Rose Red City of Petra
early start at 7am saw us breakfasting on a boiled egg,
cheese, pitta bread, jam, two mandarin oranges and coffee
for JD1.50. Talking to Bernadette we found
that what we had thought was a disused Turkish bath
the previous evening is actually the start of the Wadi
Musa, the Spring or River of Moses. This is where,
in the Old Testament, Moses struck the rock and
water bubbled up. Today it is still bubbling up and
running down the street past our hotel - Moses forgot
to turn the rock off.
some of the cheese and bread for lunch, we caught our
free taxi down to the entrance and paid for a 2 day
pass. Being winter, it was 50% discount so amounted
to JD13.00 each. But that's A$26.00 each.
Ouch! Still quite expensive!! One thing we were delighted
about was that there were few tourists. In summer, Petra
can have up to 5,000 tourists a day but today, in winter,
there were perhaps 100 camera-packing sight-seers walking
through the gates. It might be chilly but there are
advantages to taking holidays at offpeak times.
has heard of Petra, the mysterious city that
only reappeared in the early 1800s after the Swiss adventurer
Johann Burckhardt and his Bedouin guide rediscovered
the lost city at Wadi Musa. But what was Petra? We sought
more information in the Visitors Centre.
than 2000 years ago, Petra was home to the Nabataeans,
a nomadic Arab nation who settled here to trade in the
ancient world. Spices, silks and ivory were transported
here from China and India and caravans carried these
luxuries through the heat and dust of the Negev and
Sinai to Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.
by the Romans in 106 AD, the Nabataean empire
became a province of a province of Arabia, with Petra
as the capital.However, trade routes were later diverted
into Syria and a more direct route to Rome and by the
sixteenth century, Petra had completely vanished
as far as the Western world was concerned.
now here we were at the entrance, ready for a day's walking.
Many locals offer rides by horse or camel from the entrance
to the Siq and beyond to the Treasury but
we decided to walk and take in the experience slowly.
From the entrance there is a walk of around a kilometre
to the beginning of the Siq.
Siq is not actually a gorge, rather it is one rock
which has been cleft by earthquakes. At the sides of the
walls, you can see the remains of water channels cut into
the cliffs (see photo on left).
These were put there by the Nabataeans to keep the road
clear of flooding and also to conserve the water, which
was carried into cisterns at intervals along the Siq.
The Siq is 1.6km long and winds its way towards
the valley of Petra, 100m cliffs towering on either side.
Carvings and inscriptions mark the walls and the colours
of the sandstone glow rose, yellow and gold in the sun.
the end of the Siq is in sight and we have our
first glimpse of the Treasury - Al Khazneh. It
was nicknamed the Treasury because legend had it that
the urn perched on the top of the temple contained gold
and jewels. This, of course, was the building that appeared
in "Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade".
Believe me, it really is as amazing as people tell you.
It's simply huge, for starters, 30 metres wide and 43
metres high and its totally carved into the cliff face.
None of this was brought here. The stone masons simply
started with a bare rock face and worked their way backwards.
It must have taken years! Originally carved as a tomb
for a long forgotten Nabataean king, it is believed it
was also later used as a temple.
continued past the Treasury, again refusing offers
of camel or donkey rides from the local Bedouin who were
crowding the sandy space in front of the Treasury.
Tourists were scarce today and business was slow. We walked
on past the 7,000 seat Roman Amphitheatre, again
carved from solid rock, seats and all.
first major walk was to the Place of High Sacrifice.
The climb to top takes about an hour and involves
many steep rock stairs (see left).
At the top, 1035m above sea level, are obelisks believed
to be of the two Nabataean Gods, Dushara and
Al'Uzza. Dushara was a fertility God,
whilst Al'Uzza was Goddess of Springs and Water.
