Jordan, Part 3 of 4, Petra

The Treasury

Petra is THE jewel of Jordan. By contrast, our hotel in Petra was on the very basic end of basic, especially when held in contrast to our luxurious suite in Aqaba. Twin beds instead of a king. The room was less than half the size of our suite in Aqaba and the bathroom was 1/4th the size and that is being generous. We couldn’t help but make unfair comparisons between the two. On the positive side, it was less than a five minute walk to the Petra entrance and there were quite a few restaurants between the two. We ate dinner at two different establishments. Both times the plates were so large we had difficulty finishing all our food.

Petra At Night

We arrived in time for the Petra at Night event. The walk from the entrance to the famous Treasury is just over a mile first through open space, mostly in a twisty cañon. The entire way and Treasury was illuminated by 1500 candles in paper bags. The evening light was cold and faint, not conducive to photos nor was the horde with who we were two fish in an impersonal school funneled, literally, toward the destination. Knowing we would be back early the next day, I kept the camera in my bag.

Long carpets were laid out perpendicular to the ancient facade. Once seated, Bedouin tea was served en masse. This is where we sat to experience the Petra at Night activities. They consisted of the Treasury being colored by projected lights (visually interesting), some music (difficult to hear), and a story (also difficult to hear).

This additional fee, 17 JD /24 USD each, was not covered by our Jordan Pass. But the Jordan pass was required to see the Night event. It did not count against our two day pass for Petra. In hindsight, Petra at Night was not worth the additional fee.

Petra by Day

The Quick Summary – 10 Hours, 12.5 miles walked, 3 miles struggling to maintain balance on the back of a donkey, spectacular visuals. Well worth the time, sweat, and money.

Petra By Day, Part 1, The Treasury

It was with eager anticipation I awoke the morning of Petra. The image of the ornate Treasury has long been a historical site piquing my imagination. I wolfed down the mediocre breakfast buffet (included in the hotel fee), and we hurried to the entrance to convert our Jordan Pass into the two day Petra ticket. Our desire was to beat the crowds and get some pictures of the heavily trafficked pathway to the Treasury without people…other than ourselves. If we could not experience solitude at least we can create the illusion with a few well timed photographs.

My heart started to pitter when we came to two structures just before the dam as we came face to face with two structures. The ornate Obelisk Tomb and a hollowed-out rock with a heavy brow resembling a gorilla skull. We probably should have taken the time to explore them in more depth. I wrestled with that desire and the anticipation of seeing the Treasury. The treasury won. We could always explore the other two on the way out. The best laid plans of mice and men. 😦 As it was, we were in Petra until closing time and were exhausted when exiting. We never examined those ruins up close and personal.

A patter was added to the heart pitter becoming a pitter-patter let’s get at ‘er the moment we entered the Siq. The Siq is the main entrance to the ancient Nabatean city of Petra. Also called Siqit, it is narrow gorge winding three-quarters of a mile ending at the Treasury which is known locally as Al Khazneh.

The Siq resembles the Antelope Canyon slot canyons which formed directly from water erosion. However, the Siq is a natural geological fault worn smooth by water. Similar results from different journeys. The walls range between 300 and 600 feet high. We walked through the Siq before I acquired this bit of information. While walking, I did wonder what would happen if the Siq flooded while we were between the massive walls. This flashback because we had to hustle out of Antelope Canyon to the awaiting truck when a rainstorm hit so as not to be caught in raging cataracts.

Part of the trail still retains the paving bricks from days long past. These are no longer smooth like a sidewalk so some care had to be taken to avoid turning an ankle. The evening before, I avoided these when possible not wanting to hobble my way through the day-long roaming of Petra.

The Treasury truly was spectacular. We were able to view it from ground level and a short walking climb to view from a higher angle. To my joy, the light was still rather warm having not yet reached the coldness of high noon. The pictures came out better than I had hoped. The only downside to the Treasury is entry is prohibited. Viewing is only allowed from the outside leaving a hunger as when seeing a beautiful woman that is unattainable.

Petra by Day, Part 2, The Hike to the High Place of Sacrifice at the Top of the World

Leaving the Treasury, the canyon walls widen giving a spacious feel. Sloping walls replace the sheer Siq allowing the ancients to create ornate structures including living quarters, an amphitheater, the great temple, and a wall of massive tombs. And there are vendors hawking wares at strategic locations. We negotiated for a few trinkets.

We took a side trip off the main thoroughfare to the High Place of Sacrifice, an uphill walk/climb require more than 600 steps. It sounded interesting and would provide us an overview from on high like a priest or king sitting in judgment over all of Petra. Sometimes, I succumb to megalomaniacal tendencies.

