It’s hard to put to words everything we saw and experienced today. Petra, in all its glory, exceeded every expectation I had of it. People always say you have to see it to believe it, and there’s nothing more true. The feeling of walking through the winding sik only to emerge upon the Treasury is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. WHAT a day.
Both Dad and I woke up really early this morning, apparently feeling lasting effects of jet-lag. It ended up being sort of nice, though, because it gave us the chance to wake up slowly and take our time. I read a bit of Queen Noor’s book, which I’m about three quarters through, but had to give up because the concussion wasn’t very happy with me. Dad and I got ready, then wandered downstairs for breakfast, which was delicious.
We med Ra’ed at 9am in the lobby, and set out across the street for Petra. I was going crazy all morning thinking about walking through those gates and entering the site, and when it really happened it was hard to believe! Ra’ed bought our tickets, and then lead us across this square that had a sort of fountain in the middle, which was surrounded by little tourist shops. It was clear that this area had recently been renovated to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting the site each year. Despite this growing number, however, we almost had the place to ourselves! Ra’ed explained that most guides begin their tours at 8am, so he always starts his at 9am to avoid some of the crowds. And it worked!
Entering Petra is a sort of slow process. We began by walking down this wide path that was split in two; One of the sides was for walkers, like us, while the other side was reserved for horses, donkeys, and camels, which is a popular way of exploring the site. Even before noting the different carvings and caves in the mountain sides, the landscape was breathtaking. The rock formations, made from sandstone, are ancient, and have continuously being changed and altered by wind and water movements. The rocks were somany different colours, all sort of swirled together to create the most beautiful formations. Ra’ed stopped a few different times in this part to point out different carvings in the rocks and rock formations. There were all sorts of different caves and tombs worked into the rockfaces, all with specific significance. Over some of the bigger tombs there were these triangular shapes carved into the rocks, which indicates how many people are buried inside the tomb. There was this one rock that had writing on it, and when I asked what it was, Ra’ed told us that the top three lines were ancient Nebataean writing, while the bottom two lines were Greek writing.
We continued along this path until we arrived at the Sik. “Sik” is the Arabic word for “Gorge”, and walking through it felt like a dream. The Sik is almost a kilometre long, and winds downward towards the city of Petra. I really don’t know how to explain what it felt like to walk through it. The path was narrow, and we were completely hidden in the shape, because the sides of the gorge went so high that they blocked the light. The walls of the Sik waved in and out in front of us so at times the path ahead was hidden, and all you could see were different coloured rock face. We walked slowly through here, and Ra’ed pointed out different examples of Nabataean carvings and examples of the very sophisticated water system that they used to carry water down into the ancient city.
The Sik went on and on and on, so when we turned a corner and glimpsed some light ahead, it really took my breath away. The walls of the Sik waved in and out, but I could see through a small space what I knew right away must be the Treasury. We were completely hidden in the shade of the Sik, but the Treasury was lit up in full light from the sun, which further created this incredible contrast. We stopped walking for a moment just to take it all in, before continuing forward to take in the full impact of the famous Treasury.
The Treasury is the famous image of Petra that we see in the West, and I understand why. Although Petra is huge, people tend to focus on the Treasury as its main attraction. It’s all amazing, but there’s something so special about the Treasury. I think it could have something to do with how you come upon it through the Sik, and its sheer size is impressive enough already. We spent quite a bit of time here just taking it all in, and getting pictures and all that. I got a picture on a camel in front of the Treasury, which was awesome. I swear, Camels are the greatest animal in the world. Camel rides are quickly becoming a guilty pleasure of mine.
We continued on through the classical trail, which is the main trail through Petra stretching about 4km long. Everything’s getting mixed up in my head, so it’s hard to keep everything straight – let’s blame the concussion. After the Treasury, the path widens, and opens up to a big sunny space. Here, we saw the ancient tombs, as well as theatre carved out of the side of the rock face. Everywhere we looked there was something overwhelming to take in. We climbed up to see the Royal tombs, which gave a really beautiful view of that part of Petra. When we got up to the tomb, there was a small group from Poland singing the most beautiful song. The acoustics of the tomb were incredible, and as they sang we stood and listened, taking in our surroundings. The ceiling of the tomb was so elaborate and colourful that I was sure it was painted that way, but Ra’ed said that it was all the natural colours of the rock.
All throughout the classical trail people would approach us trying desperately to sell us a camel or donkey ride along the trail. Ra’ed would usually explain to them in Arabic that we weren’t interested, but once he finished talking the guys would turn to us and ask in English, just in case. They kept calling, “Donkey ride for later! For later!” There were also little kids selling rocks and post cards, which was really sad and hard to see. They call come from a little nearby village, and they do this instead of going to school, because it is way more profitable in the short run. Ra’ed said that it is important to not buy from them because it encourages that kind of lifestyle. It was really hard to say no to the little kids, though. Little girls would come up with a package of postcards and say, “1 dinar, 1 dinar”, and when I would say no, they would place the postcards in my hands and say “gift for you, you are beautiful.” It was a good thing Ra’ed was with us, so that he could explain in Arabic that we wouldn’t buy. One little girl spoke to me in Arabic, and said that I was “جميلة” (pronounced: Ja-mee-la), which translates to Beautiful in English.
We continued along, doing our best to take everything in. I’m having a lot of trouble describing it all. All I can say is that it was overwhelmingly beautiful. We stopped for lunch at a little rest house at the end of the classical trail, and it felt very good to sit down. That was the end of our guided tour, so Ra’ed left us there, and left it up to us to explore and bit more and make our way back. We headed up a smaller trail to a monastery on one of the highest peaks in Petra, and the views were incredible. We didn’t make it to the top, because I was getting a really bad headache and we didn’t want to push it with the concussion, but what we did see was incredible.
I have so much more to say, but I’m falling asleep at the computer, and I need to make sure I get enough sleep for our camel trek in Wadi Rum tomorrow morning! I’ll let the pictures do the talking, though they don’t do Petra justice at all!