A Visit to Petra

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A Visit to Petra

Post by Horus »

Petra Revisited

The subject of my visit to Petra was recently raised by Lisak and she expressed her disappointment that my blog was now missing from the new style forum due to an incompatibility problem. Unfortunately I no longer had a complete copy that I could just re-post and a number of my original photographs had initially been extracted from my video films and were no longer available on my PC. So I decided to rewrite a large part of it and post it here on the new style Egypt4U forum as a travelogue. Where possible I have added more detail, more photographs and some short videos together with a map indicating the location of key places and a general map showing the route taken from Wadi Musa into Petra, hopefully you will find it an interesting read. It is a great place to visit and something that you may well wish to do when in the Red Sea area of Egypt or Jordan in general.

The following are short videos that I have made to show you the actual walk into Petra via the Siq. Unfortunately although I have attempted to keep them as short as possible, each one is around 2-3 minutes in length and there are 4 in total. Out of necessity it is only possible to show some highlights and brief clips, there is so much more to see and to hold your attention than can possibly be described in a few short minutes of video, but hopefully they will give you a real flavour of the place. I must apologise for the picture quality, it was poor weather during our visit in March and there is a raindrop on the camera lens, also the video compression used to enable web viewing doesn't help either, so here we go: .........................

Try to imagine a range of mountains that fully enclose an large, but well hidden valley, the Siq (a local name for the entrance passage) is your only way in and looks like a tall slit or crack that meanders through the surrounding Sandstone rock. It is quite narrow in places and twists and turns so that very little is visible ahead of you as you are walking along, so you never know what is around the next turn. There is however plenty to keep your attention as you walk, especially the tortuous shapes that are weather carved into the colourful banded Sandstone rock and the sparse but often colourful flowers and vegetation that clings perilously to the shear vertical sides. The Siq has a steady downward slope which can be quite steep at the entrance point, but presents no problem for any reasonably able bodied person. It is never so narrow as to be oppressive and at its narrowest point you could ride a quad bike through. It can be slippery underfoot in places during wet weather so comfy walking shoes or trainers should be worn, this is not a place for high heels.


PART 1
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PART 2
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PART 3
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PART 4
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Some Petra facts and pictures
This lost city of Petra in Jordan is often referred to as the ‘Rose Red City' and was the hub of a long lost civilisation called the Nabataeans who’s wealth was built upon taxing the caravan trade of the ancient spice and incense route that passed their way. As they had a virtual monopoly on the water and shelter in the area, they became very rich on the proceeds of this taxation. All this wealth accrued at the expense of taxing Roman imports, would eventually lead to it being invaded by the Roman Empire.

One dictionary definition for the word Petra is as follows:
An ancient ruined city of Edom in present-day Southwest Jordan. It flourished as a trade centre and the capital of Nabataea from the 4th century BC until its capture by the Romans in AD 106. The city was taken by Muslims in the 7th century and by Crusaders in the 12th century. The ruins of the “rose-red city” were discovered in 1812.

We arrived in the Jordanian port of Aqaba after sailing from Hurghada across to Sharm El Sheikh and then passing through the gulf of Aqaba a seaway that divides the Sinai and the Saudi Arabian peninsula’s then onto the port of Aqaba itself. The first thing that struck me was the proximity of Israel to Jordan. Although I am fairly good at geography I did not have in my head a proper mental picture of the actual location of these two names that were so well known to me, namely Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan. In reality they sit on opposite sides of a bay to each other and are a salutary reminder of the close proximity of today’s political divide. All countries must meet at some common point with it’s neighbours, but we rarely have a fixed border in our minds when we think of these places, but the fact that our ship could barely turn around at Aqaba without crossing into Israeli waters came as a real surprise to me.

The port of Aqaba
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The Jordanians have designated the port of Aqaba as the equivalent of a ‘free port’ in an attempt to encourage enterprise into the area. The present monarch King Abdullah is only the third king of Jordan and succeeds his more famous and diplomatic father King Hussein. At the port itself there flies a very large flag, reputedly the largest flag in the world. At first glance it appears to be the Jordanian flag but closer inspection of it shows that the colour patterns differ. It is the flag that commemorates ‘The Great Arab Revolt’ of 1916; this revolt started in the port of Aquaba and spread throughout the Arab world and eventually toppled the Turkish ‘Ottoman’ Empire. I have to admit to a slight stirring of pride, when instead of the usual castigation of the British, the guide was keen to point out that it was our very own ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ who helped the Bedouin tribesmen to overthrow the Turkish occupiers of their country.

