Sunday, July 26, 2015

Petra, Jordan, Part 1: The Coolest Ancient Lost City EVER

Petra is a place I've been dying to go for forever - the photos look incredible, and I'm totally fascinated by the idea of this lost city carved out of sandstone rock walls.  Also, a whole bunch of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was filmed here, which I loved growing up because I loved Harrison Ford, and I might have written him a fan letter when I was in 2nd grade.

What It's All About:
Petra is an ancient city located in the south of Jordan in the middle of the desert. It was built by the Nabateans, an Arab tribe, between 400 BC (uhh is it me, or are these dates getting crazy older!? 400 BC is like, unfathomable to me) and 100 BC.  The Nabateans were a prosperous trading tribe, and Petra was their capital city, linking China/India to the Mediterranean.  They were worldly and cultural, as they came across so many other tribes and traders through trading.

This is especially evident in Petra - which includes an extensive water irrigation system, and gorgeous buildings carved into the surrounding sandstone cliffs.  When you enter the park itself, there is this crazy gorge you walk through (called the Siiq - this is the part in Indiana Jones) - it feels like walking through the Grand Canyon: it's basically a thin passage winding between huge sandstone cliffs. You can see evidence of carvings and reliefs all over the walls.  The city itself is nothing short of BREATHTAKING - the buildings that are intact are awe-inspiring in their enormity, and you can't believe that people could be capable of something so incredible.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • We dropped off our bags at our hotel (right outside the entrance to Petra National Park) after our fun border adventure and a 2 hour cab ride.  Petra is fairly expensive, it's 50 JOD (about $70) for a one-day ticket - but it gets more worthwhile the longer you buy for, so a two-day pass is only 55 JOD.  So we bought a two-day ticket with the intention of wandering solo and taking our time the first day, then doing a more in-depth tour the second day.
First sign I knew I loved Petra - you walk in and your ticket includes A FREE HORSE RIDE from the park entrance down to the entrance of the gorge (Siiq).  All you have to do is tip the horse leader a couple dollars

Riding past one of the structures - most of these structures were tombs. This one has both Greco-Roman and Egyptian architectural influences, which shows the blending of cultures the Nabateans utilized. I kind of love how forward-thinking this tribe was for their time.

  • Then we arrived at the Siiq and started walking through. It's about a 30-minute walk through the gorge, and it is INCREDIBLY gorgeous. You look up the walls and they're ridic high.  This is the route all the caravans took entering/exiting Petra on their way to trade
The Siiq. You can still see shadows of some of the cravings on the left-hand wall

Look how huge the cliffs are!

And again

Annnd given that we had some extra time, we took a series of ridic photos
  • After 30 minutes of walking through the Siiq, you arrive right at Petra's most famous building, the Treasury. The Treasury was originally built as a tomb, but was believed to later have been converted to a temple.

If you look at the people sitting outside the building, you can get an idea of how freakishly huge this building was. It's truly unbelievable

And there are always camels outside; another win in my book

Yet another animal that is excellent at posing for photos

Drew titled this "Connie's future child when they get in trouble"

  • While the Treasury is the most famous building, the entirety of Petra has a zillion (count 'em) more buildings and temples and incredible rock facades - you can seriously take days and days and days to explore and hike and never get to see even a fraction of the park.  We only had time for a quick trip to the Treasury before heading back to grab a quick dinner before a night tour we had signed up for.
  • Our night tour was called "Petra By Night", which basically involves taking the exact same route as we had earlier, except in total darkness.

On our night tour, they line all the roads into Petra with candles. But it was still incredibly dark and some of the roads were a totally treacherous; I have no idea how they avoid lawsuits 

Then you arrive at the Treasury, which has hundreds of candles out front lighting it up.  My iPhone took terrible photos and couldn't catch the soft lighting of the Treasury, but trust me when I say it was beautiful

Drew and I outside the Treasury. For the tour, they had some people come and play traditional instruments and music to add to the ambience


Fun Facts of the Day:
  • In addition to loving NBA, people in Jordan loove smoking. In areas you forgot people ever once smoked in; a.k.a. our taxi driver while driving our taxi, etc. 
  • In Petra, you can hire three kinds of animals to take you around (it's pretty intense hiking in some parts): 1. Camels (these don't go very far; they're not good at paths); 2. Horses (I love horses but in Jordan with its plethora of animals you can ride, YAWN), and 3. Donkeys/Mules.  We had a donkey that lived in a field outside our hotel and would sadly bray occasionally.  
  • Desert. Hot. Bring the sunscreen.

Next up - we spend the next day exploring Petra more in-depth. I seriously cannot believe HOW MUCH there is to see in this place, and how much more you can explore: more than just the Treasury (which is all you ever see in pictures), and more than pictures can ever depict.  This is seriously one of the coolest places ever.

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