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Published: March 2nd 2016
Petra at its finest
Our flight from Luxor to Cairo was delayed 2 hours, giving us time to work on blogs and people watch. The connection time in Cairo was a long one, so I was relaxed knowing that gazelle-like running was probably not going to be required. Everything went according to plan and we had nice flights into Amman. We were met at the airport by a representative from our tour company, Jordan Select Tours, who took care of our visas, bypassed the long lines, and somehow got us out of baggage claim without having to go through the screening. Not ones to complain, we happily followed him to Starbucks to meet and greet, pay for our tour and get the low down on what we were going to do. I was very impressed with the Queen Alia Airport. It has only been open a couple years and is clean and very modern. We spent the night in the Toledo Hotel where a wedding was taking place including a band playing in our hallway. I wasn’t sure how late they would party, but by 11 the music was finished and things were quiet and calm.
The next day we had a three plus
Light and Shadow
In a building at Petra
hour drive to Wadi Musa where Petra is located. Petra is one of the 7-New Wonders of the World. The Pyramids at Giza are an honorary 8th
I just discovered. Even before Petra received this award I wanted to visit it, or to be honest the universe wanted me to visit it. I watched a documentary on it, yes I watch lots of documentaries, and the following day picked up a magazine at the dentist’s office and on the cover was Petra. Fate sealed it; I was going to have to visit. Several years later I am going to make that dream a reality.
Our first impressions of Jordan are that everything seems much calmer than in Egypt. Traffic flows more smoothly, there are no horns blaring, our driver didn’t try to cut people off as if it were a personal insult to allow them an inch. Speaking of drivers, we had Haytham for our trip. He was friendly and full of information, but in a nice conversational way. We drove straight to Petra to meet the guide we would have for two hours. His father was a guide, so he grew up around Petra and although his humor
was a bit dry he was full of information. We walked along the narrow siq looking at the colors and layers of the rock, at how light moves across it illuminating the other side with its reflection, and at the caper bushes growing from the walls. One thing I did not realize was that the builders of Petra were able to use pipes and carved drains to channel water and save it for the dry seasons. We could see what looked like rain spouts running along the walls of the siq. This is one reason that Petra was such a successful city. Not five days earlier rains flooded the site closing it to tourists. We have been very fortunate on this trip with exceptional weather. At one point our guide had made us walk single file against the wall without looking back, then we moved to the other side of the narrow passage while looking back at the light on the rocks. When he had us face forward we were staring at a sliver of the most famous facade in Petra, the Treasury. Even though it was only a small portion visible, it was instantly recognizable with its pink hue.
We rushed forward through the narrow opening and stood in awe of what has graced magazine covers, books and the silver screen. A true star, the Treasury is even more impressive in person.
Many people think that the Treasury was a place to store money, but it was most likely a tomb with three chambers. It stands almost 40 meters tall with tall columns, decorative carvings and friezes carved out of the rocks. They are excavating tombs directly in front of the steps. Even with a fairly large crowd of people milling about, it was magical. For me this was like being at Vernazza in Italy Through the looking glass
; it was something I dreamed about doing, but didn’t think would really happen. We were given plenty of time to take pictures, have some coffee and prepare ourselves for the journey into more of Petra. As much as I hated to move on, it was time to see more of this vast place.
We walked on the rocks looking at tomb after tomb. Each was carved out of the rock. Some had steps on top symbolizing movement to heaven. Our guide told us that this area had been under many meters
of rock and showed us some tombs that are still mostly underground. As we walked, we passed a huge outdoor theater built into the wall, could see elaborate carved facades stretching into the distance and walked past row after row of vendors selling the same things. A simple no thank you was not enough to dissuade them from their efforts. One thing that we did choose to do was to ride donkeys to the top of the 900 plus steps up to the Monastery. We were led by young Bedouins, or perhaps they were gypsies. They were more than capable of leading the donkeys up the steep, slippery steps along the steep cliff edge. Merry Jo was in front and we could see her with her head down. I kept talking to my donkey and whispering encouragement to it. Whether that helped or not I will never know, but I will say that it was a ride to remember. In unison we said no to a return trip. Nothing was going to get us on those donkeys facing down the steep steps. Heck, going up was enough excitement for one day.
