JORDAN: PETRA

Posted October 27, 2009

Visited Petra today and am completely knackered. But it was certainly worth it. Not only is the site extremely impressive as a historical record and site, the natural beauty of the site is, if anything, even more impressive. It is not what I would describe as off-the-beaten-track at all, but the extent of the site means it is not difficult to get away from the crowds.

Entering through the long passageway known as As-Siq with high sides resembling a narrow canyon, you feel a sense of history and of how many important processions passed just this way to enter this ancient red-rose city. At the end of As-Siq is the treasury, the best preserved and most impressive structure in Petra. It is quite a stunning site and the state of the iron-laden sandstone structure is nothing short of remarkable.

From here there are many possible routes around the site and to explore the whole site would take several long days. We (myself and two very nice Slovenian girls – one with Iraqi roots – that I had met at the hotel) took the steep route up the steps to the High Altar of Sacrifice and the lion fountain. The scenery here is simply breath-taking! I have done a lot of travel but I don’t recall anywhere that has the combination of mind-blowing scenery and ancient history and monuments that Petra boasts. It’s not hard to see why it was voted one of the World’s Seven Wonders in a recent worldwide poll.

After taking some less travelled routes and hiking through stunning Bedouin territory where there was no shortage of impressive structures and carvings as well as beautiful “natural graffiti” where the reds, blues, yellows and whites of the mineral-rich earth creates some of the most lovely patterns and designs like a skilled graffiti-artist.

Back on a more regular route we hiked up the 800-odd steps to the monastery known as Ad-Deir (simply the monastery in Arabic). This is a busy narrow path with tourists and mules jockeying for position but the monastery itself makes the trip worthwhile.

A tomb dating from about 86BC it is believed to have been used as a church during the Byzantine era. Nearby is a viewpoint known as “View from the end of the world” and the views are stunning, though unlike the monastery which is best viewed in late afternoon this is probably best seen in the early morning.

On the way back there are a whole array of spectacles from the colonnaded street to the street of facades and a selection of tombs of which we had time only for a few.

After a long day’s walking (we started at 8am and finished about 5.30pm) a shower was the first thing on my mind, and once that was achieved, dinner was a close second, and the excellent buffet dinner at my hotel was one of the culinary highlights of the trip so far. Jordan is more expensive and certainly more touristy than either Syria or Lebanon but it is certainly not without its charms.

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the links below to navigate through this journey.

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