Woke up feeling absolutely diabolical but was determined to enjoy as much of the day as I could. It was Bob’s 71st birthday today. What a briliant place to celebrate a birthday. We had a bumper day planned.
We entered the city as usual by the 3km walk in, down the Siq, the narrow sloping canyon that links the ticket office to the Treasury. It was a brilliant sunny day today which was nice. About 14C. T shirts and shorts weather.
Our first path was up along a ridge where there are a number of very elaborate carved tombs. There are 4 main ones and they date to about 70AD. They are all empty apart from some carved bench seating. One of the beauties of the structures is the wonderful colours of the sandstone and the rippling patterns formed in it. Absolutely lovely.
After the tombs we trekked along an upper path past herds of goats and donkeys following the path towards the Monastery. We found a lovely little tea shack along the way and stopped for a cuppa. We decided we would try to reach the Monastery. We knew it meant climbing 852 perilous steps. I was worried about the ascent because I was feeling pretty grim but I said I would go and look. Anyway, at the bottom of the stairway we met Mehmet who offered to take us up by donkey. Hmmmm….. looking at the sheer, unguarded edge, I wasn’t sure it would be preferable. However, he assured me that they were very safe, so Bob and I decided to ride up. Lucy came up on foot about 10 seconds slower than we rode!!!!
I can’t say it was a comfortable ride. The donkeys (which were free ie not lead) lurched and rolled as they negotiated the steps. I did feel a bit sorry for mine, but he was a sturdy beast, so not too bad. I kept expecting animal rights protestors to leap out at me from every turn… but hey….. this might be my last best chance to see the Monastery. There’s no other way to get there.
Finally, after our lurching, jolting ascent, we were there. Or perhaps about 40 more steps short of “there”. The Monastery looks much like the Treasury but is larger and better preserved. It’s one of the largest monuments at 47m wide and 48.3m high. Inside are two side benches and a stone altar. It was built in the 2nd century AD and used for meetings but later used as a Christian chapel. There are crosses carved into the walls. It really is a magnificent sight and you can’t help but reflect on how amazed the first discoverers must have been.
We sat and had lunch and watched it, the colours changing with the light. Then it was time to make our way back down. We walked. A bit tricky at times as the steps are rock cut and slippery with sand in places, but a magnificent walk with incredible vistas on either side. Some people rode down on donkeys. That must have been horrendous. By the time we got to the bottom, legs and knees were aching, but not as much as they did later!!!!!!! We stretched them out but …. ouch……
Another cup of tea. Lucy decided she’d had enough walking after all and especially as we were coming back that evening. And we were rather dreading the long walk out 4.5km from where we were. And then….. along came Mehmet…… would we like him to take us to the entrance by donkey??????
Well, yes we would. All three of us mounted up and together with Mehmet and his sons (also on donkey) we set off across the desert. I can tell you that donkeys trot along surprisingly fast when they sense dinner is in sight. We were often in a line – like a strange downmarket version of the Magnificent Seven!!!!!!! It took about 30 minutes to reach the Bedouin Village where Mehmet lived. We dismounted and his brother was waiting to take us back to our hotel by truck. What a lifesaver!!!!
After a rest we went out for an early dinner at a restaurant called My Mom’s Recipes. Bob and I ate there last year. A really good dinner on their rooftop. Bob and I had mixed grills. Lucy had roast lamb.
At 645 we went down to the visitor’s centre to meet up for the Petra by Night show. At 7 we began to walk in, the narrow pathway lit by hundreds of candles. No torches, phone light or flash allowed. It was a bit hairy at times but your eyes soon got used to the light level and then it was easy enough to see. The stars overhead were amazing. We walked down to the Treasury which was illuminated by very many candles. We sat on mats in front of it while some live musicians played: a flautist and someone playing and singing Arabian music. It was incredibly atmospheric if incredibly uncomfortable. Finally, a man gave a talk on some sort of philosophical thinkings. Frankly, the sort of thing that would have had people nodding and going “heavy, man” back in the day….. We were served a cup of Bedouin tea. Then they lit the front of the Treasury with some coloured lights and we were allowed to take photographs. Lovely. Of course there had to be a couple of selfish people who wandered right into the candle field to be close and therefore ruined everyone else’s shot.
Time to wander back up to the gate. Going uphill 3km this last time was almost the end of me. I truly do not know how I did it….. I was feeling so terrible. But I did get through the day and we did everything we wanted to do. Got back to the hotel – and fell into bed. Bob looked at the stats and I’d walked 12 miles +++ and climbed 900 steps etc.
Petra is the most incredible place. I strongly urge you to try and visit it if you possibly can. For a day if you must, but 2 or even 3 days is better. It really is unique.