Israel 2010- Day 19- Petra, Jordan (Part One)

I’m reposting the articles I wrote about my trip to Israel last year. This article describes half of my day trip to Jordan- I’ll be posting the second half tomorrow. My visit to Petra was only one day, but I’m posting it over two days because of size and because there would be little to write about what I was doing One Year Ago tomorrow, since I spent the day mostly relaxing in the comfort of my air-conditioned hostel preparing for my trip to Egypt.

Petra- part one

In the original plan for this trip, I had planned to go to Eilat spend a day seeing the sights there, then head over to Jordan for two and a half days before taking the ferry to Egypt and spending three days there before flying back to Ben-Gurion airport to fly home. A couple of things changed my mind upon arriving in Eilat. Firstly, I was tired. I’d been on the go for 17 days, up at sunrise everyday, and to bed after sunset everyday, moving at a pretty brisk pace. While the trip had been great, the heat and the hassles of being in a foreign country had started to add up. Even with all of that, I still had planned to follow my plan as far as Jordan and Egypt went. the second thing, and the one that ultimately changed my mind was a conversation I had with a nice couple from New Zealand the first night while I was posting some pictures on Facebook using the free wireless internet in the lobby of my first Eilat hotel. We started by discussing our trips so far. They’d started in Turkey, then visited Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt in that order. Israel was the last stop on their journey. They had enjoyed their trip, but were really thankful to be getting to Israel, the most westernized of the six countries they were visiting. When I asked them about the things I had the most pressing questions I had about getting around in Jordan and Egypt, the answers were not what I wanted to hear. They said they’d been consistently ripped off by taxi drivers in Jordan, and the public transportation in Egypt was really poor and wildly unreliable. They hadn’t hated the ferry experience between Aqaba, Jordan and Nueweba, Egypt, but they also didn’t feel like it was worth the money they’d spent on it. I’d planned on getting around Jordan by taxi, so that first piece of news was distressing. The stories of public transport in Egypt sealed the deal. Had these places been on my itinerary at the beginning of the trip when I was less tired and looking for a little more of an adventure, this might have excited me. Coming when it did when my reserves for dealing with unpredictability and hassle were running awfully low, I knew my plans had to be changed. The things I wanted to do most, visit the ancient Nabatean city of Petra in Jordan and climb Mount Sinai in Egypt for sunrise were available via day tours from Eilat. The helpful owner of my hostel in Eilat (Corrine’s) hooked me up with a tour company and I was booked on a day tour to Petra on the nineteenth day of my trip.

The tour company picked me and a group of five American college students at my hostel at 7 A.M. and drove us to the Yitzak Rabin Border Crossing, some 3 kilometers north of Eilat. We spent about a half an hour in Israeli customs before walking across no man’s land and into Jordan. We arrived in Jordan with at least six other busloads of tourists heading into Jordan. We waited about an hour and a half at the border before finally receiving the Jordanian visas we needed. We boarded the bus for the two and a half hour drive to Petra.
It didn’t take long to be able to see we were in a different country. The part of Jordan we travelled through looked much more like my visit to the West Bank than it did anywhere I had seen in Israel proper. There was much more evidence of traditional lifestyles everywhere we looked.
After one pit stop, we arrived in Wadi Musa, the modern town that services the hoards of tourists that visit Petra every day. The town had lots of construction going on, and it was easy to tell that there were many people trying to cash in on the draw of Petra.
I was disappointed to arrive at the entrance to Petra a little before noon. This meant I would only have about four hours to explore a sight that could easily occupy two or three full days. My tour group was milling around at the entrance, looking at souviners, buying water, and wasting time. I confirmed with our guide where and at what time to meet, and I took off to get to the site as soon as possible. I had a good guidebook, and I wanted to be able to move at my own pace and to see as much as possible. The gift shop pictured above is in reference to the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which filmed it’s final scenes at Petra.
The first thing I saw heading down the path was the Obelisk Tomb and the Bab el-Siq Triclinium. Inscriptions on the tomb identify it as the tomb of a man named Admanku. The inscriptions on the tomb are in Greek and Nabatean, a testament to the influence of the Hellenistic culture had on Petra.
The entrance to the site is through The Siq, a nearly 2 kilometer long canyon that gently winds downhill towards the Treasury.
One of the most fascinating parts of the Siq is the stretch where the original brick street remains. While looking unsophisticated to the common eye, this technology was amongst the best in the world at the time these stones were laid and gave evidence to the wealth of the city.
Having started out ahead of my group, I had almost the whole 2km walk to myself. I really enjoyed looking at the carvings in the walls of the Siq, many of these were placed here because the belief was that they would protect the city.
After 20 minutes of strolling, the Siq opens up on Petra’s most famous and well-preserved building, the magnificent Treasury.
The name ‘The Treasury’ is misleading. Archeologists are not sure what this building was used for, but evidence points to it being a governmental building rather that a place treasure was stored.

The Treasury is mesmerizing. I’ve seen lots of incredible things in my travels, and this building is one of those things that I stopped and stared at in awe for a lot longer than I usually do. I knew there was still so much more to the site than it, but it took all my effort to tear myself away for this intricately carved facade.
Bedouin guide were present at every corner of Petra, offering camel rides and their services as guides. All the literature I’d read said that hiring a guide was no better than a coin flip, some were excellent, but most were not worth the money charged.
The first thing I saw after leaving the Treasury were The Royal Tombs, built to house royalty as well as the wealthy citizens of the city.
A little further down was The Street of Facades, which were dwellings carved right into the mountainsides. These facades have long since been pillaged for their decorative wealth, but I could still imagine what a majestic sight this must have been in it’s heyday.

Further along the Street of Facades was Petra’s Roman Colosseum. Carved into the mountainside, it was designed with a seating capacity of over 8,000.
I will cover the rest of my day trip to Petra and Jordan in my next post.

One Response to “Israel 2010- Day 19- Petra, Jordan (Part One)”

  1. Greg says:

    Thank you for these detailed informations. You convinced me to try to explore Petra on my own. I will go there in 4 days. All the best in 2014. Happy New Year. Greg

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