Sunday, January 2, 2011

An adventure to the Middle East ( Part 13 ) Petra- Echoes of the Past

After breakfast, the group headed for Petra. Another dream of a lifetime!!!! Petra is amazing!! It feels like a huge geographical amusement park. Towering red cliffs with cave tombs and intricately carved facades. Petra is the epitome of what a wonder of the world should be. It is mysterious and awesome. It strikes your nerves and awakens your curiosity. Petra is truly amazing and along with the Pyramids and Abu Simbel , these are my favorite places in this adventure tour to the Middle East.

As soon as we got to the site.... We went over to the Visitor's center to get our tickets and had a brief explanation by our tour guide on what were the highlights of Petra. He told us that the highest point, The End of the World, was were we will be able to see the panoramic view of the entire complex and the city of Wadi Musa. To get to that point you have to climb up 860 steep steps and just to get to the first site...  you will have to walk nearly half an hour to get to see the main structures.

However, according to our guide.....the only modes of transportation allowed within Petra are going on horseback, riding a donkey or riding a horse drawn carriage. I decided to ride the carriage ( which I thought was the best option on my reaching the Treasury ). The carriage ride costs $ 6.00 for 2 persons. Lulu, Ernie opted to ride horses going down to the Treasury while the rest of the group walked with the tour guide.  Yes, if you want to feel like Indiana Jones, you can take a horseback ride down the canyon and back.

Horses  and carriages can only bring you to the Treasury, but camels and donkeys can bring you the rest of the way. Even if you are fit, a day walking around Petra, especially up the mountains, is going to make your legs really ache. Riding a camel is obviously the coolest way to go, but they can only travel on flat areas. Horses and the donkeys are the quickest and most versatile, but can't bring you up the steepest inclines. For those who are going up to the Al Deir monastery, you are going to need a donkey.

The prices of these rides are not set and are extremely negotiable, depending on one's bargaining abilities...Be prepared to to do some bargaining and do not pay more than 10 Jordanian Dinars ( JOD ) which is $ 15.00--- but a reasonable price would be $ 5.00 per person . The distance from where you will start your descent to the Treasury is roughly a mile.

The carriage and horse drivers will arrange to meet you back at the Treasury, after you are done, to bring you back to the Visitor's Center.

After a short ride from the gate, We reached the entrance of the Siq. This is where your experience begins..... The Siq is a narrow canyon, made from red granite. This was the Nabatean holy road.... and as you enter you will see artifacts carved into the stone.

This photo below was the entrance of the Siq..

My ride on the carriage was very the road was mostly cobblestone... can you imagine me ricocheting from side to side, bouncing up and down over the ruts and rough terrain??? At one point ---- I thought I was going to be thrown out of the carriage!! The bedouin kept on whipping the horse to make it run faster.... I could not even stop to take photos inside the was being driven extremely fast through the Siq despite the cobblestones and the tourists walking leisurely around the area.... the reason behind this was that they could go back up to the visitor's center to get more passengers down the Siq!!!

Here are some of the artifacts that you will see inside the Siq....

What makes the Siq so dramatically special was its serpentine passage that was formed thousands of years ago by an earthquake which caused the gigantic rock to split in half. Looking above --- the sky was a deep blue and the rocks a beautiful red-rose color as I looked straight ahead of me. At times, the passage widened enough to allow the sun's rays to reach in.

Some places in the gorge is less than 7 feet wide.

After riding the carriage for almost 20 minutes you will see an opening in the narrow slit in the Siq. As you approach the end of the narrow gorge... it gets wider and more and more light shows itself..... the temperature starts to get warmer as your heart starts to beat faster. Finally as you are about to exit the gorge you are blinded by the rush of light ----you are greeted by the single most amazing site ever concocted by mankind. Right in front of you is the Treasury, Petra's most famous and magnificent structure. It is the same place where Indiana Jones rode to in the movie.

