Continuing the story of Billy and MC's First Foray into the Middle East
30.03.2007 - 31.03.2007
We arrived in Petra yesterday. The owner of the hotel we are at is amazed that the whole world has not heard of Petra, and that half the tourists who come here only heard of it once they were in Eilat in Israel or Sharm in Egypt.
And I can understand his amazement. Petra is phenomenal - an city carved out of swirling rose-colored mountains by some antediluvian Gaudi. I've never seen photos that can do justice to the experience of walking through the cleft in the rock and watching the city appear before you. It really is beyond majestic.
There were times we forgot to look at the monuments, we were so captivated by the way the colors of the rocks constantly shifted as the day went on.
We've spent two days hiking and exploring, and have only seen part of it. The entry starts along a 1.5 km road that winds down a gentle valley. The white-rocked valley ends at a set of towering cliffs with a narrow crack in it's face. A 2000-year old cobblestone street leads into this, the siq. For the next kilometer you follow the track deeper into the cliff. The rocks are all swirling shades of salmon, red, and pink. You pass occasional niches built for the ancient gods, and small tombs built for forgotten soldiers.
And then you come to the City's first monument, an 80 meter high temple carved out of the red cliff face. And though you've seen pictures you can't really grasp the scale of it, or the way the colors shift with each ray of light. And the city continues from there - you can walk for hours and not reach the end. The first day we veered off the main track to the High Place of Sacrifice - high enough that it was difficult to breather. We drank coffee with Bedouin women while watching the sun set over distant mountains, and trekked down "the other way" - a path that they showed us leading a ways off the tourist track.
The next day we took an alternate route into the city, down a narrow wadi that wrapped around the mountains before entering the main colonnaded street. Then we climbed a mountain, up to 1800 meters, to another series of temples (for the record, my energy is back!). We passed some Bedouin cowboys we had flirted with the previous day, and they asked to join the later a a local restaurant.
I don't know how they outed us, though when they offered us a horseback ride I did tell them that I needed a stallion, not their dinky tourist horse. That might have been it. Regardless, one was quick to let us know that he offered "special services." I tried to play dumb (after I swooned - he was movie star handsome), but none of them bought it. I see it in your eyes, he told me. You don't have to admit it.
But, sadly, there will be no special services tonight. We're off tomorrow early morning for Wadi Rum, and two days of camel trekking. I could've stayed here longer.