Wadi Rum and Petra, the Rose Red City
The border crossing from Israel to Jordan was surprisingly super easy. The taxi driver dropped us off on the Israeli side and we walked over the no mans land. Jono thought the area between Israel and Jordan would be a fantastical place to try and take a quick photo. The guy with the machine gun didn’t agree. I guess decisions like this come from the same part of Jonos brain that think it’s a good idea to pack fireworks into his checked-in plane luggage and drive a car that’s not his into a muddy slurry pool in the middle of nowhere (but that story comes later).
Over the border, we were instantly jumped by about 7 waiting taxi drivers who all wanted us to travel with them. Andrew had actually already organized our pick by a guy with a really unique name for clarity…Ali. They all could have been Ali. The ring leader assured us that we were supposed to hop in one of their waiting taxis and we would be soon taken to Ali…really? We didn’t think so. They were so insistent we got pretty snappy which was a tad awkward when the guy rang and made us speak to Ali and turns out they were being truthful all along.
We met Ali at a café in the Aqaba town centre, he was really nice, bought us all a can of soft drink and we were on our way. Pretty much the only white people in sight and I realized I probably should have covered up a bit more. I’d been lulled into forgetfulness while we’ve been in Israel seeing as no one cares about all that there. Cross the border in Muslim territory it’s a different story and as a result you feel super naked and very culturally insensitive.
A sweaty couple of hours got us all the way to the Wadi Rum. Andrew and I really wanted to come here. Me, cause it looked and sounded pretty awesome on google but Andrew, because he wanted to live out his Laurence of Arabia fantasies. That movie was filmed here in 1962, I’ve never seen it, but have been meaning to ever since. Andrew has the DVD at home though so I’m sure he’ll sort us out. Wadi Rum, also known as The Valley of the Moon, is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock and is the largest wadi in Jordan. Ali, our Bedouin guide, took us into the Wadi in his battered old Jeep. We had some interesting chats with young Ali. Made me stifle many a giggle and wonder how incredibly different his life is to mine. He has one wife like his father and grandfather, but “he is not like them” he is aiming (in all seriousness) for four wives and 10 children, haha!
Ali has been married for 3 months and his wife is already two months pregnant. A great success in his eyes. He turns to Jono and asks if I am his wife. Yes, she is. How long have we been married for? 4.5 years. That’s a long time. Yes, thanks. Do you have children? No, not yet. Why not??? He then suggests maybe something is wrong with us, particularly Jono and recommends the famed aphrodisiac qualities of camel’s milk. It became a big joke, so unfortunately, we talked about this subject many times during the afternoon.
The Wadi Rum was cool. Spectacular cliffs and huge rock walls coming straight up out of the desert sand. This area is still inhabited by Bedouin tribes who run climbing and trekking expeditions in the valley.
After our drive around the wadi we stopped in to Ali’s brother Slman’s home for lunch. It was absolutely delicious and thankfully didn’t give us any of the illnesses I had imagined it might. Slman was quite the character. He also felt free to discuss his family life and much to my amusement he chatted freely about how having 2 wives can be quite difficult and you have to balance your time between them evenly. He says having multiple wives gets expensive though, seeing as they aren’t keen to live together (in this enlightened age) and required separate homes. One wife had provided him with 2 sons but the other had no children yet. I felt for her, she seemed sweet, I saw her peeking looks at us through the cracks in the door and when she cleared the dishes away I felt the need to compliment her excessively on her delicious food as if it might somehow make up for her lack of children.
After lunch we continued driving up to Petra. I am pumped to be seeing Petra! Its one of the several places I’ve been most super keen to see out of this whole trip. Scott, my brother, went a few years ago and his description and photos have made me long to see it for myself. We are staying in a nice hotel here which has been lovely for Jono and I, bit of a step up from the usual hostels we’ve been used to. Thanks Sue and Andrew! The area we were staying in was completely non touristy and buzzing so, wanting to be a part of it all, we went out for a coffee . The guys at the café were really cool but the coffee was like Turkish coffee on heat and I couldn’t finish it.
Jono likes to have his hair cut every 6 weeks (wish I was that dedicated) and so he decided it was hair cut o’clock in Petra. The barber, who really didn’t speak English thought it was the funniest thing ever to have Jono in his shop. He put Jono in front of the mirror, wrapped him up in the cloak thing and went outside to call all his friends in to view the specimen in the chair. Several men came in and settled in to the couches like they were getting ready for a show. When I took a photo of Jono mid haircut it triggered a stream of photo posing. Me, the kids, the barber and me, Jono, Jono and the barber. Very funny.
Sue made the call that evening to walk down to bottom of town for dinner and we found the most awesome restaurant with home made Jordanian food and a cool upstairs lounge for tea and argeeleh. Owner came and chatted with us for a while and was saying that this year because of the crisis in Syria and the masses of refugees flooding over the border into Jordan many tourists had stayed away. I suppose every time something happens in the region people categorize it as ‘trouble in the middle east’ and avoid everywhere. He said that usually by this time of year and season there would have already been 2 million visitors to Petra however this year there had only been 450000 and the season was almost over! Everyone’s desperate for customers and income, no wonder we are getting so hassled.
