We wrapped up our third day of exploring Petra today. 17 hours of pounding in Petra over 3 days takes a toll, but the remarkable splendor of this mystical city is worth every blistered toe and sunburned cheek. Petra is truly phenomenal, a must see for any visitor to Jordan, if only for 1 day.
Before I proceed further in my tale of Petra, a quick update on the trash situation I railed against in my last entry is warranted. Days 2 and 3 found the site much improved in cleanliness, leading me to suspect that an early arrival is key, before the day’s tourist swarm have left their unfortunate trail of debris. We arrived at 11am and 8:30am respectively the past 2 days, and found cleaning crews active and the site clean and welcoming.
Yesterday we trekked 8 hours through the site, encompassing every attraction between Al-Khazneh (the Treasury) and Ad-Deir (the Monastery). These two most popular sites within Petra essentially mark the beginning and end of the major points of interest in this huge area, and require about a 2 hour walk to cover the distance between them. The 800 step ascent to the Monastery alone can take nearly an hour, but is well worth the effort. And if you’re too tired to manage the climb yourself, donkey rides to the top are readily available for 1-2 JD (depending on where you pick it up).
As you would expect, photo opportunities abound in Petra, with light and shadows at play throughout the day. The most photographed ruin is the Treasury, and its peak lighting occurs in the morning between 8:30 and 9:30.
Photographers can benefit from Petra’s unusual terrain, and the fact that the buildings are all oriented facing different directions, so when one is in shadow, another is bathed in light. This reality allows a positive photo experience somewhere in Petra at any time of day.
The hospitality of the Bedouin locals is well known, and a great delight to experience firsthand. All you have to do is start talking with one, and you’ll have an instant friend. Or, if you’re shy, just wait awhile and there’s a good chance a Bedouin local will approach you. Just such an encounter became the highlight of our 3rd day in Petra.
We arrived at the Treasury around 8:30 this morning to take photographs in the peak morning light. As we waited on a perch above the ground, a young Bedouin man, Mohammed, climbed up to join us. A local who lives in the Bedouin village adjacent to Petra, he immediately struck up a conversation. In his early 20’s, and very fluent in English, he spends his days bounding the hills of Petra, befriending tourists, and showing them a piece of Bedouin life. It wasn’t long before he offered to take us to the top of the cliff overlooking the Treasury, along a little used path off the normal tourist route.
If you’re there, you can find the path by following the trail past the Palace Tomb and then finding the steps that lead up around the back. Once the steps end, you’ll need to continue along a rocky path for another 15-20 minutes, passing an overlook of the Theatre and continuing up along the ridge. It’s a long hike, but the reward is a bird’s-eye view of the Treasury below, and the chance to capture some photos atypical of the normal tourist snapshots!
Mohammed, his donkey Jackass, Amanda and I spent the next couple hours hiking this trail, sitting above the Treasury in the sun chatting with a couple other tourists who managed to find it, and taking in the view. Upon our descent, he took us for some mint tea before taking his leave, no doubt to befriend some other visitors. A typical day for him, it was an unforgettable experience for us. Thanks, Mohammed.
Copyright ©2008 eric flohr