Laurence of Arabia
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Soldiers carrying their Arab Revolt flag.
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We had set out from the port in a fleet of coaches not unlike the convoys used to visit Egyptian historical sites. These coaches were clean, air-conditioned and with more legroom than on our Thomson flight to Hurgada. A nice change was the standard of driving by the Jordanian drivers, they were very steady and we never had that heart-stopping feeling that is so common with some Egyptian coach operators. There were in the region of 700 people taking the excursion to Petra, so we had around 14 coaches in our convoy. En route we had the obligatory police escort but this was fairly low key and unobtrusive.

Another surprise was the terrain, I can only speak for this part of Jordan but it is a fairly inhospitable landscape populated mainly by Bedouin peoples. The government have built small houses along the main road in an attempt to get the Bedouin to settle. But often their ‘Beit al-Shar’(sp) or ‘House of hair’ black coloured tents traditionally woven from goat hair, can be seen pitched alongside of the new housing, whilst a camel peers out of the window of an empty house originally intended for people, but now used as a stable. Small children can be seen tending flocks of goats, but what these goats eat other than stones is a complete mystery to me.

Bedouin Shepherds, these goats were lucky there was some greenery around.
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It is a desolate landscape of rock-strewn desert, hilly rather than mountainous. Large wadies formed by long dead rivers or flash floods abound on each side of the road and necessitate yet another concrete culvert to contain these phantom deluges of long forgotten water flows. The hills rise one after the other to form a jagged vista that seems to go on for ever, broken only by the wide bands of black volcanic basalt rock that stripe the hills. It is hard to imagine that once all of this was once submerged below the Red Sea. The national flower of Jordan is the ‘Black Iris’ which to me seems to sum up the Bedouin people dressed in their dark billowing robes.

The barren terrain of Jordan
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Although the government has built houses, the Bedouin often prefer their traditional tents
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Bedouin people
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The Black Iris, the national flower of Jordan is evocative of their billowing black robes
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After around two hours we wound our way up and down a series of steep valleys that some say are the very places that the Israelites wandered in their quest for the promised land, it is not hard to imagine them wandering for forty years in this harsh and desolate landscape. Not far away is mount Nebo reputed to be the place where God took Mosses and showed him the promised land, again the connection to the bible was one that I had never really made before. To me ‘crossing the Jordan’ was just the name of another river; I had never really made the connection that it referred to them entering another country, or that from a mountain in Jordan you could look down upon the land of Israel. From Mount Nebo it is only about 46 Km to Jerusalem, 27 Km to Jericho, 25 Km to Qumran and 50 Km to Bethlehem, so to a wandering tribe of people most of these places would only be a few days walk away, so you have to wonder why it took them so long to eventually get there, but it looks so desolate that you have to wonder if it really was worth fighting anyone for in the first place.

The view from Mount Nebo
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The river Jordan
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We were shrouded in a heavy mist as we started to descend out of the mountains towards Petra, the visibility was low and with steep drops to the left of us it was a little unnerving. The steep hillsides all seemed to have been cultivated and planted with some sort of corn or wheat but this looked so out of place in this inhospitable and withered land. Suddenly a large village that seemed to be glued to the hillsides and defying gravity loomed out of the mist. This was Mosses village, so named because it was reputedly the place where god had commanded Moses to strike a rock with his staff and the water gushed forth to slake the thirst of the Israelites. The natural springs found here may have something to do with this belief, tourism also thrives in this area and many hotels are located here. Finally we reached Wadi Musa (Mosses village) and the entrance to Petra, so after a short recap of our itinerary for the day we all prepared for the eight-kilometre walk into Petra and back.

Wadi Musa, your destination for a visit to Petra, 'A' on the location map.
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A few facts:
Petra is located in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and is about 255 Km away from the country’s capital Amman. It is very close to the city of Wadi Mousa or ‘Mosses Village’ that I mentioned earlier. The whole area has a history that goes back to the Neolithic period; it has been fought over by the Greeks, Romans and the Crusaders to name but a few. Petra it seems has always been a centre for trade and has seen the Egyptian, Greek, & Roman Empires come and go. The Edomite Kingdom flourished in this area from the 13th to the 6th century BC. The 6th century BC saw the arrival of the Nabataeans who migrated from what was the Southwest of Arabia and spread out to settle in Wadi Araba as well as the Sinai and Negeb. It was at this time that they started to control the caravan routes bringing goods from as far away as India, Petra was used as their capital city and from this time onwards it was always linked to the Nabatean civilisation. Although the Nabateans had many gods, one of the foremost was ‘Dushara’ and is depicted on many coins found in the area. This god was often represented as a snake, ox, hawk or a lion and these depictions can be seen throughout Petra. The Egyptian’s also influenced them and recently an idol that resembles Isis, was uncovered in the ‘Winged Lion’ temple.

It will be helpfull to understand something of the terrain we are moving through in order to visualise the various locations being described in this travelogue. The letters shown on the contour picture below represent the location of certain things along the route, some are described below and other locations may be referenced by saying " located close to 'D' " or similar.

