Anton (one of our advisors on the project) had visitors, his mother and friends of hers. Since Petra is the most famous site in Jordan and one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" he had to take them to see it. And since I had never been there, I decided to tag along. Saturday morning Ayman drove us three hours through the desert. Eventually we arrived at a hill overlooking the modern town of Wadi Musa.
We left the car and started walking into Petra. The path was a wide rocky path, gradually descending. Some people hired small carts pulled by ponies or donkeys but we opted to walk. We passed several monuments carved into the soft rock.
After fifteen minutes or so, the path left the open and turned into a gorge in the mountain. This gorge, called the Siq is three-quarters of a mile long and was initially formed by an earthquake. Then water rushed through, laying a smooth bed of gravel on the floor .
Suddenly we went around one more corner, emerged from the gorge and in front of us found a huge building carved into the rock. This was the Treasury, constructed in the first century BC. The huge columns don't really hold anything up, they are just carved into the rock because impressive buildings like this are supposed to have columns. Nobody knows the purpose of the Treasury -- the name came after Petra was abandoned and bedouins believed that a Pharoah's treasure was hidden inside. But what appeared to be urns for the treasure were actually carved from solid rock and inside was nothing but more rock.
Here the valley opened up. People who didn't want to walk got rides on camels and donkeys, but remembering my experience in Egypt I happily walked.
2000 years ago this was the center of a small city. People lived in caves carved into the cliffs on both sides of the valley. They even had a small amphitheater.
We continued down the "Street of Colonades".
There is only one restaurant inside Petra and it was a long walk back to the town of Wadi Musa. We were tired and hungry so we were pleased to discover that they served a good buffet lunch on a shaded terrace. As we finished our lunch we met a BearingPoint colleague from another project in Jordan who had come to Petra with a volunteer for Doctors without Borders.
There was much more to explore at Petra but it was getting to be late in the afternoon. I resolved that next time I would spend the night in Wadi Musa so that I could get an earlier start and go further into Petra. We retraced our steps, back through the Siq (uphill this time) and back to our car for the drive back to Amman.