We visited Petra today, which is always a highlight of tours to Jordan. We got an early start and had a leisurely walk to the Siq, the famous gorge which serves as the entrance to the necropolis of Petra. Our guide, Sufiyan, did an excellent job pointing out key features of the Siq. I am pleased that our group was attentive and ask some very good questions.
We arrived at the Treasury, which is not really a treasury at all but rather a tomb (probably for Arteas III or Arteas IV).
The building is properly known as el-Khazneh and is a magnificent sight, especially when you first glimpse it through the Siq. There were a number of changes from earlier visits. First, the excavations under the tomb make it impossible to go up on the steps. This is a disappointment, since you cannot see inside the rooms. Second, the park authority has restricted the Bedouin from selling in front of the Treasury. This is a welcome change! Third, donkeys are no longer allowed in front of the Treasury. While camels are still available, the “mess” from the donkeys is no longer a problem.
We walked around toward the theater, which is still closed. We were able to see some of the theater but most of the interesting parts were behind a fence. My guess is that it will remain closed to reduce that destruction of the site by tourists. It is a fact that the rise in tourism at Petra has degraded many of the sandstone carvings. Maybe I will come back to this point later.
We had a snack and water about noon, and then people were able to explore on their own for two hours before heading to the bus. I hiked with most of the GBC students to the “Royal Tombs,” a set of tombs several hundred feet up the canyon walls. Some of the braver souls hiked about as high as possible, a bit higher than I was willing to go. I will admit to staying behind and praying a great deal.
As we waited for the others, a little Bedouin girl came up and helped Kaleigh and Amy down some rocks. This cute little girl was maybe five years old, barefoot, named Dima. She gave Kayleigh a necklace “for free,” and Kayleigh gave her two dollars. She did come back and ask for more money and to help us get down once again. I did notice more young children than usual, many who ought to have been in school. I suspect they are used to tug at the hearts of the tourists, which is a sad thing to see.
On the walk back out of Petra, we had an unusual experience for this time of year: it sprinkled just a bit of rain. The day was quite cool (for Petra), probably 85 degrees. We had a nice cloud cover and a cool breeze most of the morning. By 5:20 our guide got a phone call telling him it was raining heavily and there was a possibility of flash floods. We had left about three hours before this, so there was no danger to us.
We did have a boy of rain on the drive back, but no real problems. We were back to the hotel a bit after 6pm, I expect everyone will sleep soundly!