Solo in Jordan: Petra, at last

 

20190331_121024.jpgI thought the rain would hold up. It had been a downpour that morning and then a beautiful clear sky for the most of the trip down. After walking into the visitor’s center, I didn’t think that I would need to be concerned about the rain, but as the temperature dropped, it occurred to me that I was going to suffer if I didn’t get a pair of gloves soon.

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Petra is commonly known for the large treasury carved in the pink stones of the Nebatean desert. But this is only one feature of a complex city that had been long abandoned. The visitor’s center showed a variety of trails to take, varying in difficulties. I picked one close to the front of the national park as I knew I wouldn’t have enough daylight to do a full trek.  The walk in was full of anticipation. I took pictures in the narrow caverns as people in horse carriages went by, loudly clopping. It seemed to take ages to cross the 2 kilometers to reach the opening where the treasury would peek thorough, but when I finally saw the gateway into this ancient world, I was breathless.

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The treasury, and all subsequent buildings in Petra, are simply tremendous. It is impossible to think about the amount of accuracy and diligence required to complete such intricate works with the simpler technology of that time. I stood there, lost in the din of the sniffing horses, the shouting bedouins, and the Chinese tourists. Here I was, face to face with something so beyond me in time. There is always some sort of adrenaline rush when I come face to face with things that I’ve only seen glorified in magazines, movies, and history books.

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After absorbing in the sites and avoiding a few bedouin scammers, I found my way to the first trail up and around the area. As the sky opened up and the rain fell steadily, I only smiled, put up my hood, and kept my playlist going through my ears as I ascended steps that I had not even attempted to count.

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The rest of the afternoon remained quite soggy. There were some exchanges with a bedouin over hot tea under the cover of what once was a temple. The trails were sparse with visitors, but it wasn’t difficult to find Europeans, Americans, and other Arabs exploring this culturally rich site. After some time, I felt hunger take a hold of me and decided to head back for food and to plan my next day. As I walked that last 2 kilometers back to the entrance, the booming of thunder reverberated over the stones and I was soon soaked in an utter downpour.

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After having a lackluster dinner at a tourist restaurant and meeting my German roommate, we planned out a trip to the back entrance of Petra. This would cut our walking time in half and still allow us to see most of the sites. We agreed to split costs and made sure we got up early the next day.

True to reputation, my roommate was completely ready and packed for the day before sunrise. We anxiously, then angrily awaited our delayed driver, and finally were off bumping through the wilds of Wadi Musa. With our multi-day ticket, we entered and began our trek to the Monestary- a building much larger than the treasury and less often seen due to the location in the back of the settlement. There were very few people, as it was early, but the weather seemed much clearer and more cooperative. After an hour we reached the foot of the site.

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Photo by Leon

The way down back to the main path of Petra made us realize what a good decision we had made. We descended over 800 steps, each steeply cut into the rock. To come here in full blaze of midday from the beginning of the site would have been quite challenging and time consuming. As we descended, stalls and shops crammed the pathways. Locals sold food, trinkets, and jewelry, using their donkeys to carry the massive items through the hazardous walkways. Sunlight glistened against rain soaked rocks, and we eventually found our way down to the main city area. My roommate and I parted ways, and I returned my headphones to my ears and explored the old tombs of Petra.

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The better weather brought more tour groups, but there were plenty of areas of solitude and peace as I faced the mountains and their peaks. At one point, the path led me to a hut facing the Treasury from above. Enjoying a quick snack with a bedouin cat, I then took the very Instagram-able photo and made my way back down to the entrance. The 2km walk to the gate seemed even longer this time, as my legs cried out in soreness and the incline challenged my very tired back. However, once I exited I found myself ready for a proper Jordanian afternoon. My bedouin driver was there at the taxi stand, and took me to a place for shisha and coffee. I sorted through photos, recharged my body, and made my way to the bakery to get some sweets.

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That evening I sat with other hostelers swapping stories and sharing desserts. A place like Petra will attract all sorts of guests, and it’s interesting to watch the rotation of those coming in and out.  After dinner and registering for the bus to Wadi Rum the next day, I showered and climbed into my freezing bed. While Petra itself was marvelous, I have to say I should have spent a little extra money on the accommodations. Simple things like having a locking door for the bathroom are not so difficult to pioneer, but this hostel was easily one of the worst I had stayed at. Making a new friend was a great experience; however, having our items stolen early the next morning would leave bitter tastes in both our mouths.

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