Petra

Dec. 13th, 2013 09:31 pm
korintomichi: (Dune)
[personal profile] korintomichi
I have been wanting to blog about Petra for a few weeks now, but have not had the chance. Looks like we're potentially going to be busy for the next few months, so I'm gonna post here now as I don't want to forget all the amazing things we saw.

Petra, like Machu Picchu, is a place we have always wanted to see. This trip was extra special because it was our first adventure hols since the accident. We got our old lives back, just for a week. (Paid for it big-time afterwards with megafatigue, but it was worth it.) Petra really is the most amazing place to visit. The images you usually see are that of The Treasury (the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and you know that you walk through the Siq, a dramatic canyon, to get there, but what you don't realise is that the site goes on for miles and miles. We had two full days to explore. We needed them. The first morning was guided, the rest of the time we spent exploring the place for ourselves. Not many people are visiting Jordan at the moment - when we told friends we were going there, we were surprised at how many people were shocked at us visiting the Middle East. When we first arrived our tour guide thanked us for visiting.Sure, there are problems in many of its neighbours, but Jordan is perfectly safe and the people are friendly and helpful. (In fact, the only unsafe bit about Jordan was trying to cross the road in Amman, which we were hopeless at. We remembered our green cross code and politely waited for a gap in the traffic. For 10 whole minutes. Eventually a taxi driver felt sorry for us and marched into the road to stop the cars, then beckoned us across.)  But because not many people are visiting Jordan, there are fewer people visiting its main tourist attraction, so there weren't hordes of tourists in Petra. Which was marvellous for us.

Petra was built by the Nabateans, an ancient Arab tribe, about 2000 years ago. The Nabateans were involved with caravaneering business and they became very wealthy protecting the region's trade routes. Goods came from as far as China and India. What was fascinating about the Nabateans was that they were a clever, enlightened people. They believed in cultural inclusivity and appropriated technology from all over the world, absorbing influences from the places they traded with. You can see so many different architectural styles throughout Petra.

You can't stay in Petra, but there is a town called Wadi Musa nearby. Our hotel was about 10 mins walk from the site entrance at Wadi Musa, which was
a further kilometre away from the start of the Siq. Included in the ticket price is a horse ride to the Siq, which we declined mainly for the sake of the horses. Anyway, we like walking. And walk we did.

The Siq is about 1200 m long. It is deep (up to 80m in places) and narrow and stunningly beautiful. You can see all sorts of natural features, rock formations, fossils as well as the remains of carvings showing caravans and camels. The photos show drainage channels carved into the rock, inspired by Chinese bamboo irrigation channels, which carried water to Petra.

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Then, at the end of the walk, you get a glimpse...

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...of the Treasury. It's actually a tomb of a 1st century Nabatean king. It's about 30m wide and over 40m high. As with all the tombs at Petra, it was carved from the top down. You can see lots of indentations in the sandstone at the side of the structure. No-one is really sure about what they were for, but they could have been used by the craftsmen and masons for climbing to the top.

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The Treasury is just the start of the site. It's the only place you are not allowed to go inside. Everywhere else is open for exploration. There are no restrictions, no barriers and if you fall off a cliff it's your own fault.

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There are numerous trails you can follow, some of which involve pretty tough climbs where the stairs have been eroded. We did two of the walks, both designated 'hard'.

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We climbed 800 steps to Ad-Deir, The Monastery, which we felt was as spectacular at the Treasury. Yes, that is a bloke on the very top. We saw him climb all the way up the cliff face and then onto the building, leaping across the colonnades with confidence. It was utterly terrifying watching him.
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The other walk we did was the Al Khubtha trail, a climb to viewThe Treasury from above. We met a woman on the way down who had counted the number of steps, and I've forgotten what her count was, but it was several hundred. Considering C doesn't have a great track record on stairs, he did amazingly well.

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And the view was fantastic when we reached the summit.

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We also really loved the colours of the rock. The white is silica, the red is iron oxide and the yellow, sandstone.

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After a full day's exploring we were pretty tired and there's not a lot to do at Wadi Musa. But we did manage a cookery course at the Petra Kitchen on one of the evenings. One of the chefs was the uncle of the guide who showed us around Petra. We learned to make Jordanian food and then eat it - a fine way to spend an evening. We made Shourbat Adas (lentil soup), Baba Ganoush, Fatoush, Tabbouleh, Tahina salad, Galayet Bandora, Araies Iahma (Bedouin pizza - pittas stuffed with minced meat and covered with Galayet Bandora) as a mezza. The main course was Maqluba, an upside-down hotpot which was scrummy.

More photos of the whole Jordan trip can be seen here.
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