Since I started to organize my trip, Petra has been figuring high up on my list of places to see with Ancient Egypt. So it was with no lack of excitement that on my first day, I hiked the 30 minutes necessary to go from the entrance, through the famous Siq, to the even more famous monument of Petra: the Treasury (Al-Kazdneh).
While walking through the Siq (a very narrow path in the mountain at the bottom of a crack), I could not resist and heard myself whistle the song of Indiana Jones thinking of the scene in the holy grail where he is in Petra. Don’t repeat that though! The Siq in itself is quite a sight and to think it is completely natural is mind boggling! As in the rest of Petra, the colors of the sandstone are beautiful and intertwined in complex random patterns giving the rock a never ending appeal calling for picture after picture. I was quite trigger happy the first day so I had to control myself the following two days I was roaming around Petra.
But this was nothing after all as this is just one of the many other great places that you can see in Petra. Petra is a complete city with hundreds of cave habitations, tombs, an impressive amphitheatre, places of sacrifice located at the top of the neighborhood mountains, churches and a monastery. It was created and modified over many centuries from the Nabateans to the Romans.
It even had suburbs like Sabra located 7kms away that I visited on my first day. This was my first long hike that took me through climbing two low mounts as I had lost my path and was relying on my compass to find the place. Sabra is not usually visited by the tourists because it is out of the way and requires a long walk to reach it. It was interesting for me because it turns out Bedouins still leave in some of the caves/monuments there and it shows how Petra must have been not so long ago before it became a tourist attraction.
For my second day in Petra, I was joined by Rod. For the record, I met Rod in Dahab around 2 weeks ago. He is a cool Aussie, hey! And since we had a good time hanging out in Dahab and we were kind of going the same way, we decided to travel together for a bit. Since I knew Rod would join me in Petra, I did not do the main hikes on the first day. We hence visited the main city and did two of the main hikes that day. The first one was to one place of sacrifice located to the top of the mountain facing the Amphitheatre from where you get a great view towards the main city and also over the Treasury. I actually had done that hike the evening before but I did not mind seeing the view in the morning.
On our way down, we crossed the path of a goat herd that was going up the stairs toward the top of the mountain without any human intervention. As I was walking by the last goat, this one bigger than the others and that might have been the alpha buck looked at me with a “what are you doing on my territory look?”. I starred back but soon realize I was on the wrong side of the staircase meaning not on the mountain side! Hum, I was a clear winner (don’t you think?) and just ran downstairs to celebrate the victory as this looser just continued climbing in the other way. OK, OK, goats 1 – David 0.
Our second hike was to the second most famous monument in Petra: the Monastery. It is a monument similar to the Treasury that was carved at the top of one of the mountains but even bigger: 40 meters high by 47 meters wide with a facade carved at least 2 meters deep! The monument is very impressive and as the Treasury, it is very well conserved since protected of the wind by its location.On the third day, Rod and I went for a hike through a canyon going from the entry of the Siq to the main city. It is a little tricky at some points but it was very rewarding with cool spots and great stone colors all over. We also hiked to another place of sacrifice located on a mountain top at the left of the amphitheatre from which you get a 360 degrees view of the place.
On our way down, we crossed a small herd of goats (again!?!) but did not get into any kind of confrontation ;). Actually, very soon after, we started hearing the cry of a goat coming from a hole in the rock. This kind of hole is plentiful in Petra and I think they were simpler tombs. Anyway, a goat that looked pregnant had gone down inside the hole and seemed not able to get out. We debated a while about the best way to get it out and finally, a girl that had joined us offered to drop big stones on one side of the hole so as to provide a step to the poor goat. We dropped some stones and encouraged (read pushed!) the goat to get out. It did not want to move but thinking this would be enough and not knowing what else to do, we decided to retire and leave it alone. Soon after, it had got out and came to the edge of the stairs to say thanks to us! OK, maybe not but let me dream for a second :).
Beaten down by so much hiking and climbing, we ended up chilling at the top of the amphitheatre that overlooks the main street and provides an ever ending attraction with the Bedouins offering camel and donkey rides to the tourists as well as overpriced souvenirs or drinks.
Three days were enough for me. I did not see everything in Petra but I had a good feel about the whole place and visited the most important sites. It is not an easy visit if you do not use the donkeys or camels as it is a very wide place and covering it all requires walking a lot. Walking from the main gate through the Siq to the city center can become boring (hence the hike through the canyon on the third morning!).
After all, my favorite place has to be the amphitheatre because of its feel and its location in the city as well as its coolness in the afternoon when it provides you with a more than welcome shade while offering a great view on the rest of the site and the people.