Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Petra, Jordan~Day Three

From Eilat, we took a two day trip into The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan! We were on a guided tour to Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and Wadi Rum, the location where Lawrence of Arabia and many films which are supposedly set in Mars are filmed.

In between Israel and Jordan, there is maybe a 100 yard "green zone," which is, as you see below, a mine field. "Never-have-I-ever" came to mind, because I have never seen (or walked through) a mine field-ever. I wanted to run to Jordan-or Israel-just to add some intensity to the experience, but I did not because I was afraid of the Jordanian authorities...or the Israeli authorities-whoever, they all had loaded weapons, and I was scared, OKAY?!

After you pass the "Mine Field" sign, you pass these dice. So, we asked ourselves, "Do you feel...lucky?" Since I didn't exactly feel lucky that day, I continued walking to Jordan, wishing I hadn't read "The Mine Sign."

After all my stereotypes about Middle Eastern countries were affirmed, we stepped into Jordan. Have a look at this beautiful sight!

As we were waiting for our Jordanian Visas to come through, we stopped for some Turkish coffee at this little shop. Turkish coffee tastes like coffee...but not really. Actually, not at all. Turkish coffee is like coffee grounds with enough liquid to make it drinkable, stirred together with a large amount of Arabian spices. So, I'm a coffee drinker...for real, but I took one small sip of this stuff (after boasting that I needed the caffeine and suggesting that I'd just chug that small cup) and had to hand it off to Dallas. I opted for an Arabian Coke.

This is where my day got uncomfortable. Apparently Jordanian men REALLY, REALLY LOVE blue eyes. I have three examples...maybe more. Here they are:

Man 1: He walks around me while I was in his store, takes a big stare and says to me, "Whoa! You are immaculately beautiful...are you married?" Later, after I booked it out of that store, Dallas told me that the guy offered him 4,000 camels for me. Huh? Yeah...

Man 2: He was our tour guide for the day, and as he was handing out our passports to all the people on the tour, he stops at my passport, looks at me and says, "Are you married?" "Yes," I reply. "Do you like your husband" he retorts.

At this point, I'm thinking, "WHOA, these guys are a little FORWARD!" At that point in the day, I started feeling like I had some sort of defect on my face. People were doing double takes all day, little Bedouin kids were telling me my eyes were beautiful, men were staring...which leads me to:

Man 3: We went to this one man's store to buy a coke. He cons us in to his store and tries to sell us a bunch of Jordanian crystal. After a bit, we decided we needed to go, and he tells us he has two wives and 6 kids...I know, poor guy. After we left, Dallas tells me this guy said, "If you divorce her, she's mine." Thanks, guy. That's truly humbling, but I. am. not. interested.

Our tour stopped for a rest at the top of this mountain. It had just snowed the day before, and it was COLD!

SNOW! In the Middle East! Check it!

Finally, after a 2 hour car ride from Eilat, Israel, we arrived in Wadi Musa. The locals believe Moses struck a rock and water poured forth in their town. They also believe Moses' brother, Aaron was buried on a mountain top in their town!

Next, I can hardly even explain what we saw. Words and pictures will certainly not do this justice. Recently named one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, we entered the ancient city of Petra. "Lost" for generations, a Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, posed as a Muslim from India in order to explore the town, where he "found" Petra in 1812.

The Siq, as they call it, is this cavern that is about a 1/2 mile to 3/4 mile walk between these cliffs lined with every color of sandstone you can imagine. Pinks, tans, vibrant yellows, blacks...just add sunlight, and you have views that will literally take your breath away.

The Nabateans, who occupied Petra from about 400BC to 106AD, carved this ancient aqueduct from the water source through 88 meters of rock in order to have fresh water in their town.

Maybe 3/4 of the way down the Siq, our guide shows us this wall, where the Nabateans had carved CAMELS into the cliffs You can see their bellies and legs if you look below. There are only two camels in this picture, but our guide told us that men and camels would have been carved the rest of the way into Petra!

In this picture, you can see the lower half of a man and his feet. You can also see camel feet to the left.

This is where Petra got ridiculous. Look closely through the Siq into the sunlit area...nothing?

Look a little harder...