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Legend:
A = The village of Wadi Musa Jordan
B = The Crown Plaza Resort at Wadi Musa
C = The start of the Petra trek and ticket office.
D = The start of the passageway called the 'Siq'
E = The end of the Siq and the location of the small valley containing the 'Treasury'
F = The Roman theatre with the shops, toilets and Cafe opposite.
G = This cliff face contains many carved buildings.
H = The centre of the city of Petra, Winged Lion Temple, Tomb of the Pharoah's Daughter etc.

The total walking distance starting at and returning to the Crown Plaza is approximately 5 miles (or 8 Kilometres) and will take about 4 hours walking steadily, it is all downhill going in and uphill comming back. This will only take you into the old city of Petra and does not include additional exploring time for the surrounding tombs other than the Treasury on your way in.

The following shows the route from start to finish, indicated by the green line.
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A distant view of the Crown Plaza Resort, located at 'B' on the picture map.
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A view from the Crown Plaza, Petra lies enclosed by these hills, looking towards 'D'
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The trek begins:
We started our slow decent into the valley that held the city of Petra at around 10 am on what turned out to be a cold, wet and windy day. Another illusion shattered, although it was late March I had not expected the bad weather, the previous week another tour group had the misfortune to visit during a storm of hail and snow!
We had come prepared; Mrs H wearing everything that she could muster and was as warm as toast, even if she did look like a refugee. I had elected to forego the manly shorts and T-shirt in favour of a pair of creased Chino’s and a T-shirt, topped off with a very expensive white fleecy top that I purchased at the boat’s duty free shop. Who expects snow in a desert in March?

Our guide was a lovely Jordanian lady whose name now escapes me. She held up her yellow Thomson’s lollypop with a number 2 emblazoned upon it and we all followed her like sheep to the slaughter. The path is quite wide at first and after several sets of steps we passed through the ubiquitous tourist stalls selling the usual souvenirs. I was relieved to see that the Jordanians were not so in your face with their selling techniques as the Egyptians and polite “La Shukran” was often enough to stop the hassle, or maybe I just took them by surprise with my few polite words of Arabic.
After we passed through the ticket gate we started down a rocky path that meandered gently downwards. On our left was a separate path that was especially made for the riding of horses, much to my surprise there was also a Brooke animal shelter. Young men displaying their riding skills were riding sleek, sweat flecked, nostril flaring horses and while galloping up and down the sandy road they called out to us to ask if we wanted to ride a horse down into the valley. Maybe once in my youth I would have relished this opportunity, but I dared not risk my aging bones and reluctantly declined their tempting offer.

Riding the horses, between 'C & D' on the locations map.
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It is worth a mention at this point that there are three separate modes of transport that may be used on the Petra trip. For the first section as you go in from the ticket office, horses may be hired, you do not ride them freely but are lead by their owners down to the start of the gorge where you dismount . The second is a sort of two-wheeled horse drawn buggy; these are only allowed to operate within the narrow Siq passageway itself and care must be taken as they pass you by in the more narrow sections.

A buggy that will take you through the Siq, they only operate btween 'D & E' only
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At the end of the passage way through the gorge and just as you enter the valley area, it is possible to get camels and donkeys to take you further on your journey. I personally would opt for a good Kawasaki or Yamaha motorbike!

The camels at Petra, Camels and Donkeys only operate between 'E & H'
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It is a pleasant walk down to the entrance of the Siq after leaving the ticket office and it takes around 20 minutes to get there, on the way down there are lovely views over the surrounding hills and often Bedouin children can be seen tending their herds of sheep. We arrive at the actual entrance to the gorge and it has an air of expectancy about it. We breast a small rise and stand at the top of a 10 meter wide opening, from here we can look down into the open mouth of the Siq with the narrow road seeming to disappear into the very rock itself as the rising walls on each side seem to draw us towards the open maw and a hidden world beyond, with rising excitement we start our trek down.

The entrance to the Siq, location 'D' on the map.
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A little further in, between 'D & E' on the map.
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This is the ‘Siq’ to give it it’s correct name, a towering, twisting, passage that has been sculptured by time, wind, sand and water. At first it looks very steep and on the wet surface near the top we are more than a little wary. This initial trepidation is well founded as we quickly step back to allow a horse drawn buggy to pass, the horse suddenly stalls, it’s back legs giving way until it is sitting on it’s haunches sliding down the steep road and desperately trying to hold back the buggy containing three people with a combined weight exceeding that of the poor horse. It was at this point that Mrs H turned to me and said “If I have to crawl out of here on my bloody hands and knees, I will not get into one of those cruel things.” and I had to agree with her. Later upon seeing another horse struggling to breast the same part of the road on the way out again, its steel shod hooves clashing and sliding while trying to get a grip on the ancient stone surface, I thought of the poor caleche horses in Egypt and wondered which horses were the worse off.

