Wednesday, March 2, 2011


WEDNESDAY, December 7th, 2005 Petra, Jordan

Up for breakfast and ready for a busy day as we were leaving by 8:30 am. Before leaving we enjoyed the mountain views from the hotel lobby window and Samur pointed out the white speck at the top of one of the mountains. It is the tomb of Moses’ older brother Aaron. The white tomb was constructed on this legendary site during the 14th century and is considered a sacred place by the local people. This is the tallest mountain in the area and when the sun rises it peeks over this particular peak first. We saw that happen on Thursday morning when we were up even earlier than today.

This was a very special day to all of us and especially for Jim who has talked for years of visiting Petra. You may recall that scenes from the Indiana Jones movie portray these ancient monuments.

Petra was created by the Nabataeans, Arab nomads who settled in this area because of the availability of water. They carved elaborate temples and tombs out of the red-hued sandstone. There are just a few free-standing buildings left but there are over eight hundred monuments carved into the stone. Petra was a large city during the ancient times and was very important to the trade route between the east and west.

As we entered the historical site there were horses that could be rented for the first part of our journey that drops down rather steeply for about 1700 feet, but we all walked to the beginning of the canyon area. At the beginning of the Sig, a narrow gorge carved by the Wadi Musa (River of Moses), we could rent a horse drawn carriage that they called a chariot, ride a donkey or continue walking. No one could ride a horse beyond this point. We all decided to walk the two and half mile trip that descends gradually for the whole walk to the city. No one can prepare themselves for the experience of walking the first portion of the trip through a canyon that has walls that are about 260 feet tall. At times it is so narrow that you feel the stone crushing in on you and at other times it widens enough that small tombs were built into the sides. The colors of the stone are unreal. It’s called the “Rose City” as the sandstone is all hues of red, threaded with white granite.

Continuing down into the canyon we heard the constant cry of the passing Bedouins in our ears as they pleaded with us to ride in the chariots drawn by the horses and/or their donkeys. That to me would have been a painful experience as the floor of the canyon was uneven stone in many areas. We saw tombs carved into the sides almost as soon as we entered the canyon but they were only a taste of what was to come.

As the canyon deepened and became very narrow we knew that we were nearing the Tomb known as “The Treasury”. We caught our breath as we began to see glimpse of the mammoth structure and suddenly we stopped and gaped at the towering brightness of El Kazneh: a 140 foot high edifice carved in the mountain. Not the largest but definitely the best preserved Tomb because of its sheltered location. Yes, we’d arrived at The Treasury that looked just like the one in the movie about Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Stopping here to explore the ruins and other smaller tombs nearby, Kevin and I actually climbed into an open “grave?” in a small tomb to get a photo of The Treasury from a different vantage point. Crazy but fun!

At The Treasury we lost the “chariots” and then had the opportunity to continue by riding on donkey or a camel! But we all decided to continue walking as we descended another 2500 feet to the ruins of the theater and then the final descent of about a mile into the site of the city ruins. An outdoor restaurant provided lunch and then we were on our own to explore and eventually find our way back to the bus by 4:00 pm.

Four of us decided to hike the extra mile up the mountain to what is called the Monastery, the largest of all the Tombs. Kevin, Roger, Jim and I headed out. It was 800 steps and took us about forty-five minutes to reach the top. Donkeys are available for riding and their dropping made the going “very interesting”. Well worth the journey, this particular tomb or temple was used by the royals according to history. The Bedouins had vendor stands to sell jewelry, etc about every one hundred steps and then a tent where you could purchase items and/or refreshments at the top. Near the beginning of the climb one of the young girls who was working with her mother heard Kevin’s name spoken and she asked him to purchase her goods…he told her not now that he’d stop on the way down. He was expecting her to be gone by then. It took us about thirty minutes to come down and most of the vendors were closed by then but when we arrived near the girl’s table we heard, “Kevin……I waited for you.” He ended up spending nearly all of the change that he had with him on beads. What’s a fella to do…..

We arrived back at the bus right on schedule at 4:00 pm by walking quickly and directly through the canyon without stopping to do more sightseeing. It was a gradual uphill climb all the way. According to Samur with our extra trip we’d hiked more than seven miles…and our bodies felt every inch of it! Paul and Sue decided to ride the horses for the last part of the climb but otherwise we’d all walked the whole trip! Jim treated us to “cold cokes” at the end of the trail…I didn’t realize just how thirsty I was! Don’t remember a diet coke tasting quite so good for a long time. Back on the bus, tired but sated, we arrived at the hotel just in time to enjoy the sunset from the hotel patio. Time to shower before our 7 pm dinner and then off to bed as we’ve got another early morning tomorrow!

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