Jordan is one of those countries which, if you visit, makes you feel like a traveler more than a tourist. It is une grande aventure. Think Indiana Jones, think Petra – an ancient city locked in the sandstone escarpments, think dead sea – a sea that you cannot sink in, think Wadi Rum – reddened sand dunes and Lawrence of Arabia.
We (the husband and I) went to Jordan in 2010 and the memories stay with me till today – particularly those of Petra. Named as one of the New7Wonders of the World, the site was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, not surprising, given its history, archaeology and sheer awe-inspiring architecture.
What starts with an innocuous Visitor Center in Wadi Musa becomes a journey into a different world. We got there early in the morning – 8 a.m. – to beat the tourist buses to the 15km trek through the forgotten city. Like most of these amazing sites (Macchupicchu being the other one I can think of) the place seems almost inaccessible. The length of the trek and the 800 odd steps up would deter people, but the beauty of the ancient escarpments calls loudly.
Plus, the tourist friendly Jordan has its infrastructure in place – one can take a horse or carriage instead of trekking. For us, part of the adventure was being there as original explorers on foot. So in we went to the Siq. The 1.8 km walk through the narrow canyon with towering cliffs on both sides takes almost 30 minutes. We stopped at various occasions to admire the wind hued rock face and to look up at the distant sky, as the passage varied between the width of a large dining room to that of a person’s arm-span.
As we got caught up in admiring the Siq itself, it seemed to end quite unexpectedly slithering into the light with a view of the treasury that does not fail to impress.
Just the sheer scale of this thing carved into store made me wonder how they did it!
No words but those of a poet can do justice to the city of Petra, so I quote from John William Burgon’s sonnet
“But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
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Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.
Since there was no sign that expressly forbade us from entering the structure, we took a chance and snuck up for a closer look. The guides though are possessive of the place and shooed us away in a jiffy.
A few mandatory photos later, we moved on to explore the houses/rooms carved into stone. Some of these one could enter. Clearly, houses even at that time, were made to flaunt wealth – there were the high ceilings and beautifully carved rooms and the plain small ones.
Next up was the 800 step climb to the Al Deir – the monastery. It was quite a climb even in the pleasant November weather. The route is dotted with little Bedouin shops selling ‘artifacts’ along with snacks and juices.
We stopped for photos and some lemonade. The guidebooks say it’s 800 steps up, but really we counted 861!
The monastery was well worth the trek, though. The presence of the Bedouins with their horses and little shops seems to fit right into the scene, and we lingered around feeling like we were breathing a life and time of hundreds of years ago.
We came back later that night again, for the Petra by Night experience, which used to be held on Thursdays. The walk thought he Siq at night is a moving experience. As I looked up through the narrow opening facing the sky far above, the stars shone down in millions and I felt like I had been looking at the world all wrong – it wasn’t above, this river of stars was flowing down below while I looked at it from my perch high above…
In 2016, archaeologists discovered a large site buried beneath the sands of Petra, through satellite imagery. Much as our technology progresses, the ancient city of Petra continues to amaze, for I don’t think we make the wonders like they did. So go ahead and book yourself on a tour into time and an adventure called Jordan.
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Marketer by day and blogger by night, Pooja is probably the only travel blogger who goes to exotic destinations with toddlers in tow. She was brave enough to take a 3 month old to Mexico, Cuba and US West Coast all in one trip, and hasn’t stopped since. The family has been to over 50 countries so far. Of these, about 20 have been with their two kids. Pooja also has a personal blog www.thebackpackingmama.com where she shares all her travel stories.