I gasped when we exited the Siq. I almost had to sit down. This building, called the Treasury, was immaculately carved out of the side of this cliff. Look closely. The only imperfections you will find are the bullet holes put there by Bedouins who believed that money and treasures would actually pour out of this building if they shot it enough! Look to the right and left of the actual Treasury, and you will find the holes they carved out so they could climb to the top to finish the job! Unbelievable!!!

You can also hail a taxi from the Treasury, but you won't find THESE in New York City, folks! This "taxi" was growling at me! GROWLING! He looks so friendly with the flower in his harnass, too! So, I took about 8 steps back, and then Dallas pays this guy to put me up on this camel's back! The camel was outwardly disturbed by this exchange of money, as he knew what was coming. I, on the other hand, was merely inwardly disturbed, but also sort of pumped!

So, the camel looks sort of happy in this picture, but do not be deceived! He was NOT! He was growling and groaning! You would have thought I weighed 400 lbs! On another note, if you look in the background of this picture at those people, you will get an idea of how monstrous the Treasury actually is, as the first step leading up to the door of the Treasury comes up to those guys' waists!

Okay, I'm up. I'm a camel rider! I'm comfortable now! My camel is no longer yelling at me! Time to get down!

...Rodeo style!

This picture explains how I felt almost exactly.

Didn't Eric Clapton have a song entitled, "Stairway to Heaven"? Yeah, well you might be wondering what in the world these people would have been doing carving stairways into the skies, temples and holes into mountains with their bare hands! They were carving tombs! The ornate ones would have been for kings and priests, higher ups...the less ornate ones would have just been for the average Joe. We were told that the stairways were carved so the souls of the people could walk up to the sky. Right. It's just that easy.
You live.
You die.
You walk up to the sky.
Try writing a song about THAT, Eric!

This is the amphitheater that sat roughly 6,000 people. Petra was a bustling trade route! We were told that it was a major spice route, and that Frankincense and Myrhh were two major spices traded in this town (among others). But, I HAD to think...WHAT IF...the wise men picked up their gifts for the newborn Son of Petra? What if...

No words, and pictures do not accurately portray what we saw...

As I said earlier, Petra was a major trade route, but it was targeted by the Greeks and Romans, too! Below are the ruins, being excavated by Brown University, of the Roman Temple.

Several hundred years after Rome "took over" Petra, they moved the trade route north, and Petra was "lost" for seemingly ever.

In the foreground, this would have been where the people of Petra lived. The town would have extended to where the new buildings are in the background, but it was destroyed by earthquakes.

This old Bedouin man was trying to sell Dallas all this stuff that he "dug out of the ground himself." "They're all antiques," he said. He also told us that he lived in Washington D.C. for five weeks. Hmm...come to think of it, he DID know the word for "cup."

We walked into one of the tombs, and this is what we saw. It was an impressive feat of engineering genius, and although I know little to nothing about architecture OR engineering, the fact that you could measure 90 degree angles in this perfect cube of a room speaks for itself. This room was at least a 30x30x30 room.

...and friends, THIS is what the ceiling looked like! Look at all those colors! EVERYTHING looked like this, but pictures can hardly capture the beauty!

I read online that only 15% of Petra has been excavated, and that they expect to find MUCH more! We didn't even see it all in one day! We could have climbed the 999 steps up to the Monastery at the top of the mountain behind Dallas. The Monastery, as we heard later that night from a guy on our tour, trumps the Treasury in both beauty and magnitude!

Another Bedouin guy...where do they get their cigarettes? Anyhow, this guy was literally lounging on the edge of a cliff WHILE he was trying to sell us his stuff. They're talented salespeople, the Bedouins.

Folks, I cannot relay to you in words the enormity of this picture. If you look very hard, you can see people down below. The cliff that the Bedouin guy was lounging on? It was toward the right of the picture below. You see those things that sort of look like arched walkways or aqueducts? Yep. That is the cliff I'm talking about. That is probably a 30-40 foot drop to the little rock-like thing below. There's no way to explain it.

Petra was BEYOND amazing! In fact, that adjective hardly begins to scratch the surface, but after having been there, I wholeheartedly concur that this place belongs on the Seven Wonders list! I would say this place is an ABSOLUTE must see if you are anywhere NEAR Jordan OR Israel! If you were near Petra and opted out of going, you did yourself a grave disservice!

1 comment:

Malinda Rasband said...

I think I need to go to Petra!