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  • Day11

    Apr 12 - Petra

    April 12, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    First of two posts for today......

    Today started with a 5:00 a.m. wakeup call that had been issued for all 14 members of our group, but that we had cancelled. We don't need a lot of time to get ready in the morning. We have an alarm clock and a cell phone that we set as a back up. (In Amman, we were supposed to get a wakeup call and didn’t.) We dozed until 5:45 a.m. and then hopped to it. We had breakfast and were on the bus (with our luggage since it was only a one-night stand in Petra) by 7:15 a.m. It was quite cool (about 10 deg. C) so we all had a couple of layers on for warmth.

    We stopped just 5 minutes down the road to drink in the view of the mountains. I don’t think there is anything like this in Canada.

    Our destination was Petra – one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jordan. It is also one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. See info below about Wonders of the World. It is located in the heart of the Shara Mountains. It is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century BC that grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh and spices. Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city. The earthquake, combined with changes in trade routes, eventually led to the downfall of the city and it was ultimately abandoned. By the middle of the 7th century, Petra appears to have been largely deserted and it was then lost to all except local Bedouin from the area.

    Classic Seven Wonders of the World:

    Colossus of Rhodes.
    Great Pyramid of Giza.
    Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
    Lighthouse of Alexandria.
    Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
    Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
    Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

    Seven New Wonders of the World:

    Great Wall of China
    Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro
    Machu Picchu in Peru
    Roman Colosseum
    Taj Mahal in India
    Petra in Jordan

    In 1812, a Swiss explorer by the name of Johannes Burckhardt set out to rediscover Petra. He dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city. After this, Petra became increasingly known in the West as a fascinating and beautiful ancient city. It now attracts millions of visitors every year.

    Petra is known as the rose-red city, a name it gets from the wonderful colour of the rock from which many of the city’s structures were carved. The Nabataeans buried their dead in intricate tombs that were cut out of the mountain sides and the city also had temples, a theatre, and following the Roman annexation and the later Byzantine influence, a colonnaded street and churches.

    The people of Petra were masters of hydrological engineering. They were very skilled in using dams and tunnels and clay piping to control the water from flash floods and to store water in underground cisterns. There is a tunnel 88 metres in length that they cut by hand through rock for control purposes.

    Visitors enter Petra via a narrow gorge called the Siq. It resulted from a natural splitting of the mountain and is 1.2 km long. The showpiece of Petra is the Treasury. It’s a magnificent façade. It is almost 40 metres high and has intricately carved Corinthian capitals, friezes and figures. On top of it is a funeral urn that supposedly conceals a pharaoh’s treasure.

    There is a theatre carved into the side of the mountain. It could have accommodated 4000 spectators. This is the only theatre in the world carved into rock.

    Petra is a huge site. Two ladies had been there before and had only been able to see about half of it. Eleven of the group opted to stay with Ruby and listen to her commentary. Five of us decided to go ahead of the main group and make a stab at getting to the farthest point – the Ad-Deir Monastery. We had to hot foot it to be able to get there and back by the time the bus had to leave to get all the way to our next hotel stop. Doug and Frances’ husband Ron buddied up while their wives set off to see the monastery.

    The monastery, Ad-Deir, is one of the largest monuments in Petra. It was used as a meeting place for religious associations. The Monastery dates to the early 2nd century AD. It was later re-used as a Christian chapl and crosses were carved into the rear wall, which is how the structure got its name.

    After the Treasury, which is where the rest of the group stopped and turned around, the path began to climb. There were lots of stairs with varying heights (some of them tough for our short legs). Sometimes, there were just worn rocks that we had to climb on. It was hot, tough sledding, but after a little less than two hours from when we began at the entrance, we reached the Monastery. Seeing it was a spectacular reward for our efforts. We took photos, had some water, declined to pay $1 USD to use the washrooms, and headed back down. We were back at the bus on time, hot, tired, sweaty and feeling very triumphant!

    All around Petra, there are vendors hawking trinkets, jewellery, drinks, carpets, shawls and all kinds of other bits and pieces – yes, even at the top of the mountain at the Monastery. There are men offering donkey rides, horse-drawn carriage rides and even camel rides. The rampant commercialism takes away some of the mystique and wonder of Petra and it’s causing a lot of mess and litter, but in looking past it, visitors certainly get to enjoy a truly unique sight.