Entering the Treasury ( Temple of Al Khaneh )

The Treasury stands at 40 meters high and is intricately decorated with statues, urns and pillars carved from the rock. It was made famous to the modern world in the Indiana Jones film. It is perfectly constructed, a pillared building carved into the side of a mountain. It is majestic, worthy of being called the Treasury. Standing at the base of it, next to hundreds of other mystified tourists is truly surreal!!! I could not take my eyes off this structure carved into the mountain in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

The crude square holes on both side of the temple of Khazneh, which is all the way from the bottom to the top, were stone " ladders " which the laborers used in building the temple. The urn which is seen on top of the Treasury structure has been rumored that it contained the Pharoah's treasure. According to our tour guide, this urn bears bullet pock marks where the bedouin travelers throughout the years have tried to " break " it and claim the treasure. Such attempts were useless since the urn, is made of solid rock.

The entrance to the temple is reached by a small flight of steps and is flanked by the statues of Castor and Pollux. I was only able to get one photo inside the temple.

After taking having some refreshments, we started to walk to the other sites.

The Street of Facades

 Roman style theater made out of rock where 2000 people could be seated.

The Necropolis

The Royal Tombs

I was too tired to continue my walk to the monastery... so I started to go back to the Treasury and wait for my carriage to bring me back to the visitor's center. All photos of Lulu on the donkey going up to the monastery was shared by Ernie Kamatoy.

Lulu and Ernie together with the rest of the group moved on. They rode on donkeys to try and reach the monastery of El Dier and the viewpoint of the End of the world. Here are some of the experiences of the group----  on their way up to the El Dier Monastery.....

Lulu and Ernie reached up to a certain point of that treacherous 860 steep steps up to the monastery. According to Lulu, they would have made it to the top if they had more time ( we were all supposed to go back to the visitor's center after 30 minutes of free time to wander around the area ). She was nervous while she was on the donkey because the donkey was walking near the edge of the steps. A few times she thought that the her donkey would miss a step! She had a lot of photos taken on her way up on the donkey ride but this was where she dropped her camera.... she didn't know it was missing until she was on her way back to the visitor's center.

( courtesy of Sam Duarte )

However, Sam and Ted, were able to reach the top and was able to take some photos which they shared with me... I am sharing them here on my blog for all to see. I have also asked Ted to share his experience  and I have added it here too..

Here are the photos Sam and Ted shared with me ..

Ted's experience on his trek to the END OF THE WORLD and the monastery of El Deir.

" It was quite a journey. There are supposed to be 850 steps to the top. I'm not sure if that is an accurate amount because I didn't bother to actually count them on the way up. It was too difficult because I was on the back of a donkey. Thank God for that donkey. Even he got tired before we reached the top. If it wasn't for that donkey it would have been me huffing and puffing and sweating like crazy.

At the top the Monastary was beautiful with the sun shining on it completely and at just the perfect position, it made the red and oranges of the sandstone seem to glow, and the carvings were beautiful. After standing and looking in awe for a bit, we continued our walk (yes walk as the donkeys were either too tired to continue, or were not allowed to go up this high) to the end of the world. It was a mountain viewpoint that had spectacular views. There was a slight breeze blowing that cooled us down after our hike up there. Funny enough, there was a man at the top with a souvenir stand selling miscellaneous bobbles and other assorted junk. On the way back down towards the monastary we passed a herd of goats. I think they were the only ones crazy enough to be up this high. It was a wonderful day. One of the best of the trips I've made".

These are the panoramic shots of Ted taken on his point and shoot camera....

Petra is definitely a " MUST SEE " when you are in Jordan!!! After seeing the photos shared by Sam and Ted.... I knew that I really missed out on such a great sight!

No superlative could do justice to the spectacle that greets you. It seems that Petra is not of this world. Effectively sealed off from the rest of civilization, Jordan's ultimate oasis of history could be another planet. If you want to get away from everything... then this should be high on your must-have experiences. Petra is sublime!!!!



  1. I have to agree. Petra is a must see. Absolutely stunning.

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