Thursday, July 3, 2008

Petra: Worthy of Its Hype

The four of us (me, Betsy, Al and Gary) were on the road to Petra before 7 am, in the care of a silent but extremely expedient driver named Jorad. It was a long drive through landscape that reminded me a lot of the American southwest--specifically southern Colorado: flat, dry, brown, increasingly desolate as we left the sprawl of Amman. Small villages dotted the view, and we passed many men and women standing on the highway, ostensibly awaiting rides to work, wherever that could possibly be. We arrived in Wadi Musa, the village outside Petra, in about two and a half hours, bought our tickets, and made our way into one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

It was a truly astonishing place, and though I took a lot of pictures, it would take me forever to upload more than a couple. So if you want to see what we saw, just Google "Petra" images and enjoy the visual feast. Petra is an ancient town, settled over 2000 years ago by the Nabateans, by most accounts a tribe that would have done well on Wall Street. These masters of their universe carved beautiful, awe-inspiring facades of buildings into the red rock of this place, and they are still there to be seen (and photographed). There are endless caves in which people lived (and still live, though not legally, as the last tribe to inhabit Petra was relocated when the place became a "national treasure"). As we wandered through the Siq (the crack in the canyon walls through which one enters--used in the third Indiana Jones move [The Last Crusade]), we understood why Petra is the most visited site in Jordan. The rock is beautiful--red, pink, yellow, brown--softened by long-ago water that smoothed its edges. Please do look at pictures online taken by more accomplished photographers than I.

We walked for the entire day, stopping for lunch at a restaurant at the lowest part of the city, then hiked to the highest--the Monastery (not really a monastery, but oh well). At every point, incredible views of Roman ruins, Nabatean carvings and present-day Bedouins (who work at small tables along the trails, selling water and trinkets) kept our attention from the heat and unrelenting sun. It was close to 100 degrees all day, and I've got to tell you--there's not a lot of shade in that place.

I could write easily a dozen paragraphs about Petra, but who wins that way? Suffice to say that we had a great time, were appropriately awed by it, and Betsy and I rode camels. Camels, by the way, smell really bad and up close have faces only a mother camel could love.

We came home around 9 pm, showered off three layers of sunscreen and three accompanying layers of red dust, ate a quick late dinner, and collapsed, dreaming of little Bedouin girls who insisted on selling us rocks (the one in the picture charged me one dinar--about $1.25--to take her picture).

At the moment, we are trying to recover by sitting at the hotel pool. I am amazed by the Jordanian sky. I have not seen a cloud since I arrived here, and given my general disposition as well as my own homeland of Connecticut, that's a little disconcerting. We're on our own as both Gary and Al have departed. We will eventually make our way into the city and take the tour bus Al recommended that will drive us to various sites around Amman (he said it's a new tour company, and he was the only one on the bus when he went). Tomorrow we'll head to the Dead Sea for our Middle Eastern spa days. I'll check in again from there.

1 comment:

Alyce said...

Been reading every day and find it so exciting, informative all the while describing the culture and the people in a delightful, warm and amusing manner. Truly enjoyable reading - thank you so much for this insight and sharing your learnings especially at day's end, travel weary with Petra calves. Thank you again. Alyce