Passing through the Siq is a wonderful experience; the beautiful banded veins within the rock are a multitude of different colours that have to be seen to be believed. The bands of colour are folded and blended to form amazing contours within the rock strata, add to this the smooth convoluted vertical face of the passage way and you may try to visualise this wonder of nature for yourselves.

The banded rock strata, best seen at location 'F'
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On the right and left hand sides are two rock cut channels, these were cut by the Nabataeans to channel rainwater into the city itself. There are also dams built into side gully’s so as to create a reservoir’s and also to contain flash floodwater from pouring down the steep incline and flooding the city area.

The rock cut water channel, between 'D & E' on the map.
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In many parts the floor is still the original Roman cobbled road and it is still in very good condition. I love to stand for a moment and consider all of the famous people from various Empires and era's who must have walked along this very path, many leaving their inscriptions and carvings along the walls of the gorge.

This is a heavily eroded carving that once straddled the water channel, it depicts several Camels and their traders leading them into the city. If you look closely the Camels belly is visible as are several pairs of feet, all that remains of the original figures. Near to location 'E' towards the end of the Siq.
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A section of Roman cobbled road with the water channel visible on the left. Loacted midway between 'D & E' along the Siq.
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This is only one of three routes into the city and was mainly used as a ceremonial route and not as a caravan road, hence all of the various religious carving that may be seen on the way in. A few sparse bits of vegetation cling to the walls of the passage and here and there a hardy shrub sprouts from a crevice high up the smooth sides.

In places it is wide and high with clinging vegetation, between 'D & E' on the map.
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By now we were a good hour into our tour and the Siq continued its twisting downwards decent. At one point we turned a corner and the full force of a wintry gale hit us head on. I was already hiding my video camera under my rapidly soaking fleecy and had to make frequent stops to dry the lens. I cast a sideways look at the ‘refugee’ and she looked like maybe she had had enough of this particular trip.
“We will stop here for a moment for you to get your cameras ready” said our guide.
Ready for what I thought, but nothing could prepare me for the sight that met our eyes as we turned the next corner.

The last thing our guide had said was to get your cameras ready, so we stood there brimming with anticipation and waiting for the tour group in front of us to move on, as it did so we were funnelled downwards and inwards like sand in an hourglass. It seemed as if nature itself had conspired with the Nabataeans to produce the perfect setting for what was to greet us around the next turn. We were walking about six abreast into the narrowing passage, the sides seeming to rise even steeper and the natural light was decreasing and it seemed as if our way was blocked by another wall of rock at the end of the path. Just then the previously absent sun streaked in to illuminate a golden pink façade at the end of the passageway, it was as if the rock itself was giving birth.

Our first glimse of the magnificent Treasury, located in the small valley at 'E' on the map
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This building is known as ‘The Treasury’ and was probably built for King Aretas III of the first century BC. The whole building is hewn from the natural rock and was carved in situ. There are no added stone blocks other than a few that were used to restore the third pillar from the left. It is like looking at a gigantic wedding cake with all the fancy icing, the detail is amazing and very sharp in outline.

Getting nearer, located in the small valley at 'E' on the map
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It is at this point that you leave the Siq and enter a small sandy valley with towering sides and this is where you stand and gaze in awe at the full splendour of the Treasury building, carved from the living sandstone with a skill that is beyond belief, this is truly sculpture on a massive scale that rivals Abu Simbel in Egypt for its beauty and impact.

Standing in the first valley after leaving the Siq, Standing in the small valley located at 'E' on the map
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It is also possible to make the steep climb up from the Treasury and look down, the new excavations can be seen just in front of the building. Looking down into the small valley located at 'E' on the map
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It is unlikely that these building were actually used as tombs but more likely as some type of mortuary temple. The building is 40 metres high and 28 metres in width and shows various cultural influences as depictions of Zeus and of Isis may be seen on the pediments. If you go up the steps and through the portico there is a large internal room cut out from the natural rock. Guarding this room which you are not allowed to enter, is a Jordanian soldier in full dress uniform, he looked absolutely splendid and willingly poses for photographs either standing on his own or with tourists. It was an extremely nice touch and could only enhance the standing of our host country and he never once requested payment. (One may also be seen in the video)

A Jordanian Soldier at Petra standing outside the Treasury
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Legend said that the urn on the top of the ‘tholos’ high in the centre contained treasure, hence it’s name of ‘al-Khazeh’ the 'Treasury'. Many pocked bullet marks in and around the urn will attest to the fact that the Bedouin put great faith in this legend. During our visit in 2007 the deep sandy area in front of the Treasury building had been excavated to reveal a set of steps leading down to another level below the portico, this now extends across the width of the building. (This can also be seen in the video) Hopefully by now there are more things to be seen of this lower level that have remained hidden for a millenium.

