Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Petra – The Rose City (Part 1)

This is a rather long blog entry with numerous pictures because Petra is so magnificent and deserves it.

One of the “must sees”  for the serious traveller has to be Petra and we have wanted to go there for many years. The city as we now see it dates back from 600BC to about 300AD although you argue for any number of date ranges. For simplicity, we will regard it as built by the Nabateans following their move from Northern Arabia when they were asserting their control over trade routes in the area. It was “lost” to the general world from around 500 AD and “rediscovered” in 1812 by the Swiss explorer Burckhardt. He described the famous Treasury (which is fact never was a Treasury)  as “one of the most elegant remains of antiquity existing”. Hence there was an air of anticipation amongst our small party as we assembled in the hotel foyer to get our taxi bus down to Petra.

Petra was brought to the notice of the wider world when it featured in the Indiana Jones film “The Last Crusade” and the horse ride down the Siq is well remembered. Hence perhaps the souvenir shop at the entrance to Petra has an appropriate name.

Indianna Jones Shop

Tourism is a major money earner for Jordan (which surprisingly perhaps has no oil income). This perhaps is the reason for the extremely steep (and rising) entrance fees charged to visit Petra.

Petra Fees

We in fact got no sense from our guide as to the fees since we did not pay any of the published fees. One day tickets seem to be more expensive than two day tickets and the prices seem to rise regularly.

Petra inclusions

Included in the ticket is a horse ride from the ticket office down to the start of the famous Siq but if you take the horse ride, you miss the chance to explore a number of significant places on the way – we chose to walk down and then negotiate use of our “free horse ride ticket” on the way back.

On the way down, there are a number of tombs which act as a foretaste of what is to come. These blocks are known as Djinn Blocks – a name which

Djinn Blocks

in Nabatean means “Spirit” and is the origin of the English word “Genie”. They were perhaps used as tombs. On the opposite side is a family tomb

Family Tomb

which is merely a taster for what is to come. And so in temperatures approaching 40C we arrive at the entrance to the Siq – a natural

Sik Entrance

passageway 1.2km long from the outside through to Petra itself. It is

Horse Carriage down

possible to get a horse carriage down (20 JD) but if you do so, you are doing it for the ride and thus missing a chance to see the history in the Siq and the shock appearance of the Treasury.

Running down both sides of the Siq are water channels which in ancient

Water Channel in Siq

times supplied water to Petra direct from Moses Rock. These were in fact the undoing of Petra because when the Romans wanted to take Petra and had difficulty in fighting their way down the Siq, they simply cut off the water and awaited the inevitable outcome.

Passage Way 

The passageway never gets really narrow but its twists and turns give it that appearance

Wall Temple 2 

There are wall temples in various places

Camel in Wall

and if you look carefully at the above carving, you can make out a camel, (its legs have been broken off leaving the feet and the thighs etc) being led by a nomad.

Without any warning, you walk round a corner in the Siq and part of the Treasury appears behind the crack in front of you. It is one of those

Treasury Appearance

moments you always remember. Even though there were few tourists there because of the summer heat, it was still crowded until a Dust storm

Treasury in Dust Storm

suddenly blew up and everyone (other than your travellers) dived for cover

To Ourselves 

and for a brief moment we had the site to ourselves. The Treasury is in fact thought to be a burial tomb but little evidence exists to explain its function. The “Rose City” name comes from the way

Treasury in Rose

the rock glows a Rose colour when the light comes from a certain direction. The redness comes from Iron Oxide in the sandstone. The Treasury Guard is there to stop visitors going inside it but

Treasury Guard

there are plenty of other tombs you can go in, there is nothing exciting

Inside a tomb

inside the tombs and anything that was there was taken a long time ago.

To the right of the Treasury is the start of the Street of Facades

Street of Facades

Along this street are some 40 tombs and houses plus a theatre (not in very good condition).

Street of Facades 2

This is the remains of a typical house with a camel garage underneath.

Camel Garage

The street continues downhill for another kilometre and at the end as it turns into the Colonnaded Street,

Colonaded Street

turning round presents a view of one side of the street carved into the rock face.

Facades Distant View

From the entrance to the bottom of the Street is a distance of about 3 kms, quite long enough in 40 degree heat but at least there are numerous Bedouin cafes along the route selling much needed cold water at an “inside Petra” price, some four times higher than that outside – you have to buy however because you cannot carry enough water for the walk and in this heat you need to drink at least one litre per hour.

Many visitors stop at this point – of course, we went on,

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