BootsnAll Travel Network

Articles Tagged ‘Petra’

More articles about ‘Petra’
« Home

The Ultimate Stairmaster

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

Stairway from Heaven
Stairway from Heaven

We’ve spent our third day in Petra now, and it was definately the hardest. We’d wanted to visit the second most famous facade in Petra, the Monastery, and we’d planned on taking horses one way, as we’d heard you could do that.

Unfortunately, we had no such luck, apparently the horses are unable to climb all the way to the Monastery. You can take donkeys, but you have to walk about 3 or 4 km from the entrance gate to the centre of the site to get a donkey, and by the first one we asked started at an unreasonable price, and by the time he’d come down to the realm of reality, we were so frustrated with his tactics that we weren’t going to buy from him anyway.

So we walked the whole distance. Probably only about 6 km or so from the entrance gate to the monastery, but it involves dropping right to the bottom of the valley, and then climbing a mountain out. Then turn around and go the other way. So we got a lot of practice on the stairs today. It was worth it though. The monastery, like the Treasury at the other end of the city, is an unforgettable sight.

We leave for Dana tomorrow. We’re not sure where next internet will be available, so it may be a while before you hear from us again. Don’t worry though, we’re fine.

– Neil.


Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

The Treasury
The Treasury

We have been in Wadi Musa (the town beside Petra) for 3 days, and have been to Petra for 2 days, going back again tomorrow. We haven’t really taken much rest in the past week, and are getting a little tuckered. Nights haven’t been fully restful either, as our room is not at all insulated, and we can hear every shout, car horn and prayer call quite clearly – the first call to prayer of the day seems to happen sometime around 4am, though we really can’t figure how many people are actually up at that time, unless they just haven’t gone to bed yet, since it seems to be a very evening and night-oriented society. (which has made finding breakfast on occasion quite a task – many places in less touristy areas don’t open until 9 or 10 am)

It is just a huge site. It would take more than just a few days to explore most of it, not even all of it. Though most of the spectacle is really just the sheer size, and ornateness of some of the facades, as many of the caves are actually uninspiring – they made the doorways very ornate, and then the inside is usually just a chamber, maybe 2 or 3, sometimes with dugouts inside – we found one today that appeared to have been a stable, that was one of the more interesting caves. Many of the caves are actually very smelly (pretty sure that some people have used them as toilets) and have garbage in them. Some of them are still used by the locals for feeding and housing their goats, and possibly donkeys.

We haven’t been to the museum yet (hope to do that tomorrow), nor have we read the little tourist books that they have for sale (there are a couple of them in the common room of our hotel, will look at that in a bit), so we don’t have much idea of the stories, or how the city was really organised, or how people lived their daily lives. The stone itself appears to be quite soft (sandstone) so while it seems remarkable that they did it, it is still more understandable than the Pyramids – we can fathom how it was done, and that it may even seem reasonable to have done it.

The rocks themselves are unbelievably colourful – photos will never do them justice. In places, they look like what may have inspired Salvadore Dali (recall the melting clock?) – the colours run and blend into each other. The ceilings of some of the caves are art unto themselves – like murals with no particular subject, just amazing colour and soft contours.

We figure that the people who lived here were a very hardy folk – the amount of walking and climbing just to get from one place to another is incredible. Of course, the stairs and paths have worn over the centuries, so it may have been easier once upon a time. Now you have to just about rock climb to get to some areas, where there might have once been stairs. Just to get from the entrance/visitor’s centre to the bottom of the siq (the long canyon-like entrance to Petra, the entrance containing the famous Treasury, as seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) is close to 2 km. Probably at least another 1 km or more to get to the restaurant/museum area, all over very uneven, hilly ground. To get to the Monastery (which we will be doing tomorrow), probably another 1.5km. Then you have to walk it all back. Or hire a horse, camel, donkey or horse-drawn cart (each of which seem to do part of the trail, but not all of them at the same parts).

(In case you were wondering, the inside of the Treasury is nothing like the movie – it’s actually just a very large chamber, with some antechambers or rooms at the back which we couldn’t explore, as the main chamber was gated off).

Something I have found interesting is that the horses at the top of the siq, to take people back to the entrance (the main entrance is at the top – you go down a ways to the top of the siq, which again goes down to the actual entrance at Petra, the Treasury), appear to be in very good condition – we hired a couple yesterday, as we had actually gone for longer than our bodies could handle – and the owners appear quite proud of them. But the horses that draw the carriages (from one end of the siq to the other), many of them are in terrible condition – looking very tired, stumbling, frothing at the mouth, smelling quite bad, being driven harder than is necessary… If ever you are in a tourist area where animal rides are being offered, please please check the condition of the animal before you agree to anything. Their conditions will only improve if people refuse to pay for unhealthy animals. Sadly, it appears that many tourists here don’t notice. It was worse in Egypt – we didn’t look that closely, as we were trying to avoid the touts altogether, but we heard from others who had actually considered it, that some of the animals were in horrendous condition (we had heard this elsewhere as well). The irony is that right at the entrance before Petra (at the very top), there is an animal hospital/rehabilitation centre, that appears to promote the well-being and proper care of horses.

– Kathy