Lost city of Petra

This prehistoric Jordanian city is more than just Indiana Jones. My only knowledge prior to my visit to one of the seven wonders of the world was this:
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Oh, the ignorance. I didn’t know the history behind this majestic Kingdom, or how vast the land was amidst deserts and mountains. It didn’t make any sense to me that there was a 3 day entry pass into Petra, until I had to cover the grounds of this massive ancient land. To avoid the crazy crowds, I made sure that I was out of bed by sunrise and brisk walking towards the entrance gates. That certainly paid off, seeing that most places were empty at that time. Exploring around the monuments became so much more fun being in my own private playground!

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Thus started my day of walking, climbing, and being constantly reminded of how tiny I am in this gigantic world!

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Started out first at the Obelisk Tomb and the triclinium, which were two rock-cut monuments carved into sandstone cliffs. My first thoughts? I felt like I was in Star Wars, but no, maybe Indiana Jones, or Tomb Raider.

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Exploring through the Siq is peculiar yet marvelous. This natural sandstone gorge winds and bends through imperfectly curved roads before revealing the legendary Treasury. This is where a scene from Indiana Jones was filmed so imagine the epic moment when I first emerged from the Siq. Along the gorge are also water channels on both sides that were meant to carry fresh water to the city from the springs.

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Behold! The Treasury (Al-Khazna in arabic). Carved by the Nabataeans, this magnificent monument has a legend behind it’s name. Apparently a pharaoh hid a treasure in the urn at the top and bullet holes can be seen by those who tried to retrieve the treasure. But in reality, it’s essentially a mausoleum, with obvious decoration from the facade which represents afterlife & death. Royal tombs have also been uncovered as recent as 2004!

The Indiana Jones theme song was practically playing through my head the whole time…….
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Okay I lied, I hummed it out loud running through the narrow pathway like a lame llama.

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Camels being whored for photography services outside the monument 🙁
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The marketplace was where trading and selling of trinkets, souvenirs and stones took place. Still really early when we walked by, but it gets really lively by noon! Feels like I was in a scene out of a period movie !

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Unique handmade trinkets & coloured sand stones for sale. Although, you can easily find those sandstones around if you search hard enough. The idea of purchasing it feels like I’m getting ripped off by people selling $5 polished seashells at a beach.

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Reaching the High Place of Sacrifice to check out the vast views of the ancient city. Walls were vandalized with charcoal. Leave your footprints, but not your names, selfish travelers !

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Obligatory zen photo moment with this magnificent view

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We were invited by some of the bedouins who lived here for tea. Had a good chat, and played with their little puppy Shakira, before making our way off just in case daylight ran out! We were also invited over for dinner which… is another adventure to tell altogether.
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While leaving the High Place of Sacrifice with a bedouin, he told us that these channels were supposedly meant for the sacrificed animals (probably a goat) after they have been killed and drained of their blood.

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And then came my obsession of spotting colourful Nubian sandstones. Nature’s beauty at it’s best.

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The route heading down was completely deserted that I jumped about like a kid!

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Exploring Petra’s Great Temple ! This complex was only rediscovered recently by archaeologists in 1992, The excavations show that the whole area was super vast and dated back to two millennia ago

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Walking through the Temenos gate which is the entranceway to the Qasr al-bunt temple precinct. Here we start seeing bedouins selling mule and camel services to be taken up the steep steps to the Monastery.

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Cute, but not paying for these services. The mules don’t look the least bit happy at all.
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More stores the closer we get to the Monastery. People think that it’s a tough climb up to the Monastery, but it really isn’t. There is so much beauty in the surroundings to admire that time passes without even realising. Paying for a mule or a donkey to take you up is just a ridiculous way to tell the world how lazy you are.

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The enormity of the Monastery is unbelievable until you see it for yourself. Carved into the sandstone hill with an entrance step as tall as I am (about 5”2), I can only wonder about the Herculean beings that used to reside in here.

Can’t tell by the scale?

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How about now? The monstrosity!

