want to eat at one of the 5 star hotels and spend a small fortune. On the way out though I spotted some small restaurants
from the bus that were further into the actual town. I'll have to remember that if I ever make the trip back.
After arriving home, we ate some warm food that Laila's mom had prepared to recharge our batteries and for the rest of the night we planned our trip to the Dead Sea.
If you have time, please give me some feedback on the photos in this blog! The photos of the Treasury didn't come out as well as I would like but I thought there were some good ones mixed in. I'd love to get some constructive criticism or comments!
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