An altar gives credence to the possibility that animal
sacrifices were made here. (Photo below centre)
view is fantastic, overlooking the entire valley of
Petra and also out to the village of Wadi
Musa. (photo below left) Far across the valley,
you can see the white Tomb of Aaron, Moses' Brother
on Jebel Haroun.
I met Alia, a young Bedouin girl who lives near
Snake Monument, towards the back of the valley.
She climbs here every day to sell jewellery and trinkets.
(Photo below right) I offered her one of my tiny koala
keyrings which she exchanged delightedly for a small stone
Sharing a mandarin orange with Alia, we had a picnic
lunch of cheese and pitta bread before we made our descent.
showed us how to descend the back way past the Lion
Fountain and told us to say hello to her grandmother.
We met Granny halfway down, almost blind from cataracts
in both eyes but still fit enough to climb halfway up
the mountain each day to sit in her dusty black robes
offering cups of mint tea to the tourists and selling
ropes of amber beads. I was totally amazed that she could
climb so high with such limited vision but she simply
shrugged her shoulders. "I have to make money somehow.
This is a good position for my sales." she said.
Take a look at the path on the left!! She climbed this
the valley once more, we came across the Garden Tomb.
There is a large cistern for storing water at the front
of the tomb and behind it is a Triclinium. One
of the Nabataean rites associated with the dead was
the celebration of funeral banquets at which wine was
served, often in a rock-cut dining room situated near
the tomb known as a triclinium.
Perhaps as a result of this, their God Dushara,
originally a fertility symbol, later became associated
with Dionysus, the Greek God of wine.
Opposite the Garden Tomb was the Roman Soldier's
Tomb, so-called because the statues in Roman armour
suggest this tomb may have been carved after the Romans
conquered Petra in 106AD.
along Wadi Farasa, the dry riverbed of the Farasa
River, we became a trifle disorientated. We had intended
to walk towards the Cardo Maximus but we ended
up in an area where many of the Bedouin live.
Once a nomadic people, these Bedouin have adapted the
smaller tombs in this area into warm, comfortable dwellings
for themselves and their livestock, mainly herds of
goats but also camels for the tourists to ride.
Their fields stretch beyond the tourist areas with tractors
ploughing the sandy soil and small boys on donkeys carrying
away the many stones.
and outgoing, the Bedouin eke a precarious existence
between agriculture and tourism, selling trinkets and
artefacts to the tourists, and hiring their donkeys,
horses and camel for rides. Even the small children
will offer you a tray of rose coloured rocks for selection.
came across a beautiful Bedouin woman named Soraya
with her small son Ishamael (pictured above right).
She told us we were near Snake Monument and offered
to show us the way. Accepting, we were accompanied by
a French couple who were also looking for the monument.
Soraya was herding goats which she took with her.
After showing us the monument (shown behind Soraya
in the photo) she asked us back to her tent for tea
and to see a newborn baby in the tribe. Unfortunately,
we had to decline as it was getting late in the afternoon.
One of the downsides of travelling in winter is the
shorter daylight hours. We figured it would take us
at least an hour to walk back to the Siq and
then we had to negotiate our way to the Entrance. Sadly,
we made our farewells - again leaving a small koala
or two to remind them of the Travelling Aussies.
briskly, we found our way back to the main route through the
valley - retracing the Roman Cardo Maximus - and found
our way to the Siq. True enough, it was dark at 4.30pm
when we eventually walked out of Petra and had a coffee at
a local cafe whilst waiting for the taxi to take us back to
the hotel. We estimated we had walked 30km altogether, much
of it up steep mountainsides and we were tired and hungry.
Stopping at a roadside stall, Guy bought a khefiyah
in the red and white Jordanian colours and the black agal
which holds it in place. He figured it would be useful to
keep out the cold as well as be an excellent souvenir.
the Mussa Springs hotel, we had kebabs and rice for
dinner and organised to have lunch boxes prepared for the
following day (JD2.50 each). Totally exhausted, we
could barely shower before we fell asleep. And more walking