Petra, Take Two

Little thirsty

Little thirsty

“Ignorance is bliss”. Often true. At the risk of sounding like an airhead, there are times (maybe more than I’d like to admit) during travel that I am almost grateful for the lack of previous knowledge I hold about particular destinations. There are people who do some serious research before arriving at their chosen site, and for those who do, I commend you. There is great value in understanding, or even having some awareness of the history behind what it is that you are going to see. We do our fair share of research for the most part, but there are times when we don’t (or one of us doesn’t). Jeff and I have been sharing planning duties, usually with one of us doing the major research for a certain area or country at a time. And although Jordan was left to me, since we were only going for a four-day stint, all I really did was figure out transportation to and within the country and entrance fees to Petra. I’m kind of glad that was it. No google imaging, no trip advisor reviews, no expectations other than the little I knew.

What I knew of Petra was this:
#1- cool looking ruins (this knowledge courtesy of scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
#2 – Jeff had wanted to see it for years
#3 – it would be HOT

After spending the night in ‘Ain Musa, we woke early and took the free shuttle down to Petra, where we had decided to purchase the two-day tickets. Within seven minutes of walking down the entrance path (armed with two liters of water and my cool-tie) with the morning sun beating down and no clouds in sight, I was already regretting this decision. Even with the heat, which only became progressively worse as the day wore on, there were those moments where the sights combined with the weight of centuries of history made me forget my discomfort. And rather than focus on frying in the sun, bask instead in the glory of the lost city. Petra is one of those rare places where even though there are specific tombs, monuments, and other types of ruins, you don’t need to be standing in front of one to be overwhelmed, only to then hurriedly rush to the next marker to be overwhelmed again. No matter where you are in all of Petra,

Kinda looks like bacon...

no matter where you look or which direction you face, it is incredible. Even on the climb to the Monastery, as I plodded along mentally cursing every other one of the 800 stairs, when I stopped to catch my breath, I was rewarded with a stunning and changing view. I was happy to just stop at any point, out of fatigue, but also just to stare and take it all in.

As for ignorance being bliss, I can no longer claim not to know Petra. There are places that inspire and this is one of them. Seeing it for myself, as with seeing so many of the places we’ve been, has only served to make me want to learn more about it. I feel maybe more ignorant now, having seen that something like this could exist and still knowing just the tip of the iceberg about the who, why, and how. So maybe I’m doing the process in reverse, but whatever the case, let the research begin.

Posted: June 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Jordan | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Petra Rocks!

If you’re ever in the area and get a chance to fly Royal Jordanian, do it. There seemed to be more leg room than the average airline (though Mari couldn’t confirm this), the food was great and the flight attendants were all so attractive it couldn’t have been by coincidence. The best part?  Even in economy class there was alcohol being served for free. I imagine the whole experience was close to what it must have been like to fly American flights when commercial airlines were in their heyday…minus the old stewardess buttons with the icon of a woman.
We came to Jordan to see Petra, a previously “lost city” built by the Nabatean civilization. Ever since Indiana Jones walked out of the Siq, revealing the Treasury to us, I’ve wanted to go. The entrance into Petra was a dusty road, open to the elements of the desert, hot and bright. Along the walk rudimentary caves and tombs appear foreshadowing what’s ahead. After we were sufficiently hot, the path turns into the Siq (gorge-like, but made from tectonic forces instead of water). We walked in its shade, at points 80 meters high and only 2 meters wide as our anticipation built with each curve. The subtle descent to the path added to the effect, as it drew us further into the city until it opened up to the Treasury, the structure that’s been Petra’s face to the world. It didn’t disappoint. It stands 43 meters high (about 13 stories), well preserved in rose hued rock. It’s “awesome” in the way the word was originally used.
Actually, “awesome” describes not only the transition from the Siq to the Treasury, but Petra as a whole as well. I hadn’t realized that Petra isn’t just a one trick pony. It really was a lost city. There are over 800 archaeologically significant sites in Petra spread over the mountains and valleys. We walked to the theatre, Royal Tombs and the Monastery, passing on the way other nameless tombs, grand in nature, and realized they didn’t even appear on the maps or trail guides. Over the 2 days we were there, we ventured out and saw Petra from the mountain tops, took the trails mostly used only by the few local Bediouns still living in Petra, and in the early evening sat alone-just in front of the Siq and staring at the Treasury, taking it all in. In terms of things man-made, I think this may be the most amazing place I’ve seen yet.

Posted: June 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Jordan | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »