Sunday 27 May 2018
Today we are off to Petra. Basically the main reason I wanted to come to Jordan!
After a quick breakfast (the only thing I could eat was cucumber and flat bread with jam), we left the desert camp at 7.30am.
Back through the desert and onto a main road. The drive to Petra took about 90 minutes. We passed through large areas of nothing. And some farm land – crate fulls of tomatoes were being picked.
After quickly dropping my bags at my hotel, I headed off with a guide into the park.
Petra is an ancient Nabataean city, a nomadic tribe from western Arabia, and the city dates from around 7,000 BC. However, it was only rediscovered by the western world in 1812. And is now a Wonder of the World (along with the Egyptian pyramids, Roman colosseum, Great Wall of China, chichen itza, Taj Mahal, and two I have not yet been to – Machu Picchu and Christ the redeemer).
There are over 800 registered sites in Petra, including around 500 tombs. So there is a lot to see!
I was a bit disappointed with the itinerary – that we didn’t arrive until 9am. I wanted to be here really early in the morning in order to beat the crowds. But even though it wasn’t 6am, we hardly saw another person!
The first section is a downhill, exposed rubble path. This path leads you past tombs and engraved rocks. Instead of walking, there is an option to take a horse, or a horse and cart. There are reports that the animals are not treated well. I was never going to take that option.
After this path, you reach the main entrance to the ancient city. There used to be a large arch here – but it has since fallen away.
The entrance is a 1.2km long crack through the rock – called the Siq. In certain places you can see matching stone strata on both sides – where an earthquake caused the rock to crack apart, forming the channel.
Some of the original pave stones from the original flooring have been uncovered in certain sections.
The whole way along the Siq is a water channel carved into the side of the rock – so that water can be taken from a spring outside the city, to the houses within the city. It was built so that it was flowing downhill. Very clever.
There are also various carvings throughout the length of the Siq. Most have been eroded to some extent. But you can still see the feet of people and camels.
Towards the end of the crack, the Treasury comes into view. I knew that was going to happen, but I hadn’t realised we were at the end of the Siq already. So that was a surprise.
It was so cool.
The Treasury was carved into the side of the sandstone mountain as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III and thought to date back to 100 BC.
Camels sitting about. Donkeys wandering past. A coffee shop to the side. And people milling about.
To the right handside, there is a rocky area – and we were headed up that. Scrambling and climbing up. The view was great.
Another path leads away from the treasury – into the street of facades. The walls are covered with tombs and houses.
We went inside a few tombs. They are quite plain inside – but all quite different. Some were just a square box. Others had layered tombs built into the walls – where people were buried in layers on top of each other. And others contained seats carved into the walls – thought to be used for banquets.
It is thought that some of the structures were used as houses, before being converted to tombs. But most were originally constructed as tombs.
Throughout the Siq you can see the water channels, bringing water into the city. In this housing area, parts of the 2,000 year old terracotta pipes, which brought the water to the houses, can still be seen.
In its busiest time, Petra is thought to have been home to 30,000 people. Two earthquakes – in 363 and 551 AD destroyed much of the area.
It is thought that only about 1% of the area has been excavated. All across the ground everywhere we walked were fragments of broken pottery – most of it is around 2,000 years old.
From here, we had great views across a large open part of the old city. Including the amphitheatre, which can apparently seat 8,500 people.
At the end of the street of facades, you can head up to the Royal Tombs. These were once elaborately carved like the Treasury – but they are more exposed to the elements and rain has weathered much of the facade.
From here, we passed by a Byzantine church which was built it 540 AD and has an elaborate mosaic covered floor. This was only recently discovered in around 1990.
By now we had been walking for nearly 4 hours and it was about 1pm. The guide left me here. I had a quick break for about 10 minutes before carrying on.
To the monastery.
This was further along the path, up and around the mountain – up around 900 steps.
The steps varied from being quite distinguishable steps, to just being slippery, sloping lumps in the ground.
Donkeys were trotting up and down the stairs – with many offers to take me. Definitely not doing that and contributing to donkey cruelty.
There were a few Bedouin stalls along the way, but many were closed due to Ramadan. The ones which were open were mainly selling a selection of scarves and jewellery.
It took me 40 minutes from the bottom.
From the last stretch of path, you pop out onto a large empty courtyard, with the imposing 50m high monastery to the righthand side.
The monastery is the largest tomb in the area. It was built in the 3rd century BC as a Nabataean tomb and is thought to have been used as church in Byzantine times.
There is a large cafe just opposite, offering great views. Up here everyone was very polite – everyone was waiting their turn to take photos and no one was getting in the way of other people. Unlike at the treasury where people were just milling around and sitting at the front of it and getting in the way.
I walked a bit further, past the monastery to the rocks up behind, for the views back across the monastery. Up here was an old Bedouin man trying to call his sheep back! They had gone off grazing on a hillside not so far away.
After sitting up here for a while watching the scenery, it was time to head back. A long walk back!
The walk back was long – and took nearly 2 hours back to the main entrance.
I left the park about 5pm. After 8 hours of walking / climbing about!
My driver picked me up at the entrance, as the hotel is about a 5 minute drive away (or a 30 min walk!), up a steep hill.
Dinner was included in the hotel. I went just after sunset – when all the mosques are singing, indicating that it is eating time. I was the only person at dinner for the whole time I was sat there. In fact, I hadn’t actually seem another guest in this hotel.
There were plenty of things I could eat – lots of salads, potatoes, hummus and flatbread.