We had now been walking for about 1-1/2 hours and I kept looking at my watch. We were due to have lunch at the Crown Plaza at 2 PM but saying that it was at the top of the gorge and I was not, it seemed an unlikely proposition and I was becoming rather concerned. I asked our guide how far through the tour we were, “half way” she replied “half way in or half way through” I asked with some trepidation, “half way in” she replied, “Follow me” and off we trekked once more.

We leave the area of the ‘Treasury’ which is contained within a small sandy area full of souvenir stalls and grumpy camels, then head off on another downward meander through a more open part of the valley. Here we meet the Bedouin traders and their children, these people were obviously related to the traders of Luxor and would try to sell you handfuls of coloured stones that they had picked up within the valley floor. We pass on through many more carved tombs of all types and styles; some look like open caves and are presently the homes of donkeys.

Souvenir traders stalls, between 'E & F' on the locations picture.
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A souvenir of Petra, a jar of the multi-coloured sand.
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The donkey stable cave, just past 'F'on the locations picture.
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This valley was still the home of Bedouins when it was rediscovered in August 1812, by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt who knew Petra to be the supposed location of Moses’ brother Aaron’s tomb. He passed himself off as an Arab and on the pretext of wanting to make an offering at Aaron’s tomb he was led into Petra itself. His guide became suspicious and terminated the deal before showing him the actual tomb, if such a thing really did exist. When Petra started to become a popular tourist attraction the then King Hussein declared that all Bedouin must leave the valley. As a means of placating them for this loss he decreed that only Bedouins be allowed to carry on trade within the Petra area. I must admit that the thought that anyone could actually lose a city was a mystery to me until I saw the surrounding area of endless hills and deep valleys.

It was here that we stopped for a short toilet break, our guide told us to go have a cup of coffee and have a look around. It was still very cold and some of the caves had huge open fires burning within them with lots of comfortable cushions scattered around. “Loo first” I said to the refugee, “then I’m off for a hot coffee”.

The cafe and toilet area can be seen to the left of the picture, located near 'F' on the location map.
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The loo is something else, who would believe that in the middle of an eight-kilometre trek down a rugged path there sits the most wonderful of loo’s, a veritable prince of toilets, a magnificent Pee Palace. It is constructed inside of one of the most colourful caves you could wish to see, I stood there and could not take my eyes off the ceiling, later as I looked down at my trainers I wished that I had been paying more attention to what I was doing at the time. I wanted to take some pictures, but as I took out my camera I was getting some funny looks, so I thought better of it! So we headed off in the direction of the coffee cave and warm fire, when suddenly “follow me” she hailed “Oh my bloody legs” I muttered as I stumbled ever onwards.

As we continue down the valley it starts to broaden out and we find ourselves standing before a rock cut theatre. Our guide tells us that it is incorrect to call it an amphitheatre as that describes a circular shape, as this was semicircular in shape its correct name was a therefore a theatre, you learn something new every day. It is cut from the living rock and could accommodate around 2000 seated people. It was believed that it was used as some sort of debating forum for the city affairs.

A Roman theatre cut from the rock, located at 'F' on the map.
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We are now standing in more open and broken ground; unlike the Siq it has broadened out and is starting to look more like a valley but surrounded on all sides by hills. There are many tombs cut into the surrounding hillsides and they look like hollow black eyes starring back at you,

Commoners Tombs
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Painted Caves
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The street of Facades
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The Lion Monument
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There are strange single carved rocks, shaped like squared blocks that are referred to as Djin stones. The belief in Djin’s or Genies was a part of the Nabatean culture but in reality these carved blocks are representations of the god Dushara.

Djin stones or representations of the god Dushara
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Our path starts a downwards turn to the left but on our right an imposing cliff face continues on in a gently right curving arc of glowing pink rock. The ground falls away from this cliff face and down towards the centre of Petra itself, this cliff face also forms the right hand enclosure of the main valley. The whole visible length of this edifice is carved with tall facades that tower upwards from the base of the cliff almost to the very top. Although more eroded than the ‘Treasury’ building it is obvious that in their day they would have equalled it or even exceeded it in splendour. Various influences of style can be seen, the most prominent being the 'Corinthian' tomb, the overall effect is of a spectacular row of terraced houses with an ostentatious frontage.

The carved cliff face with many spectacular tombs, this would be standing in location 'G' on the location picture.
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The Monastery Tomb
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The Corinthian Tomb
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The Urn Tomb
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“Only another 20 minutes” says our guide “and we will be at the bottom”. ”It will only take you an hour to go back out” she said rather glibly, “Just follow the path back out the way you came in” I took another look at her sturdy build and wondered just how often she had walked out of here in just one hour. So we start on the last leg of our tour, we have made a slight left hand turn and are now aligned with and walking on the main road into the city centre. One part is loose sand and it is very deep, the going is hard on tired legs and it is like walking on a sand dune, we all try to avoid this part by walking on the more broken ground at the sides.