The sacrificial point consists of concentric circles and a vent for blood from the sacrificed animal (I hope they only sacrificed animals) to flow. In and of itself, it was interesting but not spectacular. The view, however, was gorgeous. Toward the end of the narrow mesa, we sat with bedouin tea overlooking the valley soaking up the rays and the hefty breezes. There is a high trail with views over much of Petra but they keep the walker distant from the city proper. We opted to return to street level for the intimacy of touching the stone structures.

Views on the way down of the valley were grand allowing us to see much of the Collonade with a sweeping vision. We next visited the Byzantine Church, the Great Temple, the Theater (also inaccessible), and numerous other holes in the walls once used for living.

Petra by Day, Part 3, The Donkey Ride to the Monastery

There was one more must-see sight, the Monastery, we pondered visiting. Pondered? Irene was definite. I pondered. Would we have sufficient time to walk the additional three round trip miles and still have time to explore the tombs? There are locals offering paid donkey rides within Petra limits. They are unofficial tour guides not sanctioned by the Petra authorities therefore subject to your own risk. We were offered numerous rides which we turned down all day preferring the intimacy of walking slowly to admire the curves and lines coming together to form the beautiful rock bodies.

With time becoming a critical factor, we flagged down a donkey vendor. His original price was 25 Jordan Dinar each which we negotiated down to 15 JD (21 USD) each. It is amazing the discounts available if you are willing to walk away. In the end, I paid him 35 JD, a 5 JD tip for keeping me alive on the way back.

Riding a donkey looks easy and on flat ground, minor balance adjustments are all that is required to stay seated. The saddle shifts, it is not cinched tightly like a horse, so staying balanced is more difficult than simply sitting and watching the world fly by. I required concentrated effort to keep upright. They were enjoyable but not a ride I would volunteer for on a regular basis. One and done is good enough for me.

The trail to the Monastery was uphill, filled with twisty turns and people. On the way up, I was forever leaning forward so as not to tumble backward and crack my head on the rocks. The donkey doesn’t simply walk up the steps, they hop. Going down, I was forced to lean back so I didn’t fly over donkey’s head. Our guide pretty much held me in place with each hoppity hop down the steps. The downward ride is where he earned his bonus.

The Monastery is just as gorgeous as the Treasury. But, like the Treasury, entrance is prohibited. The more expansive ground fronting the Monastry spreads people out proving better opportunities for photos without people in the picture. We didn’t have to wait long for shots with only ourselves in the foreground.

Petra by Day, Part 4, Tombs and Exiting

The donkey man dropped us off where he picked us up. Right in front of the Great Temple. From there it was a short walk to the tombs. By this time, we were both fairly tired. We had already walked close to 10 miles and there were a few more to the entrance. So, our time in and out of the tombs was more cursory than in depth. The exteriors are beautiful in coloration and formation.

Given less fatigue, I would have deep explored the tombs. They were one of the few magnificent structures where entry was allowed. We walked in and out of a few before deciding we were tired and opting to begin the long trek out but not without one more stop.

We lingered at the Treasury sipping Bedouin Tea and Turkish Coffee feeding the kitty cats our last tidbits of beef jerky. As soon as Irene opened her purse, they swarmed. We stayed with the treasury until 6pm. On the walk out, more a slow shuffle out, we saw the Petra at Night candles being setup and were glad it was not on this night’s agenda.

Petra Conclusion

If I took all the places I’ve visited and favorited them as charms on a necklace, Petra would hold an exalted position. Not as exalted as Meenakshi temple where, in the heart of the temple, my spirit connected with the gods during a rhythmic chant, nor as sublime as Angkor Watt where I felt the breath of Buddha in the great temples, nor as glorious as Delicate Arch where my soul permanently fused with Earth soul but it would definitely be a top tenner.

About David A Olson

I often find my mind wandering to various subjects, subjects that make me stop and think. The blog, Musings of a Middle Aged Man, is a catalog of those thoughts I muse upon as I search for significance in life. I am the father of 3 children and the grandfather to 2. I spend my days working for a medium sized multinational corporation where I am an Agile Coach. I view myself as a Servant Leader, have a passion for leadership, particularly, in helping people develop their individual leadership skills and abilities. In October 2012, I went to India on business. After a week of being there, I still had not talked to or texted my 7-year-old grandson. He asked his mom, "Is Papa dead? He hasn't texted me all week." To facilitate communication now that he and I no longer live together, I started a blog for us to communicate. It's titled, "Correspondence Between Luke and His Papi". In April 2013, I moved to Pune, India on an 18-month delegation. It's an adventure that was 1.5 years in the making...The experience is captured on my blog, "The Adventures of an American Living Abroad" My two latest blogs are "The Learning Leader", a topic I have been studying since 1990, and "Lipstick on a Pig", a foray into the fashion sense of this middle aged man.
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