We shunned the taxis and took the refreshing long walk home. As we were walking 2 guys came down the road towards us. I was instantly on guard but they seemed to want nothing and were funny and happy and said welcome to Jordan. The ring leader looked like a dead set gypsy and was named Jake. As we were trying to extricate ourselves from the convo he said he gives tours of Petra and would be our guide for the next day. We politely declined, said we weren’t going to do it with a guide etc. etc. but he left us by sayings ‘see you tomorrow’. We laughed thinking he was just really keen.
Next morning we were eating breakfast and the hotel manager comes to our table and explains that Jake was outside and was angry at us for not meeting him at 8am. The manager said he has had run ins with the guy before, has banned him from his hotel and recommends we go no where near him. He said he’s stolen from previous guests and did something sus to an American lady that prompted her husband to beat him in the hotel lobby. Great. Not too long later we are in Petra and Jake searches us out, he was super angry and got right in Jonos face to tell us he’s going to kill the hotel owner. Luckily Jono talked him down before I felt the need to punch him in the face for being such a smarmy loser.
Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Arabs. It is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world and is one of the seven wonders of the world.
More than 2,000 years ago the Nabataea’s carved this city into the mountains but many years after the civilization was destroyed the city was ‘lost’ to the outside world. Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swedish explorer and due to the centuries that lapsed before the rediscovery of the city by the outside world, Petra was named the “Lost City”. The Nabatean Kingdom, along with its capital Petra, was surrounded by many ancient kingdoms and civilizations including the Pharaohs to the west, Tadmor to the north, and Mesopotamia to the east. The Nabateans were famous for their advanced irrigation systems and water harvesting mechanisms.
When you enter Petra you walk down the Siq to the city remains. The Siq, starts at the Dam and ends at the opposite side of the vault, a split rock with a length of about 1200m and a width of 3 to 12m, and height up to about 80m. On both sides of the Siq, there are channels to draw water from Wadi Musa (the Valley of Moses), from outside the city to the inside. As we walked the kilometre through the Siq Sue comments “it doesn’t make Stanley Chasm look all that great!’ amen. Walking round the last corner and through the opening to see the Treasury was amazing! It was named the Treasury because the Bedouins used to believe the urn sculpted at the top contained great treasures. Apparently the bullet marks and scars in and around the urn are from Bedouins who wanted to break open the sculpture for its non-existent treasure. In reality the urn represented a memorial for royalty. The Treasury consists of two floors and is almost 40 meters high.
After you pass the Treasury, the Siq widens gradually until it reaches an open area, the Street of Facades. On both sides of the valley, there are many Nabataean burial tombs richly decorated and beautiful. The whole of Petra is massive and amazing. Jono and I split from Sue and Andrew for the morning and hiked up and around and through all the tombs and passageways we could find. I loved it, the chance to go for a mad walk again, exploring off the main track and taking many a photo. After a picnic lunch and a break from the incredibly hot sun we missioned it up the Monastry. Dating back to early in the first century BC, the building consists of two floors and is larger than the Treasury, with a width of up to 50 meters and a height of 50 meters! It is thought that the Monastery was converted into a monastery for monks in the Byzantine period. We’d figured that by this time of day Sue and Andrew had probably punched out and were currently relaxing in a cool café sipping a coffee. We struggled up the steps until finally we reach the Monastry! It is amazing!! We even managed to get a photo with no one else in it! Onwards we went to get to a high point for a better view and who do you think we should find? Sue and Andy!
There are donkeys, camels and horses everywhere. They are ‘looked after’ by Bedouin guys who harass you and follow you and beg you to take a ride. We said so many ‘no thank you’s’ it’s not funny! I really was loving walking around, something that no one seemed to understand, but we stayed really chilled even when men would practically try to drag you onto the horse. Also the fact we were on a tight budget and it had cost us $160 to enter the site for 1 day I wasn’t going to be ripped of any more. Sue and Andrew had thought they’d get in on the experience and take one up the horridly steep path we’d climbed, cracking idea in hindsight given the effort involved in the heat of the day. The guy who was harassing them said I’ll get you up the mountain for 15 dinars, they agreed and hopped on, half way up the hill the guy says ok stop now, the donkey is tired and its now its 25 dinars. Damn.
They call Petra the Rose Red City because when the sun is rising or setting the light on the rocks make the whole place glow pink! I took so many photos on the way out, including a little off road scramble to get a pic on our own. Our feet were dead when we finally made it back up the hotel. We stopped off at a pastry shop for delicious treats and wined up in the lobby for pre dinner drinks. Such a tired, exhausted happy.
That night I was sound asleep when rapid gun fire in the street below jolted me awake!! I practical jumped on Jono, my mind racing, where should we hide etc. Jono fully dismissed it as fireworks and such was his conviction I went straight back to sleep. Next morning I mentioned it to the guy at the front desk and he laughed. Sorry, he says, that was a guy who’d had his car stolen last week and it has been returned to him. He was so happy he wanted to celebrate. He mimes shooting an automatic weapon at the sky. Haha. Jordan ay.