Hard going on the loose sand and still futher to go, near to 'G' heading towards 'H' on the location map.
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Almost there, approaching the city centre, close to 'H' on the location map.
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Camels and donkeys pass us in both directions each carrying a weary tourist; most people are riding them as a way of avoiding walking rather than for the fun of it. We reach another section of cobbled Roman road and the remains of column bases and stone outlines on either side leave us in no doubt that we are in the commercial heart of the city.

Insert picture of Roman road

There are the ruins of a large temple complex on the left but we are not allowed to go in. Just past this is another imposing building, it is called the tomb of the Pharaoh’s daughter and an Egyptian influence can clearly be seen. In reality it is the temple of Qasr el Bint and was dedicated to the gods Dushara and al-Uzza.

Tomb of the Pharoahs daughter, area 'H' on the locations picture.
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The Winged Lion Temple, area 'H' on the locations picture.
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In this part of the valley most of the buildings are constructed of cut stone blocks, rather than cut into the rock face, this reflects the fact that this was where the people actually lived, traded and carried on their everyday lives. Standing at the bottom of the valley it becomes apparent just how large the area really is, plenty of room to graze and tend the animals of several large caravans without any problem. With a little bit of imagination you can visualise the caravan traders camping out on the valley floor, their campfires burning like small beacons in the darkness and sharing in the hospitality that was on offer from the Nabateans. This hospitality came at a price! The usual charge for the hospitality on offer was around 25% of the value of the caravans trade goods, so it is not hard to see why the Nabateans became so prosperous. These taxes eventually led to their downfall as the Romans in particular resented paying this additional cost on imported luxuries and soon took steps to rectify the situation.

Journeys end the city centre, location 'H' on the map.
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“There is a small museum around the corner” said our guide, “I have to meet my friend there, so if you wish to look around it or make your way back you may do so” She had hardly spoken the words before Mrs H was off again. She reminded me of a Collie dog we once had that was unstoppable once it scented the road home, I glanced at my watch, 12-30 p.m.

We had walked in at a steady pace for about 2-1/2 hours and it had all been downhill! I had second thoughts about maybe hiring a camel or a donkey to take us part of the way out but two things decided me against this course of action. The first was that I probably weighed more than the donkey so that would be a little unfair, secondly the man with the camel was treading on it’s bottom lip to make it stay down. Now I don’t know about you but if someone had been treading on my bottom lip, then put someone on my back, I would be fairly well brassed off when I was allowed to get back up again, the thought of me charging back out of the valley, desperately clinging on to an irate camel with my dignity in tatters soon chaged my mind.

Heading back towards the Siq, between 'F' & 'E' on the map.
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We kept up a steady pace on the road out again, only stopping occasionally to admire the view, but this was really an excuse to get our breath back and have a rest. We reached the entrance to the Siq and again Mrs H refused the offer of a two-wheeled buggy, she will not ride in a caleche out of principal so these were a definite no go. By the time we left the Siq she was definitely flagging and her small stature made the going hard work on the rough ground. On the last leg I had to cajole her into putting one foot in front of the other, we passed a fine looking mare with a small foal lying down contentedly at her feet. “You don’t realise what you have coming to you when you grow up” I thought as I looked upon this tranquil little tableaux, remembering the horse we had passed with its hoofs slipping in a desperate attempt to scramble out of the Siq with its heavy burden.

We plodded up the last set of steps and into the welcoming surrounds of the Crown Plaza hotel at exactly 3 minutes to 2 p.m. A wonderful buffet lunch had been set out for our return; we passed along the rows of food not really looking at what went onto our plates. Even when a chef stuck his hand into a large platter containing a full sheep surrounded by cooked rice, then proceeded to tear off a chunk and plonk it onto Mrs H’s plate, she did not even bat an eyelid.

The whole trip in and out took 4 hours and our guide had complimented us on our endurance in reaching the bottom. It should be said that most people were into middle age and beyond, so it was no surprise to find a load of people probably not used to 8 kilometre walks feeling a bit knackered. Even so it was a wonderful experience and something that I would not have missed for the world, would I do it again? Yes given the opportunity, you really need about three days to see the whole site properly, but next time I would do it on a motorbike!

As a footnote, I was giving my video footage some closer inspection the other night and just by the museum at the bottom of Petra what did I see? A couple of 4 x 4s parked up ready to take the guides back again. No wonder she had not passed us on the road out, the next time a guide tells me they are meeting a friend, I am going with them!
The End

All video used are the authors original material, as is the transcript and the majority of photographs. The odd creative commons picture has been used in the event of a specific photograph not being available from the authors own collection and used with thanks for educational purposes only.


