Visiting one of the Wonders of the World

IMG_0106Yesterday was pretty amazing spending time in the Dead Sea, and familiarizing myself with Jordan, and today continued the trend. With our last day before our IWitness mission begins, Dave and I took a three hour drive out to visit on the Wonders of the World – Petra, stopping only briefly for some Lays chips (yum) and some Arabic Coffee that Dave decided to try……….. which didn’t work out as well as the chips 😛

Here’s a bit of Wikipedia background for you…

Petra (Arabic: البتراء, Al-Batrāʾ; Ancient Greek: Πέτρα) is a historical and archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved.

Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is believed that Petra was home to roughly 30,000 people and was abandoned in the year 106 A.D. The reasons for the abandonment of Petra still remain unknown today. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a Newdigate Prize-winning poem by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. See: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. Petra was named amongst the New7Wonders of the World in 2007 and was also chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “28 Places to See Before You Die”.

In addition to being one of the Wonders of the World, it’s also one of the most expensive wonders of the world. It cost 100 JD to get out to Petra by taxi, and then 50 JD each to get into the site itself. I will say, however, that it was worth it.

P1000732As soon as we entered the grounds we were offered a free camel ride, but told that “tip was not included”… and they were pretty forceful with the idea. I generally find when people are that forceful, it’s just not a good idea – so we walked. And found that the camels only go a little less than a kilometer anyway. It was a bit of a grey day when we started, which was actually really nice – in the middle of the desert we were expecting temperatures up to 40 Celsius, so when we felt a few drops of rain we were pretty happy (and impressed that we managed to come when it rains in a desert!).

I got to climb some of the ruins, and take some pretty spectacular pictures. The trail that we went on was about 8km long and got us from end to end, but you could easily spend days there with all the side trails and interesting things to see and do there. The rain and cool breezes didn’t last long, so after a couple of km we were getting pretty hot.
The Treasury was a really an amazing sight to see – and it kind of sneaks up on you!

As we trekked on whatever drizzle of rain was there vanished pretty quickly, and we were reminded that we are indeed in the middle of a desert. It was hot. Very hot.

Everywhere we went we saw something interesting, and I’m not going to try to describe it for you, but here are a few pictures…

Pillars and posts, ancient ruins with descriptions of what used to be there – be it a public bath for the wealthy or the simple home of some of the people, it was a fascinating walk. We reached the end of the 8km path to find a spot to grab some food and drink – insanely priced, run by the Crown Plaza. Remind me not to stay there. I was not at all impressed, so we didn’t have anything despite being a bit peckish.

Now of course is the challenging part…. I told you it’s an 8km trail, did I mention it wasn’t a circle? Yeah, you’re just out there… there is no nice little exit sign saying please come again. So back you go!

On the way back we did stop at a few of the places we skipped on the way – we were trying to stay within 3 hours and didn’t know how long it would take us, or some of them were already super busy, so because we made really good time we did take a few stops.

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One of them was a pretty cool elevated platform where they actually had cheap drinks (THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!) and a really cool cave (actually cool) to venture into. We got some great pictures from the top – and some great exercise.

P1000938From there it was a pretty straight forward walk back – we were both getting pretty tired and hot, though we stopped at the treasury again and enjoyed the sights there. Pretty awesome.

That last km back was brutal 😛

We finally got back to the entrance and found some cheap food there, so we got ourselves a burger and fries which was absolutely wonderful for my famished self. Wonderful. And then returned to our taxi to wake our poor driver up, who told us he’d take a nap while we wandered around for 3 hours – not the ideal job in the middle of a desert, but hey it works.

And really that was pretty much our day – it took another 3 hours to get back, it was a pretty quiet ride back and I’m pretty sure I dozed off a bunch of times. I think we got back around 7pm or 8pm and got some dinner… we were talking about going back out afterwards, but I think we were both pretty exhausted and just wound up falling asleep.

Tomorrow is the day that things actually start to get really interesting, so a good sleep was a good idea… stay tuned as we begin our actual IWitness Adventure with the UNHCR in Jordan!