i won’t be writing about this trip in chronological order because, well, because petra.
i have experienced and explored some pretty incredible things over the last 3 weeks. but petra? it’s in a league of its own.
as we drove down into the city, past the petra magic restaurant and the cleopetra hotel, we were greeted with a stunning sunset over the mountains. and during check-in, our hostel manager asked if we wanted to attend the nighttime program at petra.
view from my room. sun setting over petra.
at 8:30, we started walking through the siq, the massive alleyway flanked by stone walls. looking up, i felt the exact same feelings of euphoria and insignificance and magnificence that i feel when i am 30m underwater, staring up at a coral reef wall and beyond it sky. add to it the luminaries lighting our path every few meters, and the river of sky sprinkled with stars above, and you have yourself an awe-inspiring moment.
fig tree growing out of the stones
the large tour groups bustling down the corridor marred the ambiance slightly. we stopped and waited for large groups to pass a handful of times, and we ended up being some of the last to step through the crack that opens onto the treasury, with a circle of people on the ground surrounding more candles in paper bags.
al-khazneh, the treasury, at night
quiet descended (mostly) and the bedouins told stories and played instruments. the cold, the flickering lights, the vastness of the skies above, all created an enchanting experience.
sheila and rebecca, soaking it all in
the next two mornings, we returned for further exploration of petra. that siq may very well be my favorite part. it occasionally smells like animal waste, goes on for miles (okay, one mile — but it feels much longer when you exit, exhausted), and can be eerily quiet when you can’t hear or see anyone else (except the person ahead of you who is whistling the indiana jones theme song). but the dark red and ochre stony crags, towering above you, are outrageously beautiful. teasers for the rest of petra abound — some walls have niches, others have water channels, most just take your breath away. and then, the gorge narrows and the rock walls soar 80m up, and through the sliver, you get your first peak of petra.
it looks exactly how i imagined it. but i could not have predicted the sheer astonishment i felt.
i am struggling here to describe in words everything that petra is. and i’d forgo the words and use only pictures, but looking through them, i can’t find a single one that captures even a bit of the essence that is petra.
petra is the fusion of greco-roman, egyptian, byzantine styles. the nabataeans settled in southern jordan over 2200 years ago and quickly controlled the caravanning system across arabia, specifically the trade routes for frankincense and myrrh. and as they met and protected foreign traders, they absorbed their cultural influences, resulting in the remains of a gorgeous and diverse ancient city.
petra is the bedouin men wearing arabic kohl around their eyes, a la jack sparrow. the one wearing his ho chi minh t-shirt and traditional red scarf became our unofficial guide for a short time as we hiked into the depths of petra, up and down mountainsides, with his trusty donkey mickey mouse chasing us down steps and looking characteristically forlorn when we wouldn’t move fast enough.
petra is the 700 twisting and turning steps to the top of the high sacrifice, and the 800 steep steps leading to the monastery, and the hundreds of other steps that bring you all around the massive city.
petra is the boys pushing silver bangles and packs of 14 postcards on every tourist they see. “one dinar.” “happy hour, very good price.” “you dropped something back there — my heart/your smile/other bad pick-up lines.”
petra is hidden niches and caves, ranging from ground level to impossibly high, requiring your eyes to constantly roam.
petra is noel christmas, one of many shop owners on the hills leading to the monastery; and marguerite, the new zealander who married a bedouin and moved into petra in the late 70s; and GQ, Pretty Eyes, and Grumpy Cat, italian “archaeologist painters” who helped us find a shortcut to qasr el bint.
petra is precariously perched cairns marking the paths through the mountains; and deep colors of crimson, blue, and white painting our landscape; and the smell of campfire urging us to climb higher.
petra is the little girl sitting at a makeshift table covered with necklaces while her toddler brother arranges chunks of colorful stone in front of the garden hall. she’s a terrible salesperson, focusing all of her attention on the two books she’s cradling in her lap rather than the passing hikers. instead of hearing “lady, good price for you,” i hear her reciting her homework, as she’s copying phrases in arabic from her textbook into her notebook, then proudly reading her sentences aloud as she checks her work.
stairs to the monastery
a cairn at the high sacrifice. this is where i sacrificed a snickers bar.
the tomb of the urn.
jack sparrow was on the steps in front of us, and then suddenly he was on this outcrop of rock. jack be nimble, jack be quick.
r & s, stopping for a little r & r
caves and crevices
scarves for sale at noel christmas’ shop
a donkey’s resting place, near the tomb of the urn
the monastery, 800 steps later
egyptian obelisks, greco-roman niches, and nabataean details
i have no words for this place.
petra is, like the restaurant suggests, magic.