.. our close encounter with Petra and getting out of it at the dark.
29.11.2012 - 03.12.2012 7 °C
For those who do not know, what Petra is all about
Petra also know as the "Rose Red City" or "The Lost City" is an old archaeological and historcal city situated in the Ma'an governorate of Jordan. Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC. The city was taken by the Roman Empire in around AD 106 and they went on to build on top of what Nabateans already had. Petra was known as the center of trade and commerce and the fantastic water conduit system built by the Nabatean empire. Petra was destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in around AD 660, which crippled the entire capital and also the famous water system.
When we arrived Petra, little did we know about the massiveness of the place. The entire mountain range of Wadi Musa is massive. A beautiful drive through the Wadi, the criss cross way through little Petra and eventually getting there was breathtaking. The entire drive was scenic and we kept staring at the natural carvings on the mountain rocks with our eyes wide open and wondering about patterns which more often than not seems like a work of an artist; and our driver Awni kept on saying "what are you now seeing is nothing compared to what you are going to see at Petra" which kept our adrenaline rushing and faster heartbeats and a sense of witnessing something extravagant is well on the cards. We just couldn't wait to arrive and go back to the time forgetting everything about our present. - This just cant get better than this.
We met with our guide, Ahmed and and after a quick introduction about "how the trek is going to be like- the trail- timelines to get out etc", we quickly hopped on to a horseback which will take us to the entry point to the siq. The siq is entrance to Petra and is a long sandstone canyon . The siq also has the minor carvings which can be easily spotted here and there, but the most impressive sights are the colorful and unusual sandstone patterns in the rock walls. Well, there are few carvings on the stone which are about the gods of Nabateans, the most famous ones known as the warrior god who guards the caravans and the godess of fertility, love, vegetation, and hence funerary relationships.
"Come here and stand in queue" we were asked by our guide.
"Dont look behind or something bad will happen"
We queued up ensuring that we dont look behind.
"Now come forward around 10 steps or so" we obeyed him like children, and suddenly he said "now turn behind and can you see it?" we did the same and indicated that nothing is there. With a more assertive voice, he yelled- "turn around and here it is"
We turned 180 degrees and in front of us was the famous Treasury of Petra, glowing like a pearl. Its magnificence cannot be explained in words. This was the one of the most jaw-dropping grandeur of the Treasury which we were looking at. The sun made it shining like a diamond- which truely it was of the Nabatean tribe.
On continuing to the bend forward is the outer siq or what we call the street of facades, a large canyon lined with the facades of various tombs. We still continued by the Nabatean- Roman theater and could see some tourists climbing up and down the stairs; the theater was kind of interesting for the fact that it was created by Nabatean and later enlarged by the Romans.
As we walked on Ahmed started explaining our further trail through the valley of the deads and monastery, a 900 stairs climb to to top of the mountain; and for all the movie buffs out there, a famous scene of Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen (if you remember, what I am talking about); we nodded but at the same time was skeptical about the trail as the night fall was not far away and making to the monastery and then walking through the entire trail of the valley of the deads seems challenging. Yet, we continued towards the monastery stairs where Ahmed bid farewell to us and we were on our own.
Our entire trail from the outer siq to monsatery stairs were followed by a group of small kids on some donkeys and mules, they might have sensed that either we are very much tired to walk all the way upto the monsatery at this time of the day; or they could see that having never experience the donkey ride before, it would be an experience we might not want to miss end of the day. After all, how many of us know that donkeys and mules can travel faster than a horse in a rocky terrain such as the monastery.
10 JOD each - but as per Ahmed's request they agreed for 7 JOD each, when Ahmed left, we bargained even further- thanks to tripadvisor traveler tips.
"7 JOD- impossible- 4 JOD or we are not taking the donkeys, will walk"
"5 JOD, sir"
"No, 4 JOD" and we were in business
Shakira- Michael and all of us started ascending towards the monsatery. No, not the name of our friends, but the name of our donkeys. Shakira was a sweetheart, she meant business and suddenly we were halfway through. Nobody from the donkey owners were accompanying us and on top of that Joy's donkey saddle was kind of loose and he kept on shifting laterally on the donkeys back and posed a great risk. We had to abandon our climb.
Arijit and Saujanya both retired quickly as they could not travel any further and asked us to continue towards the monastery. Remaining of us continued our hike and reached the monastery which already had drained all our energies that we had remaining. We quickly grabbed cople of choclates and bottles of water from a local shop at the top of the monastery.
On a different note, let me remind you that donkeys are treated really badly by the Bedouin youths and the climb at noon is really hard for them, so prefer climbing after 3PM so that the stairs are mostly in the shadows.
The monastery is, the largest carved monument in Petra, dates back to the 1st century AD. Its a beautiful structure and you are bound to be awestruck when you see this for the first time after a tiring climb. The monastery is a beautiful monument and is a photographers paradise due to its strategic location and open spaces.
There is also less number of tourists, and if you are going to make it to the top, you can sit there and relax at peace for sometime. While we were busy taking photos of the structure we could see Arijit and Saujanya making it to the top finally. Shayan and Amjad were busy climbing the other higher grounds nearby and pose for the photos. We sat there for a while and suddenly realized that its getting dark and making it to the valley of the dead is now impossible.
The park closed by 6PM at winter time and it was almost 5.45PM when we headed back from Monastery to the gate of Petra and there was no way we could make it out of the park before the night fall. We started our descent and increased the pace of the walk. When we got down to the foot of the Monastery stairs, it was already dark and there were hardly any tourist around in our vicinity. Here we were- dark, cold winter night in the middle of the mountains of petra, all by ourselves.
Realsing that there are no more photos to shoot at the dark and it is going to get serious, i put my camera in the bag and started walking back. The siq was about a kilometer and a half from there. Remember there is no Petra by Night show today, and Petra has no artificial lights for preservation purpose, so it would be absolutely pitch black by the time we would reach the treasury. Nevertheless, we walked fast, so fast that i could hear the echoes of our footsteps from the nearby mountains.
When we reached the valley of the dead, Joy asked everybody to be together as we could imagine that how it would be going to be like, when we enter the siq at dark. Amjad handed over his iPhone, where we opened the torchlight app, so that we could see what are we stepping on. The poos of the horses and donkeys were all over the place and at dark, you don't want to step on any of them. When we passed by the Valley of deads, there was an eerie silence and thoughts of getting robbed by the hooligans started bothering us as we asked Saujanya to come to the middle of the formation.
When we reached the treasury, it was an amazing experience to see it at the darkness. We stopped there for couple of minutes staring at the structure and suddenly realizing, we cannot delay anymore as we have the entire siq to pass. Amjad called Awni and checked whether he could come up to the entrance of the siq, but sadly he refused saying he won't be allowed.
We were already tired and kind of dehydrated. No horse, no camel, no horse carts now? Of course no. Shayan was absolutely speechless and did not speak a word. I joked with Arijiit saying, we can spend the night here, but nobody paid attention. We continued walking past the siq as we passed, the temples, the marriage place, the fish like structure along the canyon, the beautiful patters, which was more amazing at night. I don't think all of us enjoyed that as getting out of Petra safe was on everybody's mind. The legs started to pain, the calf muscles already started showing signs of tiredness and asking us to stop and suddenly like the light at the end of the tunnel, we could see one halogen light at the end of the siq which came from the shop where we started in the morning.
Everybody wanted to sit, and Joy suddenly said- doesn't it feel great to see a sign of the mankind, when we are cut off from the same for a while"?
We sat down by the shop for sometime and then headed back to our van which was parked at the gate- which is by the way again another 800 meters away.