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Too mind-blowing a monument to witness. A picnic is finally in session. Time to whip out all those goodies we’ve lugged in our backpacks! Chips, hummus x a a whole bag of 1 Dinar falafel

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Little observations during lunch break.

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Climbed a little higher and the Monastery still looks too epic.

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These signs suddenly seemed to be popping up everywhere, boasting the “best view in Petra”.

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The signs were right. O_O But cat is skeptical

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Last bit of exploring for the day, I was knackered from all that exploring, but still very excited about seeing coloured sand and rocks !

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Also found this comical sight of a big man on a small mule being pulled by a petite woman on a bigger mule.

So that dinner invitation we accepted at the High Place of Sacrifice… Fahad agreed to meet us and pick us up from the Theatre. We showed up 10 minutes before our arranged meeting time and there he was, already waiting for us with a couple of mules.
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He played the flute so beautifully and let us try it out too. let me tell you, it isn’t as easy as it looks. Although I have to say he fully understood how to work his self carved musical stick !

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Since we were a little bit early for dinner, he decided to invite us over to his home in a cave. We got on the mules and he proudly announced that even if we lost him on the way there would be no problem, simply because his mules knew the way to his cave

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“My best friend loves to come here all the time and draws on the doors and walls”

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“My home is your home,” he says, and showed us where he usually hid his key, for the next time that we ever choose to re-visit Petra, the invitation is always open to live there. Fahad was an incredibly amazing and friendly man, and the most genuine bedouin i’d ever met. Although I can’t say the same for the rest of the bedouins we met afterwards at dinner – but like I mentioned before, that is another adventure to tell on it’s own.

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We hung out in his cave for a while, he showed us old pictures of his family, friends, and all the graffiti that his best friend had scribbled all over the caves. Petra may be a desert land but entering his cave, we felt a nice cool chilly atmosphere that was immediately made cosy with the decorations that were put up on the cave walls. Photos of him with other travellers, a welcoming messages written with charcoal, nicely patterned rugs on the sandy floor and a small sitting area with more pictorial memories and dangling decorations; the interior was simple yet spectacular. I’d say Fahad and his best friend have done a good job in making this cave as cosy as they could.

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On the journey to his cave, he pointed out so many empty caves that used to have bedouins residing in them, but because of the government, a lot of them have now moved to the village where they had houses built for them. Today, only about 28 caves are still inhabited by bedouins while the rest have decided to let the tradition pass by moving to the village.

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Once we were done with cave visiting, the mules marched up the High Place of Sacrifice and we got to see what a very minimal sunset on the way. The sky fell dark faster than I could appreciate the beautiful orange-blue hues of twilight, and before I knew it, it started to get cold.
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We enjoyed a nice campfire set up outside but with the strong winds blowing at us in the open, it was only a matter of time before we retreated into the little house made from mud, cloth and zinc roofing. I would say this was really quite an experience, having traditional bedouin soup while everyone sat around and talked. Some of them didn’t even understand English so we struggled with body language. What happened after was definitely an interesting adventure, but I’ll leave that story for the next time.

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Petra – I didn’t expect it to be such an amazing place. Thinking back today, I can’t believe that I contemplated not seeing the place because of the hefty entrance fee of 50 Dinars (about 60 Euros). I mean, apart from seeing all these historical monuments that were carved from stone and made from nothing, there was also so much beauty in the geographical formation of this land. The stones, rocks, gorges and even the sand were all so beautiful in it’s own way; almost like a waking reminder on the wonders of nature. Besides, I got to live my Star Wars moment while engaging in an exhilarating light saber battle.

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May the force be with you all!

x

Dara

Wanderer of lands, searcher of souls. Last seen tree hugging and running wild into the mountains. Might have eaten all the ice cream in the tub.

1 Response

  1. October 16, 2015

    […] The amount of helplessness and fear that I felt that night would forever stay with me. We were in Petra, Jordan, and after reluctantly accepting a rare invitation to dinner by the bedouins, one of the guys came […]

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