Ahhhh Petra…It’s a dream, it’s reality and it’s where I spent my day in Wadi Musa, Jordan. The colors of Petra are revealed slowly too, first gold and then layers of browns, grays, pinks and reds, all on display in the high cliffs.
And then the climax of the entrance story is near – through a slit in the Siq walls is the Treasury, the grand stone facade, and the highlight of Petra.
Getting Ready for the Visit
I awoke at 6:30, at a simple hotel breakfast of bread, spreadable cheese and jam, tea, and an egg. The hotel guys look different from the night before- a little nicer, softer, actually wanting me to enjoy my breakfast and stay at Orient Gate hotel. The front desk guy appeared, looking tired; he had driven a group to Petra at six in the morning. I sipped my tea and we left shortly before eight a.m. The trip was included in the price of my hotel.
The visitor center is a good mile above the actual site and getting there is like watching a mystery movie – there’s hits at the magnificent with carvings in the rock walls and high golden cliffs the wrap around the pathway. The suspense builds when entering the Siq, two large rock cliffs that are smooth and wavy, they crown up to the sky and allow only a small passage way. I imagined the traders of the past, walking through this narrow crevasse, awaiting the Nebeteans who controlled the area’s trade routes. An ancient aqueduct follows the walkway, carved into the cliff’s side.
Entering the Rose City
The colors of Petra are revealed slowly too, first gold and then layers of browns, grays, pinks and reds, all on display in the high cliffs. And then the climax of the entrance story is near – through a slit in the Siq walls is the Treasury, the grand stone facade, and the highlight of Petra. Finally, I entered the open area and saw it, the towering structure and thus denouement – I felt joy and release and contentment and gratitude.
I was in Petra, I was viewing the dreamlike structure, and the stone columns lined the remnants of fairy tale creatures carved into the side. An on top, as big as a headstone was the crowning urn, the urn that the Bedouins would shoot at, hoping to unleash the rumored treasure at the Treasury.
The sun cast a diagonal light over the face, smearing half of it with light and the other half with shadow. I sat at the cafe and waited, waited until the sun shown through the cliff walls and lit up the Treasury in golden glory. I asked a couple to take a picture, but my human scale to this grand scale doesn’t lend itself to a good picture.
Visiting the Monastery – No Donkey
I walked through past the royal tombs, which I’ll visit more tomorrow, on the ancient Roman collinated walkway, past the Great Temple, the cafeteria and onto the rocky, uphill path to the Monastery. The Monastery is the other grand building of Petra and it’s about 1-2 miles up hill and into the rocks. The stairs are steep and filled with heavy breathing tourists and donkeys willing to carry them. I opted for no donkey, just took breaks in the shade, the areas created by overhanging rocks. The trail hugged the sides of the cliffs. Some pathways opened up to deep crevasses and gorgeous vistas. Bedouin families ran jewelry and soda stands along the way, touting good prices and cold drinks. After 1 hour of hiking, the last set of stairs was an extra push and soon I was into the clearing, a flattened area where ancient religious ceremonies were held in front of the building.
The monastery facade is overwhelming; the door opens to a vast room, the size of a two-story house. The columns reach about 70 feet to the crowning tops. It’s a magnificent site, one that rivals the Treasury and worth the climb up. I sat at the cafe, ordered more mint tea and enjoyed the wonderful view for more than an hour. On the other side of the monastery are more trails to “views,” I followed them and was rewarded with black cliffs before yellow desert and then a hazy sky.
The walk down was hard, my legs were shaking and I was exhausted. When I reached the main site area, I focused with renewed energy, straightening my body and promising myself a rest at the benches in from of the Treasury. When I arrived, the light was different, the facade a soft gold versus the hard light and sharp lines in the morning. I was exhausted and proud of myself. Petra, Petra, Petra! I had achieved this dream and was sitting there in the ancient city, looking at the site I had only seen in the Indiana Jones movie.
Going Back to the Hotel – First a Donkey, Then a Horse
My exhaustion would leave me so I bargained for a donkey ride for the last 1/2 hour upward inclined path towards the gate. Unfortunately, the 10-year-old boy leading the donkey had no idea what he was doing and the donkey was following whatever, slaloming the path so much that many people passed us, we were going about half their speed. My tired legs hugged the mule’s body to keep balance and I told him to “direct your donkey!” About halfway up, the lazy kid said he didn’t want to go any further. I got off, he demanded the 3 JD, which had bargained for the whole ride, but I just held out one. He wouldn’t take it. Some twenty something Bedouin came and asked what was wrong, at first they thought I was holding out, but then I explained and they were very helpful, told the kid to take the 1 JD and thanked me for understanding.
Still tired, I found a horse ride with Mohammed, who was trying to sell me on a horseride tomorrow -the Indiana Jones ways. Tempting, but not for 20JD. I found my way outside, wolfed down an ice cream bar, my first food of the day, and went to look for a taxi. Who do I see? It’s the evil driver from the night before and his cronies! Of course, none of the five men there would take 2 JD, which I understood to be standard, insisting on three. Snakey McSlimey offered to take me for 2, but I said I wouldn’t go anywhere with him. I walked 50 yards, caught the eye of a cabbie and got the ride for 2, complete with AC. The ride is a rip off even at 2 JD, like most of Wadi Musa, taking what it can from tourists who are there for the reason of Petra.
Back at my hotel, I was switched to a nicer double room with my own bathroom. The Orient Gate hotel is now back in my good graces. I decided that I’d spend the morning in Petra and then depart for Amman tomorrow afternoon. Petra is the only draw for Wadi Musa. In Amman, I’m thinking of some day trips and still going to try and work on getting to Jerusalem or Damascus, hopefully the visa restrictions at the embassy have changed since the Rough Guide’s 2006 publication date.