Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jordan Trip Part IV: PETRA

The day after our Dead Sea day-trip, my group of friends and I went to Petra, the gem of Jordan. We woke up around 5 am in order to beat the tourist crowds, and made the 20 minute walk to Petra from our hostel. By the time we got there, light had just begun to show over the mountainous horizon. We followed the main path with some carvings on its periphery and eventually entered the famous siq. Siq, meaning shaft, is a narrow enclosure between two gorges. At some points, the siq is only a couple of meters wide. Along the siq, we noticed what looked like a gutter carved into the stone. This was originally intended to supply the entire area with water. The Nabataeans are considered to be excellent engineers for their ability to use flash foods and create an artificial oasis amidst such an unforgiving environment. After passing through the siq, you could just begin to see the one of the most amazing monuments in the world- the Treasury!

In front of the Treasury

The Treasury, or Al Khazneh, is the most spectacular site at Petra. In Indian Jones: The Last Crusade, its facade hid the final resting place of the Holy Grail. Lo, there is no grail here today. Nevertheless, it is absolutely stunning. Petra is oftentimes referred to as the Rosy City, due to the red coloring of the sandstone. Because we were arrived so early in the morning, you cannot see how red the stone actually is. Still, however, it was so peaceful in the morning, and I was so glad to be able to take a picture with the Treasury in the background without any half naked tourists all around me. Originally, the Treasury was a royal tomb finished around 100 BC to 200 AD. Its current name derives from folklore- legend has it that pirates hid their loot in an urn on the second level. After taking our time at the Treasury, we moved on and continued down a siq until it opened up into a large open area with carvings representing tombs all around us.

The Urn Tomb at Petra

The Urn Tomb is another popular attraction at Petra. This was actually converted into a church at one point. It was fun climbing up to it because you had to go scale some ancient stairs and shoddy wooden bridges. The area inside the Urn Tomb was a huge open space. Opposite the Urn Tomb is the ampitheatre, which was constructed by the Romans after they had included Petra in their empire in the 2nd century AD.

The Colonnaded Street

From the ampitheatre and Urn Tomb, the main path leads to the Colonadded Street. This area was constructed by the Romans and its left side is lined with traditional columns, eventually leading to a Roman temple. The next major monument at Petra is the Monastery, or Al-Deir.

I'm actually in the doorway of the Monastery

The trail up to the Monastery is a very strenuous climb taking about half an hour or so of purely up hill (rather up rock face) hiking. Along the way, there are tons of Jordanians trying to sell trinkets and other touristy nick nacks. Although tough, the hike was definitely worth seeing the Monastery and the other views a top Petra. The Monastery was a place of pilgrimage during ancient times. The sheer magnitude is hard to convey in a picture, but hopefully you can see me in the doorway, which alone is 8 meters high. A short walk away from the Monastery are some fantastic views. We climbed atop a cliff and relaxed for a while to take it all in.

I'm on one of the cliffs that overlooks the valley below.

The view was incredible and breath-taking. It was hard to leave, but we wanted to check out some more of what Petra had to offer. Walking back, we went atop another gorge called the "High Place of Sacrifice," which was used for sacrificing animals. From there, you could see Aaron's Tomb (Moses' brother) glimmering in the distance. After our descent, we walked back and took some much-needed naps.

Petra was touted as the must-see attraction in Jordan. Hopefully my pictures do it justice because it truly is one of the most amazing sites I have ever seen or visited in my life. It was definitely the high light of my trip to Jordan.

Next post on Wadi Rum.

Ma'a salaama,


1 comment:

Linda said...

What a wonderful education. As a retired educator I love seeing young adults broadening their horizons. I only wish I would have been more adventurous in my youth.