ETRA, Jordan – Today, Wednesday (local time), was our day to go into Petra – ancient Petra, that is.
There are not enough words to describe this Edomite citadel, later occupied by the Nabataeans, and influenced by Greeks and Romans. And if that weren’t enough, some will recognize the narrow “Siq,” or entry way, and the red, rock-hewn ancient “treasury” building from the “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” movie. (Indeed, there’s an ‘Indiana Jones’ souvenir shop, right next to the ‘Titanic Coffee Shop,’ at the entrance to Petra.)                                                                                                               [ Return to Menu ]
Walking into Petra – this is not, it turns out, a trip for the faint of heart – one is captivated by the twists and turns of the “siq,” which was not the main entry way, or even a principal one, of ancient times. It has been cleaned up and made usable by pedestrians, horses and horse-drawn carriages; most tourists walk, though some ride. On the day we visited, hundreds of tourists descended on the place, more than usual it seems, and the “street” was packed.
After a downward sloping walk of about 1.5 miles, we came to the crevice that opens into the courtyard of the “Treasury,” so named because it was imagined some secret wealth was hidden there, behind an exceptionally carved front. It was actually very likely a mausoleum or temple of some sort; we don’t know exactly what was behind the façade.
Walking past the structure, one comes to the “necropolis,” or city of the dead. This is where nobles and less-nobles were buried, in tombs elaborate and plain, wealth being the determining factor. More than one tomb has a small staircase carved into the top; these pagan worshippers believed it would allow the departed’s “soul” to climb into heaven.
There’s more walking, past Roman ruins – the Romans had a market here, too – as you go down, down, and still further down into the “basin” of ancient Petra. Along the way are places to sit, have a cold drink (water is quite popular) and browse some handicrafts, if that’s your fancy. Many merchants will come to you and try to sell something. Ditto for the camel- and donkey-ride salesmen.
At the basin, a nice restaurant awaits – as does the climb back. Because the basin is at an angle a good 8 meters below the top, the climb back can be wearing, particularly in the early afternoon sun. It’s best to take it very slowly at times, rest often, and drink plenty of water. In so doing, the excursion can remain pleasant. (The horse-drawn-cart ride from the Treasury area is another option, costing about $10 U.S. But a member of our group who took it said it was truly a bone-jarring experience!) 

Back to the hotel and a much-welcome shower and dinner. That dinner, however, is a story for another installment. We’re off, early, to the resort town of Aqaba, as the trip winds down and a return to home awaits.


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