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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Grandad »

An excellent account of your visit to Petra Horus :)

It is one of those places on our 'to visit' list that I know we will never get to. Your description, pictures and videos made it all so vivid in the imagination that I feel as if we DID go there. Thanks for that. I really enjoyed reading and watching the videos. :up :up :up
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Horus »

Thanks Grandad, glad you enjoyed it :up
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Ruby Slippers »

An absolutely wonderful report, Horus! Many thanks for making the effort to share it with us all on here. :up Jordan is definitely on my 'to go to' list - along with lots of others, and I pray that I live long enough to achieve them! ;) Grandad, your turn next with India maybe? :?:

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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Horus »

Your welcome RS :)
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Grandad »

Ruby Slippers, I couldn't possibly match Horus's eloquence and detail of his excellent report but I will give it some thought and see what I can come up with. :) No videos I'm afraid, I have never done videos or owned a camcorder. Perhaps I am now wishing I had. :(

But India, yes, maybe! My absolute favourite country of all that we have visited. :)

Just have to watch this space :lol:
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Ruby Slippers »

I'm watching! I'm watching, Grandad! :lol:

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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Horus »

Looking forward to seeing something Grandad, just take your time and it will come together and if you need any help with any aspects of the workings of the new forum just shout.
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Bearded Brian »

Thanks for posting H - haven't read it yet as will wait until I'm back in the UK and can view the video on a larger screen.

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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Winged Isis »

What wonderful memories you have stirred, H! It's one of the top 10 places in the world I have seen. I have been fortunate to visit three times, after working on an archaeological excavation in the north of Jordan, and also staying at the excellent Crowne Plaza, a little bit of welcome luxury after the rigours of the very basic dighouse, though I don't usually stay at 5-star places.

I'm glad you noticed the camels and traders, most don't. The bedouin traders in the tents past the theatre on the left include the MIL of Marguerite Van Geldermalsen, an Australian who married a local and lived for a time in one of the cave houses, before the locals were all moved to the new village on the ridge. She wrote about it : "Married to a Bedouin". The water channel system is simple and amazingly effective. I can see no reason, other than physical disability, to use one of the horse carriages on the way into the valley, but see no real problem with using it at the end of the day, as long as there is no more than two passengers. The constant change in walking is very tiring on the feet, from sand to various types of smooth and rough paving, loose large or small rocks, so good shoes are essential, and take plenty of water as it's cheaper than in the valley. if your meal is not included back at your hotel, I can recommend the Nabataean Restaurant at the bottom of the valley. It has a very reasonably priced buffet of traditional and western dishes, and you can order kebab and kofta which is freshly cooked outside the entrance. We paid 8JD a few years ago, which is about US$16. There is a more expensive place nearby connected to the C. Plaza, but the NR is just as good if not as flash.
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Grandad »

WI, your post adds even more detail to Horus's account that we would refer to if we DID ever get there. :) So now we are tempted....never say never eh?

One question that I have. If ones walking is not too good, I can appreciate the experience of the walk DOWN to the old city but if that city is in the valley, is there no possibility of return by road? We won't use any conveyance pulled by poorly treated animals.
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Kiya »

Thanks for your wonderful account of your visit to Petra :) I saw it was a lengthy post so saved it for a bedtime read on android.............fascinating & I felt I was with you both every step of the way :)

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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Horus »

Thanks WI for your additional input, it truly is beautiful place and it requires several days to do it justice, although like visiting the Pyramids at Giza, you actually only need an hour to see them and take in the wonder, but having a full day exploring the area is wonderful.

Grandad, if you and Mrs G are reasonably able bodied and could walk unaided for a couple of miles you should be OK. On a personal perspective, if I were a few years older I would like to plan a visit that allowed me to stay in Wadi Musa for a few days as an independent tourist. I would bone up on Petra as much as possible before my visit so I was prepared and a bit more savvy as to what I wanted to do.

On arrival I would take a stroll down to the entrance area and enquire about other alternatives which may or may not exist, but similar to Egyptian sites you may have to have previously purchased a ticket elsewhere regardless of how you get there. There would be no point in bagging a lift down into the valley on a different route and then finding out you needed a ticket from the main entrance.

It is something you can easily do as independent travellers as you cannot really get lost and the café areas and toilets etc are clearly visible, you do not really need a guide. Obviously you need to be informed as to what is there and what is its history and background, but any good guide book on Petra will tell you this. I would liken it to say standing in front of the temple at Abu Simbel, you don’t really need a guide to tell you about it providing you have background knowledge or a guide book. Of course guides offer little snippets and have a few smaller secrets that they share with you, but really nothing you cant find out for yourself.

