Petra

To answer your first question, YES, it was amazing. Extra amazing because we are probably the first people in the history of ever to go to Petra with low expectations. Why low expectations you ask? Because we work with teenagers, and teenagers the world over are blase and think everything is boring. We’ve heard, countless times, “Meh. It’s ok. 1/2 a day max. You’re just walking around looking at rocks.”

“Looking at rocks.” Yep, we looked at rocks. AMAZING rocks. Unbelievable rocks. Rocks that were homes. Ancient tombs carved into rocks. Siqs that defy imagination. Colors and contrasts galore. Eye candy everywhere. Arguably the most famous rocks in the world, particularly this one:

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The Treasury at Petra

But first, I have to back up and tell the tale of driving to Petra…

Charlie had a lock-in at school Thursday night (sleepover at school) and came home Friday morning having gotten NO sleep. He was exhausted and cranky, and about the last thing in the world that he wanted to do was drive for 3 hours, hike, and look at rocks. Andrew was tired from a long week at school, had a cold, and really didn’t want to get out of bed, regardless of the destination. We threw them both in the car anyway and headed out for the scenic drive (via the Dead Sea instead of the Desert Highway) to Petra.

And scenic it was. Extra scenic because it was extra long. Somehow, we missed the turn to Petra and ended up driving almost to Aqaba before realizing our mistake.

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On the road to Aqaba instead of Petra

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Wrong road, but gorgeous

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My infatuation with camels continues…

We took the next available turn to the left and started driving through the desert. Stunning is an understatement. For the first hour, we made very little progress because we had to keep stopping for pictures. Here’s a sampling:

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This structure, carved into the stone, was just in the middle of the desert.

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I love the rock formations that seem to rise from nothing.

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Mountains in the middle of the desert.

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The colors are amazing. Look at the reds and the greens.

I love the colors of the desert and I find the expansiveness soothing. I’m not much of a hiker, but this scenery makes me want to hike and explore; it almost makes me feel adventuresome. Well, it did until the road got a bit scary. To set the scene and the mood: we’re cruising along, listening to NPR podcasts, Charlie is asleep in the back, Andrew is listening and looking out the window, we keep stopping for pictures, generally having a decent time on a long drive. Then, the road starts to climb. And climb. And climb. It becomes one lane. Then it climbs some more. Then it climbs so much and so sharply that we can’t see which way the road turns at each crest. No guardrails, no shoulders, no nothing. Literally. NOTHING as far as the eye can see besides mountains dropped in the middle of a desert. Then, the road itself turns to almost nothing, with washed out sections from winter flooding and covered sections from blowing sand and rock slides.

Needless to say, we made it to the other side of the mountain. There are no pictures because, besides the fact that we couldn’t pull over, I was too busy breathing into a bag and Lyman was white-knuckling the steering wheel so hard that his hands were too cramped to operate a camera.

But, we arrived in Petra! After that drive, walking on solid ground seemed like the ultimate luxury, so we quickly checked into the hotel and started the walk to the Siq.

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These chariots went galloping by regularly. It did NOT look like a fun ride.

I can’t begin to express how much I loved the fact that animals were grazing in Petra. As a huge tourist site, I expected it to be void of real life. That animals roamed and grazed, and shepherds went about their business, made me inordinately happy.

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What you can’t understand from the pictures is the sheer size of the area. It was vast and beautiful and that was before even getting to the Siq, which, when we finally entered, was other-worldly.

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Entering the Siq

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In places, the sides of the Siq almost touch.

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A picture can’t really capture the grandiosity of the space. It ebbs and flows, and although it is made of stone, it feels liquid.

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Surprise spaces at every turn

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And surprise carvings when you least expect them.

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The contrast of light and dark was amazing.

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More contrasts

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As a size reference, in the bottom well-lit area, in the distance, a man is sitting on a bench. You probably can’t see him because he is so tiny compared to the size of the space.

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Andrew

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Nearing the end of the Siq.

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First glimpse of the Treasury.

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Second glimpse…

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Third glimpse…

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And, tada, the Treasury in all of it’s glory.

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Another angle.

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Note the stairs carved into the stone.

We went to the Treasury twice. The first was when we arrived late-afternoon on Friday. It was an amazing time to arrive because all of the tour groups were leaving. It felt like we were swimming against the current, but we had the place, more or less, to ourselves. The only noises were the many horses and chariots galloping by. At times, we had to press ourselves up against the sides of the Siq to avoid being squashed by a horse. Fortunately, you could hear them coming.

We went back the next morning and continued past the Treasury towards the Theater, past many homes, tombs, horses, donkeys, and, my perennial favorites, camels.

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This donkey was quiet, but there was a lot of braying!

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Even the woven animal blankets are beautiful.

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He is so regal.

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Yes, more camels.

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View towards the Theater.

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I think these are tombs, but I’m not sure. There was a sign about “Street Facades” but I was too busy gawking to read.

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Tomb?

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Constant offers to ride the donkeys. Can’t say it looked like a comfy ride.

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First view of the Theater.

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I love this picture. It looks like the camel photo-bombed.

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Ancient homes.

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Different view for scale.

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The Theater.

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The stairs were scary on foot–I can’t imagine on a donkey.

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Baby donkey. Guessing only a few days old–still wobbly on it’s feet and so ridiculously cute.

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The carvings were amazing.

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Homes with the Theater to the right.

We climbed up some of those really scary steps. The following are views from as high as we dared climb.    IMG_7763

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And, back down the stairs.

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For scale, Lyman and Andrew are inside the cave.

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I love this picture. It’s on my framing list.

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View from a window in the cave.

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Ok, I have a thing for the animals.

Views of the Theater:

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I was fascinated by the caves and took way too many pictures. Feel free to scroll through quickly.

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And, the final camel:IMG_7822

Okay, I lied. Here’s Charlie ON a camel:

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It took every “don’t embarrass the kid” fiber in my body to not stand ready to catch him as the camel rose. It looked precarious, to say the least.

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But it was worth it. The picture people dream of.

It’s so very strange to think that we can hop in the car and go back any time we want.  A true wonder just 2.5 hours from home.

9 thoughts on “Petra

  1. I got this via email and didn’t first realize that I could enlarge the pictures to wonderful size. So then I had to go through them all again. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and photos!! Carol

  2. Reblogged this on Jaraad and commented:
    “It’s so very strange to think that we can hop in the car and go back any time we want. A true wonder just 2.5 hours from home [Amman].”
    I have heard this observation from many foreigners in Jordan. Indeed, Jordan is a historic treasure. Beautiful pictures from the eye of an American in Jordan.

  3. Thanks for sharing the photos. It is an amazing site that I hope to visit one day! What a privilege to see such beauty!

  4. Rachel,
    Last year I saw this when you first posted and was amazed, even vicariously at the splendor and beauty of it all. At the moment, my Roman Architecture discussed the Eastern Empire and Petra. She only used a few samples and I remembered yours and went back for another enriching tour. Thank you so much.
    Marna Murray

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