A Travellerspoint blog

Petra - Day 15 Wednesday March 23

In search of the Holy Grail (don't choose poorly!)


View Egypt 03/2022 on Cybercsp's travel map.

Good morning! Our hotel offered a very attractive breakfast buffet.

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Then, at 8:30 AM, we meet Elias in the lobby and headed across the street to the historic site of Petra.

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Once past some very cheesy gift shops, we began our descent to the ancient city. I took 270 photos today that are in the photo gallery if you wish to have the full tour. I will try to control myself on today's blog entry (no promises).

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Petra was a strategic link in ancient caravan routes, and it is stunningly preserved after nearly 2,000 years. Built by the Nabataeans (Nomadic Arabs) around 312 BC, it was later abandoned during the 7th Century, following earthquakes and the Islamic invasion. By the end of the Crusades, Petra was lost to civilization until its re-discovery in 1812 by the Swiss adventurer, Burckhardt, who you might remember from his discovery of Abu Simbel. I'd say he was quite the lucky guy.

The first part of the journey is fairly open, and we passed through cliffs of sandstone that contained ancient tombs.

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These shrines to the gods would reassure travelers along the trade route.

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The entire city of Petra is carved into the sides of a deep gorge, and the only entrance is through a three-quarters of a mile long, narrow gorge (ranging from 10 to 40 feet in width) through the 100-foot cliffs that is called the Siq. This journey is very impressive as the minerals color the walls and erosion has created some dramatic effects.

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There are alternate ways to make the journey, such as hiring a golf cart, donkey, or horse.

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The Siq begins to narrow....

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...until suddenly, you catch your first views!

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The reward for the journey through the Siq is a jaw-dropping, "pinch-me I must be dreaming" vista…Temples, tombs, and dwellings chiseled out of the solid, rose-hued stone. For the next few hours, Elias introduced us to the area.

The first thing that you will see, also the most iconic image of Petra, is the Treasury, or Al Khazna, which was probably constructed in the 1st century BC. It is almost 40 meters high and 25 meters wide. The name is deceiving, as the Treasury was actually found to be a burial tomb that is very simple inside (it is not accessible). It is intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, and figures. It comprises three chambers, a center chamber flanked by one on either side. The elaborately carved facade represents the Nabataean engineering genius.

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Now, let's take a closer look at the elements.

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Notice the footholds at the side of the Treasury that the carvers used to reach their work.

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At some point, I suggest that you pause and imagine the workers, perched precariously above the ground, diligently scratching into the sandstone to create these masterpieces because everything that you have seen is carved out of the rock.

Once past the Treasury, the Siq widens and you can view this row of monumental Nabataean tombs, known as the Street of Facades. The necropolis contains tombs that ranged from the very simple to more elaborate, depending upon the status of the deceased.

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Throughout the site, there were plenty of opportunities for camel rides.

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There were vendor sites along the way. In fact, we recognized one guy who was selling DVDs as one of the assistant chefs at the Petra Kitchen last night!

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Elias treated us to coffee and we enjoyed a well deserved rest. His friend owns the cafe/shop where we stopped.

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There was, of course, an amphitheater with tunnels for the performers to use.

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Al Deir (The Monastery) is one of the largest and best-preserved monuments in Petra. This hall was converted to a Christian chapel at one point, and crosses were carved into the rear wall. There are 800 steps to climb to enter the monastery, but one can opt for a donkey ride (remember what happened to the last donkey we mentioned). The interior is empty, and after discussion with Elias, we opted out. (We later ran into two young girls who we met at the Petra Kitchen, and they said that the walk down from the monastery was very scary.)

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Earthquakes have caused great destruction to this last section of the ancient city of Petra. We walked along the last part of the road to reach it.

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We climbed up to the ruins of the Byzantine Church. The church is not visible from the street, but there is a hiking path that leads to it. There are elaborate mosaics that have survived.

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The baptistry is under reconstruction.

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The view from our elevated position.

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Little is left of the Temple of the Winged Lion, but this toppled column was left where it fell.

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The Great Temple is under restoration through Brown University.

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Dushara Temple is the only temple still standing.

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More coffee on the way back, and a vendor visits Charlie.

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A few final photos.

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As we exited the complex, Charlie returned to the hotel and I went into the Petra Museum. Some of the more delicate treasures found at the site are on display here.

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We were able to take part in the "Petra By Night" experience. This involved walking into the site, guided by the light of luminarias. The effect was so magical that it distracted me from thoughts of twisting an ankle on the uneven path in the dark.

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Our guide, Elias, suggested we sit at the coffee/souvenir shop at the Treasury. So by spending four dinar for coffee, we had nice comfortable seats and did not have to sit on the ground like the others.

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Because it was so dark, the beauty of the stars as we walked back was simply overwhelming.

To offset all this magic and beauty, let me state for the record that I look like a stuffed sausage in these photos because it is so cold and windy here. I am layered in everything I could fit under my vest and jacket. For the night show, I actually wore pajama pants under my jeans! Temperatures started in the high 30s and never reached 45. Elias said that he cannot recall such cold weather in March.

Photos are tagged Jordan and Petra

Posted by Cybercsp 17:51 Archived in Jordan Tagged jordan petra

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