I would be tempted to set off early in the day depending upon the season and have sufficient small denomination cash to see you through the day for drinks, meals and transport. A steady walk into Petra will take you maybe two hours and with a sit down here and there and a drink or two add another hour. Like Egypt you will not see everything, but will get the broader picture and can plan a visit another day or on several days to explore in more detail. Some things you will not choose to do such as climb up to some of the higher tombs, but your 200mm lens will sort that problem out, again comparing it to Egypt one tomb looks similar to another after a while.

On the ethics of using the carriages, well I suppose with hindsight you have to consider several things. Are they any worse treated than animals in Egypt? I would say not. Providing that you consider yourself and your wife a suitable load for a carriage or a donkey then no real problem as it is all downhill going in. The hardest part is the return journey after a day of sightseeing, so for older people a ride back through the Siq would be welcome as this is the steepest part. On reflection I would probably compromise my principles and insist that we boarded the carriage part way in after the steep incline at the entrance and did the same coming out again by disembarking 50 metres or so from the top. It was seeing these horses unable to breast the steep entrance/exit ramp without slipping that gave me most concern, when empty there was not a problem.

I am sure that a few enquiries locally would produce some answers to easy or regular access or maybe an arrangement with a tour guide for a lift out again as I am sure that most people would not want to make that 4 Km walk into the city every time if they were staying longer and making several visits.
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Jayway »

Thankyou Horus. I was there in November,myself and a lady from Bahrein (?) entered as first customers in the morning, and spent the day together till we trudged out in the evening. We scrambled and clambered to everywhere, she took a lot of photos + posted me the cd. My memory stick was lost later. Loved your videos -

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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by LovelyLadyLux »

Absolutely excellent post H. I started to read it yesterday but didn't have the time to finish. Petra is definitely on my "to do" list and you just bumped it up a few notches! :) :) :)

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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Lisak »

Horus, Horus, Horus. Thank you sooooooooooo much for rewriting this. (Sorry it has taken me so long to get on and read it, but I had probs with the tab thingy and it was taking far too long to get onto either forum.)

I have only read about half of the report so far, I feel I want to savour it when I can do it justice.

It has made me more excited for my visit in September. We have 2 nights booked at a Bedouin camp in Wadi Musa, so hopefully have plenty of time to explore at length. Also want to do the night walk into Petra too.

(Also enjoyed reading about Aqaba, as we are going there too.) We have a week in Jordan, travelling as extensively as I can whilst there. This is after 9 days volunteering in Palestine (where I also hope to travel and see the sites)

Cheers Horus. :br Many thanks x
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Horus »

Your most welcome Lisa, I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did, but you must tell us about your trip when you get back. :up
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Lisak »

Just re read this after spending 2 fabulous but very tiring days in Petra.
I actually made it (only just ) up to the Monastery over the top of the mountain.
I loved Petra, even though going in August was a completely different weather experience from when you visited Horus ( we were pushing 40!) and on the second day were lazy and took a fine stallion from the visitors centre down to the Siq and back again (only as we were walking the Siq again later during Petra by night.)

A fabulous place to visit, but expensive!
50 Jd for one day (just under £50)
or 55JD for 2 days, 60 for 3 days...or as a day visitor from the Red Sea 90 JD.
Luckily other sites in Jordan were a lot cheaper!
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Horus »

Glad you enjoyed it Lisa, it really is a fabulous place, but I wouldn't want to do it in 40 degrees, phew.
As it was part of an organised trip I never realised how expensive it was to visit, are those rates per day for entrance only? I can't remember the exchange rates but seem to recall that the JD was actually worth more than a £ sterling or pretty close to it, I still have some tucked away somewhere. How about writing an update to this and adding a few pictures of things I have left out?

Edit: Sorry only just noticed that you gave an exchange comparrison :oops:
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Re: A Visit to Petra

Post by Winged Isis »

Pleased to see you enjoyed it,L.

We were always there at the end of the first half of our dig, in the last few days of January (winter). Normally the weather at our site was sunny and hot enough to get down to T-shirts, after chilly mornings and nights. A week or so before arriving at Petra, we would get reports of snow, followed by a few "arctic" days at the site (just south of the Sea of Galillea). Driving to Petra, we always saw snow on the hills outside Wadi Rum (the town above Petra), but that which had fallen in the wadi had gone. We always had sunny days (you need at least two if possible, to do the place justice), which were also warm enough for T-shirts, especially with all that walking and climbing, though a jacket was necessary for mornings and if you were there till late in the day.

The price hasn't gone up much since my last visit in 2007. Think of all the things we spend that amount or more on that give little or no "bang for your buck", many times only short-lived memories, and are not necessarily a whole-day experience. This is a unique place, like the Grand Canyon, Venice, Uluru etc. giving unique, life-long memories. Once seen, never forgotten. Priceless.
Carpe diem! :le:

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