On the airplane all I could think about was something I had read once by Talbot Mundy
‘ . . . Exactly in front of us, glimpsed through a twelve-foot gap between cliffs six hundred feet high, was a sight worth going twice that distance, running twice that risk, to see—a rose-red temple front, carved out of the solid valley wall and glistening in the opalescent hues of morning’.
(click the photo for more)
Before I start I have to say that I am an animal lover. So something that made me very happy to see was this sign:
I love animals but there is no way I was going to climb up 850 steps. It just wasn’t happening. My plan was to look for a healthy looking donkey and ask to check under his blankets before I started the bargaining dance. Luckily after speaking to one of the friendly faces at the visitors centre I found out that there is a Veterinarian onsite who does random searches and keeps an eye on the animals.
I have copied and pasted this straight from the Petra website because there was confusion when I was online booking tickets. I’ve been told so many different prices so it’s better to always be aware of what you should be paying before booking anything:
Jordanians and Residents : 1JD per person, per day
Non-Jordanian accomodated visitors (Visitors who have spent an overnight in Jordan)
One day entry: 50 JoD
Two days entry: 55 JoD
Three days entry: 60 JoD
Non-Jordaniain non-accomodated visitors (Visitors who have not spent an overnight in Jordan): 90 Jod
All children under 15 yrs. irrespective of nationality: Exempt from all charges
Additional optional costs
Hire of a Carriage (from Entrance Gate to Khazne): JD 20
Hire of a Carriage (from Entrance Gate to Qasr al-Bint): JD 40 (This service will only be provided to the “elderly” (no age limits set yet) & persons with “Special Needs” (not yet defined))
Hiring of a Camel (From Khazne to Qasr al-Bint): JD 10
Hiring an official Guide (Main Spine [Ancient City Tour]): JD 50
Hiring an official Guide (Deir Trail): JD 20
Hiring an official Guide (High Place of Sacrifice): JD 20
Telephone number of the Visitor’s Centre: +962 (0)3 215 6020
After Khalid the taxi driver dropped me off I met up with Fayez who kindly volunteered to play tour guide for the duration of my Petra exploration. Armed with a water bottle and my camera we set off to discover the Rose City.
A quick background on Petra, it is thought to have been established around 312 B.C by the Nabataeans (I will discuss them a bit more in my post about Wadi Rum). It’s sometimes referred to as The Rose City because of the color of the stone Petra was carved into. Unlike the Romans and other Ancient civilizations, the Nabataeans didn’t build complete freestanding structures, instead they built into the rock. I was most impressed by the water conduit system that sneaks around the siq. The hydraulic engineering present in Petra is mind blowing.
Fayez instructed me to keep my eyes on the ground and he led me around the corner and then asked me to look up. As a social media guru I knew exactly what I was going to see but it still took my breath.
My favorite part of the Al-Khazneh (or as we know it in English, The Treasury) is the Urn at the top. Legend says that it is home to vast treasures and local Bedouins years and years ago shot at it to see if they could break it. Unfortunately for them there is no treasure as the Urn is solid sandstone but one of the men assured me that you could see where the bullets hit the urn. The entrance is guarded by Castor and pollux (the twins happen to be one of my favorite constellations).
In the background are the stairs to the ‘secret path’ to the top of the Treasury. Unfortunately due to a rock slide the path was inaccessible. I’m not sure when it will be open again but next time I’m going to take the view from the top!
We began our long trek to the Monastery. On the way there Fayez explained that we would be seeing a Hellenistic amphitheater built by the Romans after they did their whole conquering thing. What he didn’t mention is that it is even larger than the theatre in Amman! Capable of seating 8,500 spectators in fact! It’s such a feat of wonder that it is still in use today for special events. From what I understand it is the only thing like it in the world as this theatre was carved into the rock.
A few columns remain which I have included below. Sitting a few meters away was the Corinthian capital of one of the columns. I spotted a few of these decorative columns throughout my trek of Petra. I was happy to see that even though they no longer crown the columns they are still in perfect condition after all these centuries. They are lovingly carved and thankfully in a protected place where they can continue to exist for centuries more.
After admiring the amphitheater we walked onwards. This is the point where I finally gave in and told my friends who had been following behind me for the past twenty or so minutes ok, yallah which is the healthiest donkey that won’t throw me over the cliffs. After checking under the saddle and being reassured that she had been water I decided that it was time to attempt the climb.
I’m not proud of the way I clung to Shakira the donkey nor amused by the way Abdul my little guide giggled every time I squeaked. Shakira liked to live life on the edge- quite literally.
The easiest way to walk up was on the edge of the steps and the only thing standing between me and imminent death was my four legged friend.
Luckily I proved to be a constant source of entertainment for my Bedouin friend who heralded my arrival to the top with giggles and laughter. Maybe ninety steps from the top I bid farewell to Abdul, Shakira, and the merry gang of boys that had followed us up.
Nothing could have prepared me for the view around the corner. I tripped over a rock and was too busy looking at the ground. Halfway towards the Monastery I looked up and realized, Oh! We made it!!! We did it, we are awesome, that is HUGE.
Al Deir or in English, The Monastery, is one huge optical illusion! I found out later that the doorway is larger than a HOUSE.
Don’t let the photo above fool you, I am standing quite a distance from the Monastery. Below is a comparison of me and the actual structure.
I used Google Earth to see if I could find a satellite of the Monastery and after a bit of a search I included the photo below.
After saying goodbye we began the the excruciating climb down. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it. Here is a great moment to mention that I went to Petra in May when the temperature was extremely high. I drank three litres of water in the course of five hours and too many small bottle to keep count of. People were being tended to by paramedics due to the heat. Please remember to hydrate and keep yourself cool.
We sat in a small cafe at the bottom where Fayez coaxed me into drinking chai to regulate my body temperature and I also drained another litre while sitting here.
Petra was so enjoyable! So much so that I plan on returning when the weather is not so hot. I feel like I missed out on so much simply because I couldn’t handle the heat. I know my breaking points and unfortunately I had reached mine. The walk back to the car seemed to go on forever and I was constantly slowing Fayez down by stopping in the shade.
Things I would recommend you do:
•Don’t do it in Summer LOL. Learnt hat the hard way.
•Head straight for the Monastery
•Don’t overpay, bargain and if it’s not reasonable walk away.
•If the kids take your photos a tip is always a nice thank you.
•Don’t take photo’s of the locals without asking. Be polite!
•HYDRATE. HYDRATE. HYDRATE. Channel a Camel and drink the entire bottle.
•Did I mention skip everything and head straight for the Monastery? You can check everything out when you walk back but the Monastery is the hardest part so do it while you are fresh and the sun isn’t high in the sky.
For hotels in Petra I recommend the Amra Palace which is affiliated with Wadi Rum Luxury Camp. When I return in August this is where I’ll be staying before heading back to Wadi Rum to go climbing. Booking can be found here and make sure to tell Fayez hello!
I will leave you with the parting thought that that plagued me while I walked through Petra. This is still here after thousands of years. After the birth and death of Christ, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, through countless wars (World and Regional) lost and then rediscovered. It has stood the test of time and will continue to do so for a thousand more years. However, what are we leaving for the future? What will they see of us in a thousand years? The Nabateans have their place in History alongside great Empires but where is our place in History?
Let’s do what we can while we are in this moment to leave our mark by leaving this planet better than we found it. When you go to Petra do your part, don’t litter, if you bring it; take it with you, don’t deface history, and please leave the rocks where they have been lying for centuries. But most of all enjoy the beauty that our ancestors gifted to us.