We woke up at the ass crack of dawn, and I was less than thrilled to hear the boys (who I had heard up all night talking about Serial) shouting “Boker tov” loud enough for the whole camp, and probably desert, to hear. I cracked open my door – yes our Bedouin tent thingy’s (that’s obviously the technical term) had doors – only to get “Boker tov” shouted directly in my face as I squinted to block out the sunlight. Well, good morning world.
Peeling myself out from under my pile of blankets that morning was one of the hardest things I did during this trip. Greeted by an icy cold morning, I decided to keep my base layer of clothing on and simply trade out what I was wearing on top. Take notes, that’s a serious travel tip right there.
After a quick breakfast at our Bedouin camp, we loaded back onto the bus and made the quick drive to Petra. Petra is the famous lost city of the Arabian Desert (think: Raiders of the Lost Ark) that is carved into rose red sandstone. It’s a must see if you’re visiting Jordan and easily accessible if your already in Israel.
Walking into Petra was just like walking into Busch Gardens. Don’t you love what the modern world has done to us? There was a big unmanned entrance where we presumably went through security that entered into a large courtyard encompassed by restrooms, welcome buildings and gift shops. If I hadn’t known that we still had to walk through a long winding gorge in the rocks before we actually arrived at the Petra we know from pictures, I would have been sorely disappointed.
To get to the gorge, better known as the Siq, you can hop on a horse that will amble along the short distance (prepare to tip 5 dinar) or simply walk. We all opted to walk and hear what our guide had to say except for my room (tent?) mate from the previous night. She hopped on a horse and took off at high speed without the horse’s guide, galloping back and forth along the short path, lapping the rest of our group more than a few times. Our guide, looking quite shocked declared he had never seen anything like her before.
According to our guide, Petra is built lower than the surrounding area and the gorge was formed from rain water and floods over time. As you’d expect, all that flood water heads directly towards the city on the other end of the gorge. The Nabataeans who created Petra had built water systems to route that water and store it for later use. Genius since they were living in the middle of the desert after all!
All along the Siq we stopped to explore the aqueducts and faded sculptures that once decorated the passageway. If you can find the four feet in the sculpture above, you can locate the faded outline of a camel being pulled by a man.
We had the path almost entirely to ourselves. Walking up to the end of the Siq, the iconic Treasury comes into view.
At the treasury we were greeted by small throngs of tourists, men offering camel rides and local children touting silver bracelets, scarves and postcards. From my experience they were generally good-natured and let us wander on our own without much bothering.
The Treasury, known locally as Al Khazneh, is actually a temple but years of rumors have led many to believe treasures were once hidden inside. The urn on the second level is riddled with bullet holes from local men hoping to break the facade and uncover the treasure.
Beyond the treasury there’s a lot more to explore. A program started by the queen of Jordan trains locals in art and jewelry making so you can purchase their hand crafted items along the way. Haley and Evan picked up one of these cool creations. The artist said the colored sand are all found naturally in the area.
There are many other buildings and homes carved into the sandstone so we decided to go exploring. In honor of Karl Pilkington, I decided to give “living in a hole” a try. I’ll admit, his view was a bit nicer than mine.
Just before leaving we stopped to play with the local children. I bought a bracelet from one and the girl in the middle played a mean game of thumb war. She was disappointed when I didn’t have lipstick to give her. I wrote a whole post about the children that you can read here.
We said our goodbyes to our new friends shortly after, hitched a horse ride back to the Busch Gardens-style entrance (make sure you have change so you don’t donate 20 dinar in tip like I did) and stopped for lunch before the long drive to the Allenby Bridge crossing into Israel.
And go here for everything you need to know about getting to Petra from Israel.
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