The Rose City, Half as Old as Time

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The internet has been a little hard to find lately.  I'm sure by the time our kids read this journal the internet will be beamed down from satellites or something and be available everywhere, but without putting in a lot of time and effort we haven't been able to find it for a while.  And honestly, as much as I like journaling we've had better things to do.  We are getting pretty used to being disconnected, there is a lot more time to enjoy things without all of the interuptions. Since we haven't had internet we got a little behind, I'm actually writing all these in Greece.  So if they seem to lack some of the details, its probably because I forgot the little stuff by now.  Which goes to show how important writting our adventures down now is, because in few years we'd probably have forgotten a lot of great stuff. So I think you heard about the fun drive into Wadi Musa.  This morning we got breakfast at the hotel.  One of my favorite breakfast things is this stuff that is kind of like brown sugar that they squeeze into a solid block and you put on pita bread.  Some other people weren't thrilled with it, but since I'm known to have a bit of a sweet tooth, I really liked it.  They also had Tang.  It's the second time already we've run into it while in Jordan, so I guess its big here, which is good.  But enough about breakfast.  When we were planning our trip Jordan definitely gave us a lot of difficulties.  It is expensive to get to, not easy to manuveur around (as you've seen,) and we didn't really have a lot of time to spend here.  We decided that Petra was important enough to overcome all these difficulties, and this morning we are going to figure out if it was worth it.  It is someplace that I have always wanted to go, and honestly never really thought I would.  It always seemed like it was a world away.  But here we are! We drove down to the entrance gate and got our 2 day tickets.  Petra is a huge place that requires a lot of hiking.  From the entrance gate to the Siq is about a quarter mile, and then the Siq is more than half a mile long before you get to the Treasury.  So just to get to the beginning of the main area you have to go about a mile over rocky uneven ground.  Its pretty downhill on the way in, which means the way out is extra hard.  We did a lot of walking today.  It was great! Petra is known as The Rose City, Half as Old as Time.  It was carved into a big mountain range right in the middle of the desert a long long time ago as a major trading city on the Silk Road between Europe and Asia and then forgetten about for a long long time, kind of like Angkor Wat.  You get into the city by walking through the Siq.  The Siq is a long canyon cut directly into the mountain.  It was made by an earthquake moving the mountain apart so the walls tower above you, and in spots it is only about 10 feet wide.  The sun can only sneak through in some of the wider areas and almost never makes it to the floor, but instead lights up streaks of the rose colored walls.  It is quite an entrance.  Now I already knew what to expect at the end of the Siq.  It was another one of those moments on this trip when you wonder if the reality will be as great as you hope.  Again it was.  You can never see very far in front of you when walking through the Siq since it curves constantly, but eventually you step around a curve and when you look up through a sliver of rock the Treasury just appears.  Since its darker in the Siq and the sun shines directly on the Treasury it just glows and the farther you walk towards it the bigger it gets.  The Treasury is carved directly into the side of the mountain.  Since it is tucked in the middle of the canyon it has been protected from the weather and except for some of the details of the statues, it looks like it could have been made 20 years ago, not two thousand.  I really don't know what else to say about the Treasury, except it is amazing.  Since it is right at the entrance to everything we got to see it 5 times, and every time we walked by, it stopped me in my tracks and I had to take another picture to try to remember it by.  The pictures are good, but don't do it justice. There are a lot of tourists here and a lot of people selling stuff, but since the area's so big they really don't subtract from it.  We had a big day planned so we went right into the center of the city.  The whole way there are dozons of caves carved into the mountain that I'm sure used to be houses.  Many of them are high up steep walls and I have no idea how people actually could climb up to them.  There were also a lot of large buildings carved into the mountain walls along the road.  Many of the buildings only had one small room, and others no rooms at all, but it was made to look like they were gigantic mansions.  We hiked up to a few of the building and then started to make our way to the Monastary.The Monastary is a building a lot like the Treasury only bigger and less detailed.  It is on the top of a mountain and in order to get there you have to climb up over 800 steps that wind up through the mountains.  These weren't 21st century steps either.  Some of them were fine, but others were very steep on hairpin turns, or warn down to a slippery slope. It was worth every step though, and more.  It was an impressive site, I think we liked it even more than the Treasury.  On the top of the mountain you could see into the next valley where the mountains shoot off forever in one direction, and just past them in the other direction the desert stretches out as far as you can see into Israel and the Holy Land.  We stopped there for a while on a rock, had a cliff bar and water, and then stacked a few rocks up, which seems to be a tradition here, along the edge of the cliffs.  Amazing. From there we headed out of Petra and back to our hotel even though it was only around 3:00.  By the end of all that hiking we had gone more than 7-8 miles(appox) up and down mountains.The day wasn't over though.  We took it easy for an hour or so and then grabbed dinner.  After that, we headed back to Petra for the night tour around 8:30pm.  Earlier in the day I went to the ticket booth to buy the tickets and it turns out they only took cash so the guy told me where an ATM was about a 10 minute walk away.  After walking to the ATM and back the guy tells me "There are no more tickets."  He was just kidding though, these Jordanians are pretty big kidders.  At a checkpoint on the road to Petra the security guard told us Petra was closed and to turn around, and then at the airport the security guard scanning our luggage said that money wasn't allowed in and that he'd have to confiscate it.  We loved Jordan.  It was so nice. Back to the story.  One night a week you can walk through the Siq to the Treasury at night.  They line the road with candles which gave off an orangish glow just enough to walk by.  Before you get too deep in the canyon the sky is lit up by hundreds of stars, but eventually all you can see is the shadows on the walls.If I was impressed the first time I saw the Treasury, it was nothing like at night.  Once you round the last corner they fill the courtyard in front of the Treasury with hundreds and hundreds of candles.  They sit everyone down on mats and ask everybody to be quiet while one guy plays a long song on some sort of string instrument.  After a while he starts to sing.  You can barely see him through the candle light but the sound surrounds you in the canyon.  Then he tells a short story about Petra then asks everyone to flash a picture at the same time, which lights up the entire Treasury making it look a pale grey which is very different than the bright pink it looks during the day.  The whole thing reminded me a lot of the fire festival we saw in Japan.  It was absolutely amazing.  Probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  It was a long walk back though! Petra was an amazing mix of nature and manmade, and it was great to get to do some real hiking.  Petra was worth the trip.  We slept well.
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