When I put together the list of challenges for my Fulbright experience in Jordan, I envisioned Petra as the "Camel's Hump" of my Jordan experience. For non-Vermonters, Camel's Hump is possibly the most well-known of our many day hikes in the state. During my year of 52 New Things, I resolved to hike it in all four seasons, and had a great time seeing the mountain in different ways. So, I thought I'd copy the idea with Petra, and think of ways I'd like to experience it that are a little different. I came up with three: by night, in the winter, and in the company of an actual archaeological expert. So, I am happy to report that I am 1/3 of the way through my goal, having experienced Petra at night with Chris and several hundred other chattering tourists.
|Chris and I having tea at Petra Kitchen in Wadi Musa before embarking on Day 1 of Petra explorations|
Along the way, of course, we also did a lot of exploring of Petra by day and, since my camera was no match for night-time Petra, that's what most of the photos capture. Anyone who's seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has actually seen Petra, because there's a famous chase scene in the movie that was filmed there. Petra is an ancient Nabatean town that was carved into the sandstone cliffs. Westerners didn't know where it was until a Swiss explorer named Jean Louis Burkhardt tricked his way in in 1812, pretending he wanted to make a ceremonial sacrifice.
|Here's Chris about to enter the Siq.|
The way in is actually possibly the most awe-inspiring feature of the whole place. You travel through a siq, which is an amazing canyon (except caused by tectonic shifting instead of water) that goes on for 1.2 kilometers. In parts it's just wide enough for a horse-drawn carriage, which a few people use, and just when you start wondering how much longer it will be, it opens into a wide space and you face the most famous structure of Petra, the Treasury,
|The view of the Treasury right at the end of the Siq right before heading into the open space directly in front of it...|
|...and the Treasury in all it's glory.|
After the Treasury, there are miles of ruins, most incredibly well-preserved, for the exploring. After the Nabateans, Petra was used by the Romans and the early Christians and then, of course, the Bedouins, so there are all kinds of structures to be examined. There is an ancient theatre, countless cave homes and tombs, a set of Royal Tombs, a high place of sacrifice, ruins of temples and churches, and, if you're feeling ambitious, 800 steps (950 according to the Bedouins trying to get you to hire a donkey) up, a Monastery. The options are endless, which is why I advise people to do what we did, and buy a two-day ticket.
|Here's Chris from a cliff overlooking the Monastery|
At 8 pm on the night of the first day we showed up at the gates again, with several hundred other people, for our night-time experience. The path to the Siq (about half a mile) and then the Siq itself, are lit with thousands of candles, and there are amazing shadows everywhere. When everyone has filed through the Siq into the open space in front of the Treasury,the audience is seated on row after row of mats to watch a show of Bedouin music (and of course, the drinking of tea, because pretty much every event in Jordan involves the drinking of tea). After the show, everyone files out again, though this time Chris had the brilliant idea of waiting out the crowd. So, we climbed up on some higher rocks and watched the hundreds file through the path we had taken in, and then joined at the back to experience Petra at night more quietly.
|The photo doesn't do it justice, but here are people filing through the Siq at night.|