Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba

Last weekend, some classmates and I did a whirlwind tour through Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba.  

Highlights include:
  • Rest stops are the same everywhere;
  • Petra - It's Hot;
  • Riding off into the sunset in the back of a Daihatsu pickup truck;
  • Creeping with a Kwefiyyeh;
  • Chinatowns are the same everywhere; and
  • Party Bus!
So, without further ado, نبدا (let's begin)!


Part One:  The Beginning - Rest stops are the same everywhere

We awoke bright and early on Friday morning (5:15 am!) and إجتمعنا (ijtamaehranaa - we gathered) at the bus pickup site next to the Royal Jordanian office in the Abdali neighborhood.

We boarded a bus full of Jordanian families and a group of teenagers, and after some unintelligible introductions by our tour guide (made unintelligible by virtue of the terrible bus speaker system more than the language), we were on our way south.

About 90 minutes into the trip, we stopped for a health and safety (bathroom) break, at what looked to be a rest stop:

Maybe there's a Sbarro's here

It was indeed, a rest stop, albeit with architecture bought from the liquidation sale of the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.  Inside was a small self-service (in Arabic, "خدمة ذاتية) snack stand, a convenience store, several tables for eating, and bathrooms.  I had at least expected a shwarma stand.

I generally slept throughout the bus ride, when I wasn't awoken by the group of teenage boys sitting in the rows in front of me that clapped to every Arabic song played on the bus.

About an hour after reaching the rest stop, we reached the town of 'Ayn Musa, home of a minor tourist attraction - a small spring that was used by the Nabateans hundreds of years ago.  I noticed many passengers from our bus as well as others filling up bottles and jugs from the spring.

'Ayn Musa led to Wadi Musa, the town just outside of Petra, and finally, Petra itself.


Part 2:  Petra - It's Hot!

We got to Petra around 11 am or so, and had until 2:30 pm to explore.  (Tourist note - the admission fee is a hefty 50 JD ($70) for tourists that are not Jordanian citizens or who do not hold a Jordanian visa for at least one year).

We walked along the Siq, a winding dry streambed that is the only entrance into the hidden city of Petra.  The Siq forms a long (around 1.5-2 miles?) and narrow passage between tall rock formations.

Ruins on the way into the Siq

The Siq

After a long quest...

We hit the motherlode...

The great treasury of Petra

Government employees are the same everywhere

The crew climbing for a better view - 
I stayed on the ground and went into some of the ancient homes.  
What's the lasting artifact of a society without indoor plumbing?  

Unfortunately, we did not have time to fully explore the city.  For example, we did not see the High Place of Sacrifice or the Monastery due to time constraints, although I did find the time to be slobbered on by a camel.  You need a full day, or maybe two, to more fully see the main sights in Petra.

Although the beauty of Petra soothed and energized the spirit, it did not do so for the body.  So we had to suffer the hour-long uphill trek in 100-degree heat back to the bus.


Wadi Rum in the next installment!

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