Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Holy Land Trip - part 4, Petra, Jordan

Our hotel in Petra, the Beit Zaman hotel, was built like a village on a hillside.  It was very pretty, but all those steps and hills plus the haphazard layout challenged a lot of us.  When we arrived, porters took our luggage to our assigned rooms and that was a relief not to have to roll tote our luggage again that day.  Our room was very nice, although we had one king size bed instead of two twins.  That evening, we had a buffet dinner in the hotel dining room and our evening devotional, and then it was off to bed.
This is the walkway to the hotel restaurant.  You can see the houses and buildings of Wadi Musa built up on the hill

The walkway going back toward our room from the restaurant

The next morning was a buffet breakfast and they had an omelet station. Mmmm, omelets cooked to order with lots of goodies to put into them. All we had to do was point at what we wanted added to the eggs and it was done. We had to be ready and on the bus by 9am for the trip to Petra.

Now, you may ask, why were we going to Petra when we were already there? The city the hotel is actually in is called Wadi Musa. It is very close to the archeological site of Petra. Wadi means valley in Arabic and Musa is Moses in Arabic. Therefore, the city is the Valley of Moses. Petra is actually the UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an archeological site that has been around for well over 3500 years. It’s interest to our group is that in Arab tradition, Petra is the spot where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth, and where Moses' brother, Aaron, is buried, at Mount Hor, known today as Jabal Haroun or Mount Aaron.
Ruby, her daughter, Diane and their driver in one of the "Pony" carts.

Once at Petra we discovered that the trip from beginning to end would be approximately 5 miles. Going into Petra was all downhill but that meant coming back was going to be all uphill. Our two older ladies, Ruby and Nell, could not walk that entire way, and wheelchairs would never work, so pony carts (really horse carts) were hired to take them the entire length of the site and back again. The terrain started out fairly smooth and we had lots of stops so Zaid could explain symbolism of the carvings on the caves and tombs. Once we got close to the middle section, The Treasury, the terrain changed to Roman cobblestones then rough sand and rock. Our group spent some time there for rest, take pictures, purchase locally made jewelry and crafts and buy bottled water.

A Tomb

Another tomb (Get where I'm going with this?)

Roman Cobblestones. 
Very unpleasant to walk on.  The largest are roughly 9 x 12 inches, give or take a smidge.

The view of The Treasury as we came through the Siq, or gully.

The Treasury.  If you look at the lower left portion of this picture you will see 2 men dressed as Roman soldiers.  This gives you an idea of how huge this place is.  Also, it was never a treasury, but another tomb.  It has been called The Treasury because the first modern explorers to find the ruins thought it might have had treasure in it.  Big disappointment for them.  When the Romans conquered the area, they cleaned out all the bones and actually used the tombs for living places and temples.  The inside of this tomb is 65 x 65 feet of empty space and actually, this large doorway is the second floor.  The first floor is still buried beneath the surface.

The open area around the Treasury. 
The walls of the "valley" or "gully" we walked through are around 265 feet high.

After this brief rest, we were off again on rough terrain. The last 100 yards or so was pure sand. I was exhausted, my asthma was seriously aggravated and I was just about to sit down and cry. Then a young man came up to me and asked me if I wanted a donkey. I said that if he could take me to the end and then back to the treasury after lunch it would be great! Of course, nothing is free, and this donkey ride ending up costing me $20.00. So up I went on this tiny little donkey and rode the last 100 yards to the Arab restaurant where we had lunch. I wasn’t hungry and Sari wasn’t either, but we both knew if we didn’t eat anything we wouldn’t last the return trip, so we shared a small lunch buffet plate.

I petted this camel.  They are no more stinky than a bunch of horses and feel just like big, hairy, dirty dogs.  I did, however, back off when this one turned toward me and exposed his really huge teeth.  Didn't want to encourage him to spit - or bite.

Most of the group was as exhausted as I was and Ken and Zaid went to negotiate with the donkey and camel handlers for rides. Mom, Dad and Sari had decided to ride donkeys and Clint, June, Al, Donna and I believe a few more were going to ride camels. I had my donkey all arranged so I was pretty much set. As everyone was getting up on their donkeys and camels, Mohammed brought his two donkeys my way. I told him that the little donkey I rode to the restaurant was just too little and asked to ride the bigger donkey. He said sure, helped me mount up and adjusted the stirrups. Then he hopped up on the little donkey. I had assumed he would lead my donkey back up to the Treasury. Well, was I ever mistaken! He threw the lead rope over my donkey’s shoulder and hollered “Yallah!” which in Arabic means “get a move on”. My donkey jumped into a fast trot with me holding onto the pommel of his saddle and off we went like a shot. I barely had time to wave to everyone else as we passed them. Mohammed told me to lean forward and relax and everything would be OK. I thought, “Yeah, it’ll be OK right up until I fall off”. But after a bit I did begin to relax and my fat grey donkey picked his way back up the hill through sand, rocks and Roman cobblestones. Cindy told me that I got an A+ in donkeymanship!

Mom being helped to dismount her donkey.  Dad rode the white one next to it. 
He had already gotten off of it.

Once back at The Treasury, I had to dismount and bid my donkey boy and his amazing donkeys adieu. Donkeys and camels are only allowed to go from The Treasury to the restaurants and the end and back. Once at The Treasury, if you don’t want to walk, you can take a horse or a horse cart. I was first back so I found a bench in the shade and hung out for the rest to arrive. Sari was next back and she went shopping, then Mom and Dad showed up. Eventually we all arrived safe and sound, although a little disheveled. It was still a long way back and I knew I’d never make the climb so Sari and I shared the cost of a horse cart.

Once back on the bus, we all fairly collapsed from exhaustion. Back we went to the hotel to rest up before dinner. Dad, Mom, Ken, Margo and I met in the bar for drinks before dinner. The bartender even made margaritas (not frozen) that weren’t too bad. Dinner was once again buffet style and pretty good, and then we had our evening devotional. After dinner it was once again an uphill climb to the room. Needless to say, everyone slept very well that night.

I had hoped to get through our entire tour of Jordan in this post, but there is so much to tell about and so many pictures to share, I'll have to finish Jordan on my next post. 

1 comment:

Paige said...

That looks like such a cool trip!