Smelling the rose city

September 6, 2008 - Wadi Musa, Jordan

Greedily taking in the aura of the majestical Treasury Building in Jordan's 'rose city' of Petra alone is one of the most amazing experiences I've had in more than seven months on the road. For about 20 minutes as dawn turned to day, I literally had one of the new Seven Wonders of the World to myself. There was only the hum of a generator to break the silence as two souvenir sellers slept in a corner waiting for the day's tourists to arrive. A dog carrying a pup made it's way out of the siq (canyon) and down a side path to the left side of the Treasury, not changing its rythym as it passed the masterpiece. This is a journey the dog probably undertakes daily, but for most of us, a trip to Petra is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Birds went about their daily routines as I walked through the 1.2 kilometre siq which still features carved and pottery water channels and sculptures. At its end, the siq reveals its secret, opening to display the awesome 40 metre-high, 28 metre-wide Treasury (al-Khaznah) building. Everything else disappeared into the background as I sat quietly in front of this grand structure that was meticulously carved into rose-coloured rock. Holes on the side of the building remain from the original scaffolding and it stands elegantly owning the space as if it has always belonged there.

Speculation continues over the building's purpose, from royal tomb, temple or mausoleum to an articulate calendar. Whatever its intentions, this perfect marriage of nature, art and architecture is a powerful statement from the people who created it some time between 1800 and 2100 years ago (dating the structure is as controversial as its suggested purposes).

Surprisingly, my day got even better as I explored Petra on my own. The previous day I climbed 723 steps (by my count) to the imposing monastery (deir), so it was quite a surprise to stumble across an even better view of Petra from the 'high place of sacrifice', on top of a mountain measuring more than 1000 metres (I didn't bother counting the steps this time, but it took about 30 minutes to get to the top). The location was apparently used for animal sacrifices and offerings to the gods - not of the human variety.

I shared a cup of the local tea with Hussein, a Bedouin father-of-six who set up camp at the top of the mountain to sell souvenirs to tourists who had enough time and stamina to venture to the top. The monastery was a small but clearly identifiable dot on a mountain a few kilometres from the rocky ledge where we sat while Hussein pointed out the Palace Tomb, Temple of the Winged Lions and some of the lesser-known areas of Petra. A proud Bedouin who makes a fantastic cuppa, Hussein then sent me on my way down the other side of the mountain past the now-headless lion waterfall and beautiful garden and soldier's tombs. This route used to be a pilgrimage up the mountain to the high place of sacrifice, and there was a sense of history as I wandered along the rocky path and marvelled at the colourful mountains.

It was exhilarating to explore a part of Petra seen by only a small number of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the site each year. Although the path was clearly defined, I saw more local Bedouins than tourists. This phenomenon continued as I returned to the site entrance via the dry canyon and water tunnel rather than the regular route past the Treasury and siq. Clambering over rocky terrain, the view of occasionally-carved multi-coloured mountainsides was spectacular in the morning light.

The raw beauty and richness of Petra is there for everyone to see, and I highly recommend taking the time - to borrow an old saying - to stop and smell the roses. This is a place to step off the regular tourist paths and experience just being in Petra, where you are engulfed by history and nature and you realise you really are in a wonderful part of the world.


Pictures

My hotel room, Bahariya
My hotel room, Bahariya
My hotel, Bahariya
Bahariya backblocks
 
 

6 Comments

Lauren:
September 9, 2008
Wow, what an experience! Sounds just amazing.
Chris Wong:
November 17, 2008
Wow Katie! The pics are amazing and your trips are awesome! Party on Katie!

Love your website!
Sam Wong:
November 19, 2008
OMG Katie is this a crazy thing you are doing. I really didnt know you where gone for 1 whole year doing all of this. Im glad I got to meet you during our Tibet trip. You are Fun and so positive about everything. Nice trips and cant wait to see more pictures. We need to party again, tibet style. haha.
take care on your last part of the trip. i wished i had the chance to do what you are doing.
Dad:
December 6, 2008
what's a broken leg when on a world trip.
See you soon Katie. Love Dad.
Jane Hammond:
December 16, 2008
Wow, I want to go there. Hope you are using your talent for writing and adventure to turn some of this into a travel piece (jump on the freelance bandwagon). The pics are also fantastic. You have got something marketable and memorable.
And how did you do this with a leg in plaster, the mind boggles
Denise:
February 12, 2009
Your trip was amazing!! I think you are going to be a great journalist, or should I say Are a great one, your pictures and stories were wonderful!! Thanks you for sharing, you are a special person! Glad you are home safe Denise
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