We had an early departure for pretty much everyone onboard the ship for the full day excursion to Petra. There were 14 busses with an average of 30 people on each bus but it was impressively organized and no one experienced the crowd crush that one would imagine for a group of this size.
Our guide did a good job explaining the history and customs of his country, Jordan, but the bar had been set pretty high with Bahgad in Egypt.
Some interesting facts that he shared:
• Wadi Rum location of filming Lawrence of Arabia
• The Martian was filmed at Wadi Rum
• The train in Wadi Rum transports phosphate
Population of Jordan has increased by more than 3 million since 2010. Water is in very short supply. Iraqis came in with money to seriously hurt prices. There are a large number of Syrian refugees who work for less wages. Youth unemployment in Jordan is 55%.
Because shipping is difficult (we would soon learn the meaning of “difficult”!) in the Mediterranean the majority of goods come in to Jordan via truck on the desert highway.
75% of the population work for the government in some capacity. Jordan offers 2 kinds of health insurance with the military hospitals are considered the best. Jordan provides refugees their own hospitals.
Bedouin’s currently in Petra are not related to Nabateans (considered the wandering tribe that built Petra).
We stopped when we got to the top of the mountain range before descending in to the valley where Petra is located. It was a wonderful view but hazy and pretty monochromatic.
We finally arrived at Petra at @ 10am. We were all to go in the entrance gate together and he would walk us down to the Sic (the narrow gorge entrance) and through to the Treasury stopping here and there for our guide(s) to point out bits of information along the way.
(photos of entrance and walk down to the beginning of the Sic)
We were struck with the chaos and touristy-ness of the site. We knew it was about a 3 mile walk from the entrance to the Treasury on hard, sometimes rocky terrain. Those brave enough (or stupid enough in our interpretation) had the option of taking a horse or donkey the short walk down to the entrance to the Sic gate. Others who weren’t mobile (and really shouldn’t have even taken this trip) could take a donkey carriage ride that would take them to and from the Treasury. The carriage was expensive about $40 per person and downright dangerous as the drivers careened without a care for the pedestrians in the sic through the crowds. We were told to stay by the sides of the sic as the carriages don’t slow down to give way to pedestrians. It was astounding to us the disregard for the pedestrians. Thank heavens they had workers sweeping up the donkey poop along the way as it would have been a disaster. The sic was also over run with the usual postcard and souvenir hawkers.
The sic (gorge) is quite amazing. Narrow in some points where only a small amount of light from high up the top of the rocks came down to the ground. The entire way there were the water channels that the Nabateans cleverly built to bring water to the city. They also had built dams. Now we’re talking an amazing feat as Petra in its peak with the Nabateans was about 75-150 AD. Not nearly as old as the sites in Luxor but the technology of water management as well as the carvings out of the cliff sides for edifices was incredible impressive. They built Petra on the trade route and knew the importance of water for the caravans.
Photos of the Sic, note the water canals, and how enormous it is perspective-wise with people in the photos…:
It takes about an hour to get from the entrance to the Treasury … the first building inside the city. It’s a little slower on the return as it’s mostly uphill. The first view when you step out of the gorge (Sic) and see the Treasury building is awesome. The area in front of the building is crammed with tourists (like us), camels, souvenir hawkers and carriages driven by donkeys. The carvings are chipped away in places — especially the urn at the top as looters thought there was money in the building somewhere because of its name. That was not the case.
Photos of the Treasury area:
Turning right from the treasury one can walk about 4kms to the end of the city to what they call the Monastery. It got it’s name from the fact that when the Christians came to Petra after the decline of the Nebeteans occupation they converted this building in to a monastery. Along the way one passes many many tombs cut high in to the hillsides. They have the upside down pyramid stair pattern that indicates how many tombs are inside. Obelisks also can indicate this number. We marveled at the technical ability the Nebeteans developed to be able to carve these massive structures IN to the hills!
These areas are now filled with souvenir sellers, donkey and camel ride hawkers. I know it’s a necessary thing for these people to be able to earn money, but it still takes away from the site. Especially being one of the 7 wonders of the world, and being in Jordan with so many people being supported by the government.
We stayed with our guide so we could gather as much information on the buildings along the way. At the end we climbed up this steep hillside to some high buildings and had some great views looking down.
Photos from the Treasury to the Monastery:
We hoofed it back up to the entrance. Joe was slowing down as he was still beaten down from the cold he got in Luxor. We had lunch at the Movenpick hotel across from the entrance of Petra and then returned home to the ship.
Since sunsets are such a big deal in this area our coach driver pulled (kind of) off the road (just after a curve) to let us out to take photographs of the setting sun. That was very thoughtful of them to organize this quick photo stop, but also a bit humorous because the bus was not nearly pulled off from the roadway to be safe!
Once again we were met warmly by the crew at the gangway. Showers were rejuvenating after the long day and so was a leisurely dinner in the discoveries dining room.
We were looking forward to having the next 4 days at sea. It would be a benefit for Joe to heal and for both of us to catch up on much needed rest. It was hard to believe that we have only been onboard for a week.