The Monastery was up several more steps and
looks very similar to the Treasury, just not as rose colored. We took a few moments to unwind with tart, tasty pomegranate lemon drinks after the donkey ride before hoofing it up to a viewpoint. How could we argue with signs that told us it was the best view in Petra? I wasn’t going to miss that. Turns out it really was a nice view and was worth the hike. I don’t think I would have done the whole hike from the bottom, but I was ready to head on down past the rows and rows and rows of sellers selling the same stuff. After a while their calls to ask us if we wanted to buy something morphed into something like this in my mind; “Do you want to buy some crap? Crap for only 1 dinar until you start to pay and then I will hassle you until you finally give me money to shut me up.” Should I mention that even while we were going up slippery steep steps on a donkey they would holler out to us? I think it was Dave who finally told one that he was kind of busy.
Petra really is
beautiful and it was nice to see the shadows as the sun was falling in the sky. The rock walls are so tall that they block out the sun here and there. We split up at the old main street. I went up on a path that would take me past several of the large carved buildings (caves?) so that I would be able to see inside of them. Dave and Merry Jo walked on the path that we had walked earlier, but they could still see me a good portion of my walk. Alone I walked, the limpy gazelle without his protective anchovy swarm. I ended up with some postcards, but nothing more. The walk was well worth doing, as the interiors had amazing colors on the walls and ceilings. The colors here are ever-changing. This is not a place to walk without stopping to actually look and see things. Too often it is all about taking pictures and I forget to really see things. I took time to smell the Rose City so to speak.
The park was closing soon, Team Jordan was tired and didn’t really care if a carriage ride to the front gate was
hokey as well as expensive. We found two carriages, asked them to not go so fast as to jar our livers out of place and headed to the gate where Haytham was to meet us. Today was a special day. Not only did I see something I have waited for years to see, but I was able to see it with friends. Travel can’t get much better than that.
While arranging this tour, I was given the option to add the Petra Kitchen for the evening. This is a cooking class where the participants prepare the food under the eyes of chefs. It sounded interesting, so I signed up for it without even looking into it and all I can say is "Wow". Well, if you have read any of my blogs you know I say that is all I can say, but will type and type and type much more. The kitchen was very cozy with tall wooden counters in the centers. There was a couple from London, a trio from France, three Americans two of whom live in Amman currently with Embassy husbands, and of course Team Egypt or as it is now called, Team Jordan. The
Our day was just beginning
workers were tricky and split the groups into two different tables. Merry Jo and I were on 1 table with the 3 Americans, 1 Londoner and 1 French lady while Dave was on the other table. It was a great group, so we chatted with each other instead of only with ourselves. I chose to keep my job under wraps and try to look like a regular guy in a cooking class. For the most part I did a good job with that, but every once in a while BVChef popped in to visit. The Chef for our table was Tariq and was very friendly and knew what he was doing. While I was small dicing bell pepper he came over to check my work, did a double take and told me it was very good. I will post a picture of the menu (I know, who would have guessed?) so that you can see what we made. Some of the items included Lentil Soup, Baba Ganuj, Fattoush, a salad with greens, radish, tomato, fried pita, lemon and oil, an amazing tomato sauce, baked lamb filled pita and chicken with caramelized onions, pine nuts and sumac baked under bread. I
have been asked why I would choose to do a cooking class while on vacation and I can truly say that it is nice to simply cook for pleasure. In the back of my mind I think of ways to incorporate certain items onto my menus; however, doing a class like this is for the pure joy of cooking and doing what I love. Cooking with friends and sharing a meal is very personal for me, so tonight was special with Dave and Merry Jo cooking alongside me. Actually Dave was at the other table, but he was the only one who remembered to stir the onions, so he logged many trips past our table. Once everything was prepared we sat on stools at the tables and thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. We talked food, talked travel, talked about anything and everything, laughed and created a memory I will take from this trip that I really had not expected.
Haytham picked us up and dropped us back at the hotel to rest up for our trip to the desert (yeah, we didn’t get quite enough sand in our noses and ears back in Egypt so we needed some more). Come
Lots of great shadows here
on back and check out the final few days of this trip. Here are links to Dave and Merry Jo’s blogs. I make a point of not reading their blog until I have mine written. I did that on the Aswan portion of the trip and found it difficult to write with my voice after reading what they wrote. You will find some great humor, amazing pictures and a very different take on the same trip. It is fun to read and see the differences as well as similarities in how we see and experience things. And that is what blogging is all about; telling our own story. I hope you enjoy theirs. Cairo: Crowds, The Pyramids and Chefs! Western Egyptian Desert -- Scenes from Another Planet Cranky World Travelers, Racing Through the Desert and the Missing Sun King Tut, Temples, and an Uplifting Experience
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