Homer's Travels: 2010 Vacation: Jordan - Day Five - Petra

Friday, July 23, 2010

2010 Vacation: Jordan - Day Five - Petra

Every vacation usually has that on destination, that one attraction, that you really look forward to visiting.  For Peru it was Machu Picchu.  For our summer vacation last year, it was Yellowstone and Arches National Parks.  For our Jordan vacation it was Petra.

We had a whole day at Petra.  We started, early in the morning to beat the heat, outside the gates where we met up with our fellow tour people (they all walked from their Hotels) and guide.  We passed through the gates and started down a dusty road that, after passing some simpler tombs, led us to the start of the Siq, a narrow valley that leads to the Petra ruins.

The Siq, which is Arabic for shaft, is a narrow canyon with sheer stone walls three to six hundred feet high.  In places the canyon is only ten feet wide.  Along the way are small shrines carved into the stone.  One impressive sculpture was of a caravan including three life size camels and their leader.  Only the bottom half of the leader and some hooves remain.  Water channels run the length of the canyon walls on both sides.

Petra - The Treasury.
As we approached the end of the Siq, a guide for another tour group started humming the Indiana Jones theme.  Why, you ask?  Well, at the end as you turn a slight corner you see possibly the most spectacular, and most recognized, ruin of Petra - the Treasury - famously showcased in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The carved facades are memorials and tombs of wealthy and/or powerful Nabataeans who made Petra their capital sometime in the 6th century BC.  This would make Petra the oldest ruins that I've ever been to - very cool.

Our guide took us along the winding canyon pointing out other facades and, eventually, more Roman ruins.  Petra has changed hands many times in its lifetime.  The last residents, Bedouins, left in the 60s after King Hussein payed them a personal visit to ask them to leave so that it could be preserved.  In return for them leaving, they were given a new village not far away and they were allowed to work and sell things in Petra.  Most of the vendors we saw in Petra were Bedouin.

We wandered down the canyon admiring the swirling strata of the stone (I had better pictures of the stone but my camera card decided, after this picture, to take a crap and they all went *poof*).  We looked into one chamber to see the burial niches.  We passed Roman temples.  Our guided tour ended at a museum.

At this point we were given choices.  The afternoon was ours to do with what we pleased.  Our guide had told us of another facade known as the Monastery.  By the way, the names given to these facades have nothing to do with what they were used for.  They were all tombs.  The treasury was not a bank.  The Monastery never had monks.  The Monastery lied past the museum ... up 900 steps.  It was probably in the high 90s or low 100s Fahrenheit.  I looked at the Wife and she said Hell Yes.  We hadn't traveled all this way to be turned away by a few steps.

What Would Jordan Be Without A Smiling Camel.
The steps were not all contiguous.  You would walk up a few dozen steps hewn in the stone and then hit a flat stretch.  The path up twisted and turned in and out of shade.  In the flat areas small Bedouin shop keepers had set up tents where you could get shade and buy crafts.  We were passed by surefooted donkeys carrying tourists up the stairs.  I let the Wife set the pace as I figured my usual pace would be too fast.  We were doing pretty good.  Soon we could see a large tent, larger than all the others, up above our heads.  Thinking this was our destination we pushed ahead.  It wasn't the Monastery but it was the location of our most memorable Jordan vacation moment.

I reached the big tent first.  The tent covered a large rest area with chairs, a jewelry store full of Bedouin jewelry, and a snack bar.  I turned around looking for the Wife.  She looked winded so I tried to steer her to one of the chairs.  She passed me, ignoring the chairs, and sat on a step.  I wondered what was happening when she started wheezing, crying, and said she couldn't breathe.  She was having an anxiety attack and hyperventilating.  I tried to calm her down.  She laid flat on her back gasping loudly.  Two French women came over and fanned her with their hats.  I got up and bought cold water and rushed back.  I got back in time to hear one of the French women, her face only a few inches from the Wife's face, say:
"You must promise me you will hire a monkey.  You must ride the monkey down. You must have you husband hire you a monkey."
Now, this was a very confusing thing to hear.  I was confused and you could see in the Wife's eyes that she was thinking about what the French woman was saying.  All this talk of hiring a monkey distracted the Wife so much that she forgot that she couldn't breath and she stopped hyperventilating.  The Wife said later that she was thinking "She means Donkey but she's saying Monkey" and she didn't know if she should laugh or not.  We think that the effort and the heat had combined to deprive the Wife of air which triggered the anxiety attack.

The Wife recovered and downed the water bottle.  I asked if she wanted to go back and she insisted on continuing so, after we had rested a while, we continued.  The Monastery was only about ten minutes further ahead.  At the top there was a very large, lush Bedouin tent with carpets, pillows, hookahs, tea, and cold drinks.  Opposite the tent was a huge facade.  Very impressive and worth the climb.  Because of reasons beyond my control ... damn camera card ... the only picture of the Monastery is a scan of a postcard the Wife bought.

The Monastery - Resorting To A Scanned Postcard - Damn Camera Card.
I left the wife at the tent and went up to some view points.  At one of these viewpoints was a geocache.  I figured it was my last chance to find one in Jordan.  To get to it you had to walk out on a four foot ledge with a knee shaking drop off and search the pock marked cliff face.  I searched and searched and did not find it.  My GPS said I was two feet away from it at one time.  It probably was gone.  Or maybe I was just too tired to see it.  I left Jordan without finding a single geocache.

I rejoined the Wife and we headed back down.  Going down is so much easier.  We stopped at a lunch place near the museum at the bottom and ate ... a buffet lunch.  After eating and drinking our fill we headed back up the canyon to our hotel.  Since it was the afternoon, the temperature had gone up several degrees since the morning and it was really, really hot.  By the time we got to our room we were exhausted and a bit ripe, if you know what I mean.  We had been walking around Petra for about nine hours.  We walked about 10 miles per my GPS (Actually it said 11.67 miles but GPS reception was shaky in some of the valleys and the track actually shows me walking through solid stone in some places so I'm guessing it over did it on the distance).  The vertical, from the museum up to the Monastery was 768 feet.

After showering and cooling off a bit we were crazy enough to go back out and do some shopping.  Prices were pretty reasonable as it was the off season.  We even negotiated for some ice cream.  If we'd known the ice cream was so good in Jordan we would have bought some sooner.  Those Eskimo Pies were awesome.

The last of my pictures have been added to my 2010-07 Jordan Google Photos album.


  1. You have seen some amazing things, my friend. I'm glad your wife is okay!

  2. I wonder if she said it to The Wife on purpose, to get her mind off the breathing? Hmmmmm...

    Okay, so now I have to add Petra to the ever-growing life list. Thanks. I think...

  3. Miss McC: But there is so much more to see. Thank you.

    GH: I wondered that as well but I think she was just making a common mistake.

    My list grows daily. Damn Travel Channel.