    We made a quick stop at Wadi Mousa, a town located in the Ma'an Governorate in southern Jordan. It is the administrative center of the Petra Department and the nearest town to the archaeological site of Petra. Wadi Musa means "Valley of Moses" in Arabic. It is said that the prophet Moses passed through the valley and struck water from the rock for his followers at the site of Ain Musa ("Moses's water spring" or "Moses's Well"). The Nabateans built channels that carried water from this spring to the city of Petra. Wadi Musa was also nicknamed the "Guardian of Petra". The Tomb of Aaron, supposed burial site of the Biblical Aaron, the brother of Moses, is on nearby Mount Hor.

    Moses' spring delivers a continual supply of cool, fresh water. I filled my water bottle, hoping that the water would have good restorative powers for my tired, aching feet.

    We stopped for lunch just a little ways from Petra. The view over the valley made for a lovely setting. Soup, salad bar and nice sweets for just $10 USD per person. They use a lot of nice, fresh and tasty tomatoes, cucumbers, and red/green/yellow peppers in their salads and there is usually always a nice coleslaw. Doug and I have discovered the Jordanian version of chocolate pudding. It’s really good.

    Ruby bought locally-grown bananas for us. They are smaller than the ones we know and are slightly sweeter.

    Today, being Thursday, is the beginning of the weekend here. The traffic flowing out of Amman was wicked. According to Ruby, many people head to the city of Aqaba which is Jordan’s only beach/port city. Traffic going into the city was wicked also due to a bus breakdown in a construction zone. We watched with amusement as cars drove through a deep ditch and across the adjacent road being constructed to get to another route. Some drivers just kept driving on the road under construction. They couldn’t get very far as there were three pieces of heavy equipment just ahead parked across the road. An effective way of stopping foolish behaviour.

    To help pass the time on our long drive back from Petra to the Dead Sea, Ruby described how engagements take place here in Jordan. The process relies heavily on Bedouin customs and involves the man's and the lady’s families getting together and discussing the possible union over Arabic coffee (a very thick, very bitter drink). Just a short while later, we passed a wedding party. Such a lovely coincidence.

    We stopped at the Black Iris shop (nice washrooms!) that sells lovely Jordanian products and Dead Sea skin products. We all got to sample the skin scrub and to put on shea butter. They are lovely products but pricey. I’m sticking with Aveeno. The actual reason for the stop was to pick up Lynne’s suitcase. Her flight from Columbus, Ohio to Toronto got cancelled on Monday due to bad weather. She made it to Toronto on a later flight barely in time to make the flight to Cairo with the rest of the group, but alas, her luggage didn’t make it. With clothes lent by her fellow travellers, she made it through until today. Egypt Air and NET and Ruby had been working feverishly to get Lyne and her suitcase reunited without requiring her to go to the airport (far out of our way) to retrieve it. They finally found a convenient rendezvous point. Lynne is one now very, very happy traveller!!

    On our way from Petra to the Dead Sea, we dropped below sea level. We finally got to our hotel (a Ramada hotel) beside the Dead Sea about 6:00 p.m. The bus apparently had lost reverse at our stop before the Black Iris, so the bus had to stop by the gate where Haroon could just make a big U-turn. We all just pitched in had pulled our luggage in ourselves. Doug and I showered and headed down for dinner. What a lovely dinner buffet! Score – more of that good chocolate pudding we had at lunch. We checked out the pool area – two pools and a swim-up bar.

    Tomorrow being Friday (the equivalent of Saturday for us) is the running of the Dead Sea Marathon – it runs from Amman to the Dead Sea. Ruby has gone back to Amman to see her family for the evening. She and her husband have four children (ages 20, 16, 14 and 7). The roads won’t open until noon so we will have the morning to ourselves and hope to be on our way to see more sights by 1:00 p.m. This hotel has its own private beach on the Dead Sea so we will check it out during our free morning tomorrow. I experienced the Dead Sea on last year’s trip to the Holy Land. It will be interesting to see how Doug enjoys the sensation of floating in the water that has a 30% salt content.
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