Searching for the Holy Grail

If you look at the ground I covered in Petra it certainly looks like I was searching for the Holy Grail but I’ll try not to mention Indiana Jones too much because the locals prefer not to associate Petra with that movie. In fact my hostel owner said if we put the movie on he’d smash his own TV! But it’s understandable because most people come to Petra with the image of the Treasury in their head; the building made famous by the whole two minutes that Harrison Ford was filmed out the front, but in actual fact there’s much more to Petra than that and I spent three days exploring the compound.

On my first day I was at the gate at 7.30am and was one of the only people around, which made the experience much more enjoyable. Although, even later in the day when tour groups started coming through there was still not many people around thanks to the troubles in neighbouring countries like Syria and Iraq tourist numbers in Jordan have severely declined. It’s sad for the tourism industry here but a positive for visitors.

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The first sight was walking through the siq, a skinny walkway through a canyon of colourful rock. But it was definitely only the beginning of a breathtaking place. I exited the siq to stand in front of the Treasury which was magnificent and as incredible as you expect it to be. My map had a number of hikes varying in length and difficulty around the place branching off from the main path. There was a set of stairs off to the left after the Treasury so I took those and just thought I’d see where the day took me.

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It took me up to the High Place of Sacrifice with amazing views of the surrounding mountains and then I came down to a set of rock cut caves where local Bedouins were living. That is one of the most frustrating things about the place, there are local Bedouins living in and around the caves who have also set up souvenir shops and cafes. Many also have camels, horses and donkeys offering lifts up to difficult climbs like the Monastery. Sometimes I felt like I had climbed up a mountain to no where but there was still a lady selling scarves and a shop with coffee and tea waiting for me. Again, it showcases tourism’s ugly side where kids don’t go to school and are sent to hassle tourists to make some money.

On many of the hikes I took I was rewarded with amazing views, the monastery had a panorama view of the surrounding mountains, another one had a view of the Treasury from above and the Fort had a view over the whole complex below. I was always amazed and took too many photos.

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The most exciting thing though was doing the harder and lesser known hikes where I really was often on my own with no one around. On my third day the owner of the hostel I was staying at showed me a hike through a wadi that is not marked but would be a good walk if I found it so I decided to try it. There was no path as such so I walked through the wadi and came out at the other end. To get back I scrambled up some rocks and went back down through the other side of the valley and eventually came back to Petra. It was as much a mental exercise as a physical one as I had to constantly stop and think about the easiest way to tackle rocks and to try and keep my sense of direction in check. But it was all part of the fun and by the time I got back to Petra proper I couldn’t believe where I had been.

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So many people come to Petra on a day trip, even coming across the border from Egypt or Israel just for the day, but I found spending a full three days there was so much more rewarding. It was like a hikers playground, there was so much fun to be had… if you consider walking and rock scrambling fun, that is. I was so glad to be heading to Wadi Rum next though so I could sit back and relax in a 4WD tour of the desert and rest my weary legs.

 

*post adapted from my trip here in April 2015 and from my blog site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com

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