22 August 2014

Adventures in Jordan: Petra


A World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is Jordan's top tourist attraction.  Most of you probably first became familiar with the ancient city from Harrison Ford's adventures in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Petra, which means "rock" in Greek, was home to some 30,000 Nabataean people roughly 2000 years ago.  Positioned between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, the city earned it's wealth primarily as a trading hub.  Hydraulic engineers built dams, cisterns and water channels that allowed civilization to survive the harsh desert climate.




The city was abandoned after earthquakes in 363 and 551 AD and forgotten by all but the local Bedouin people.  It wasn't until 1812 when a Swiss explorer rediscovered the "lost city."  Throughout the 19th century, Petra was visited by archaeologists, artists, poets and travelers, all wanting to experience the Arabic Orient.  Today it sees half a million visitors each year.  




Our visit to Petra was carefully orchestrated by the help of Mohammed's cousin.  He hired a driver to take us the three hours south to Petra.  We didn't have to worry about directions or getting lost - highly recommended.



We arrived midday when the sun was beating down on us.  I was sweating before I got out of the car.  We piled on our sunscreen, packed plenty of water and ready to get our journey started.



Kiki was happily packed into our hiking backpack, where she had shade and nice view of the horses and donkeys carrying tourists to the entrance and through the siq.  The siq is the narrow entryway, with 200m tall walls, that was formed from a single block of rock separated by tectonic forces, not water like a slot canyon we would've seen in Utah.




The winding path was beautiful, with long shadows being cast and sounds of horse hooves clicking on the stone path.



The siq ends and all of a sudden you are standing before the Treasury, carved into the red rock.  It is spectacular and breathtaking.  It is a site to see.  Words and photos don't do it justice.



The open spaces around the treasury are filled with local Bedouins selling souvenirs and ancient coins and fossils they have dug up in the sands.  Camels and donkeys wait to be taken for a ride.





And take a camel for a ride we did!  We weren't leaving Jordan without a camel ride so here was our chance.


If you've never ridden a camel it is quite the mode of transportation.  It's wobbly getting up, as you are flung forward and then back as the dromedary straightens out it's knees.  It must look a little frightening because Kiki started bawling when she watched me go up.



We rode the camels through the ancient city, which allowed us all to see more than we would've on foot.  It was definitely a highlight of our trip.



We spent about 4 hours inside Petra, admiring the tombs and buildings carved into the rock walls.  We certainly could have spent much more time here.





Petra lives up to being one of the modern Wonders of the World.


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