Apr 12 11

Portraits of Petra

by Emily Benjamin

Petra is unbelievable. Seriously, it is – I did my research before we left, checked out heaps of photos, and thought I was prepared. But I wasn’t. Every corner of the siq, every valley, every peak, every tomb and every camel – they all had me gasping for breath and wishing I knew better adjectives than amazing, incredible and spectacular. Phenomenal might be a good one, but I still don’t think that covers it.

I’m not sure how much of the area we covered, but we had 13 hours in there to explore, with sunburn and blisters to prove it. When we arrived at lunchtime from Amman, Monkey was chomping at the bit to get out of the hotel room and down into the valley to explore, so we set off. A guide accompanied us, and he was brilliant. Mahmood is a local, and lived in Petra until 1985 when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Bedoiun people were relocated. He knew everything there was to know about the area, and let us walk at our own pace. Which ended up being slowly, because we were so awestruck by the sights, and busy snapping photos.

The first afternoon took us through the siq and down to the Treasury, before making our way down to the basin. By that time it was too late to climb to the Monastery, but just in time to miss the crowds back at the Treasury on our way home. I’d seen photos of the Treasury, Petra’s most famous tomb, and often wondered how the photographer managed to get photos with no one in them – just the spectacular scenery. And now I know – wait til 5pm and everyone will have left. Amazing!

The next day we aimed for the Monastery, Petra’s second most famous tomb, but got a little sidetracked. We were offered an ‘Indiana Jones’ horse ride and as we’d bargained them down from 75JD to only 40JD, we figured we may as well say yes. Quoted as a 45minute ride to the top, it was almost 2 hours long and took us around and over the siq, to a spot hundreds of metres above the Treasury. Once again we got photos of the Treasury with no one else in it – this time from above, where no one could see us. Back to the horses and we were dropped off near the High Place of Sacrifice, some 700 steps from the valley below. We check that out, then headed down slowly, winding through the valley seeing the side of Petra that others miss when they only visit for one day.

A quick picnic on the mountain top and we set off for the Monastery. By now we’d covered countless kilometres and my feet were sore and blistered, so we bargained to get two donkeys to escort us up the 800 stairs to the Monastery. It is bigger and better preserved than the Treasury, which is surprising, as we were whipped and blasted by wind and sand while up the top. It’s a wonder that it has remained in such pristine condition. We trekked a little higher to the ‘best view in Petra’ and were not disappointed. I’ve seen a few incredible views in my time – including a handful already in the day – but this was spectacular. Blue skies, red and orange rocks, and sprawling valleys below.

By 4pm we’d made our way back from the Monastery, through the basin and back through the siq just in time to get a free horse ride for the last 700metres. Which is lucky, because my legs gave up. We’d saved our last 2JD for the cab back up the hill and collapsed into the hotel just before 5pm. Dehydrated, aching all over but with a few hundred photos waiting to be reviewed. I took over 400 photos over the two days but have culled it down to 170, a handful which I’ll share below, and back on the main page.

Petra was one of the most phenomenally (there, that one works!) spectacular and jaw dropping places I have ever visited. I can’t even imagine how long it would have takes for the tombs and facades to be carved from the coloured sandstone, and over such a huge area as well. Absolutely incredible. If you’re ever in the area, give it more than a day, maybe even three. It’s tiring of course, and it ended up being quite expensive with entrance fees, a guide, and horse/donkey rides. But it is so, so worth it.

The more scenic shots are back on the main page, but here are a handful of photos of Monkey and I from the last two days in Petra.

– Em :)

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