Petra - The Jewel In Jordan's Tourist Crown.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
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Trip End Dec 31, 2018


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Saturday, November 8, 2008

"Oh my God my legs are broken!" said our new friend Hadda with a dramatic stooping and limping to emphasis her words. Her friends broke into fits of giggles all mimicking limping and chattering away amongst themselves in Arabic. We were hiking uphill out of the Siq in Petra at the end of the day when a group of school girls from Amman on an excursion to Petra asked where we were from. Hadda introduced herself in her very tentative English and then chattered away with us the whole 1.2km of the Siq. Her English skills were in the very early stages and mostly gained from American Sitcoms on Satellite TV hence her "Oh my God". The echo of horses and carts galloping through the Siq caused Hadda and her friends to squeal and Hadda to proclaim "I am horses scared". The horses and carts WERE scary as the Siq is so narrow and they thunder past at alarming speeds.

Our long awaited first day of our 2 day ticket for Petra was coming to a close and we were feeling a little like our friend Hadda with "broken legs". Luckily our hotel, The Petra Palace, was right near the entrance gate. 

We had met our guide for our 3 hour tour near the gate early in the morning and he was an excellent source of information and humour as he explained various things to us along the way. Petra is entered via a Siq - a very narrow passage way that was made when a large block was split by tectonic force many eons ago. Suddenly, the famous treasury is visible through a crack and the Siq opens out into the first taste of Petra. The Siq and the treasury were used towards the end of the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".

Petra is a massive city built in the 3rd Century BC by the Nabataens - Arabs who controlled the trade routes in pre-Roman times - and is so much more than just the often photographed Treasury. It is huge! The buildings and tombs are carved out of iron-laden sandstone which give a vague rose pink hue to everything. In other places the rocks are in hues of soft yellows and tones of purple. After our tour, we climbed, with the help of donkeys part of the way, to the Monastery. This was very steep and Avan nearly went for a "gutser" as his centre of gravity shifted on the Donkey on the way up and the donkey owner just managed to save him. At the top was a larger replica of the Facade of the Treasury, built around the same time, but not as decorative as it was a Monastery. We climbed even higher and had some amazing views into the desert. We spent the afternoon climbing up to various tombs and had some wonderful oranges, chocolate and tea for lunch. One last look at the Treasury again in the fading light, and we set off back up the Siq meeting the school girls on the way. 

Our next day we were again enthralled by the first sight of the Treasury through the Siq, and then set off to climb to the High Place of Sacrifice, another very strenuous climb but this time without donkeys. The views were superb into Petra and we could get a little understanding of the enormity of the site. At its height the city housed 20,000 people and its theatre, hewn out of rock rather than built, seated 7,000. The Nabateans had very advanced skills in hydraulic engineering, iron production, copper refining, sculpture and stone carving. From Petra they commanded the trade routes from Damascus to Arabia for silk, spices and slaves for some 800 years. We spent the whole day climbing, exploring and discovering the old city.

The end of the day arrived all to quickly and reluctantly we trudged back out of the Siq with aching muscles remembering our school girl companions from the day before. We had asked our new friend Hadda if she had Internet so we could send her a picture and she looked horrified. "No No we are not allowed!" she said. But I noticed she had a mobile phone and designer jeans popping out from under her more traditional clothes and a little bit of defiant hair escaped her headscarf - perhaps it won't be long and email will be part of her life too. 

Footnote: Petra, Ma'an Governorate, Jordan has been listed as one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World Winners. Petra also features in the book Unforgettable Places to See before you die and is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
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