This was one of the nicest days I have had for walking in Petra. The temperature was no more than mid-80s in the afternoon, and with the breeze almost chilly in the morning. We left the hotel and drove only about 15 minutes to the entrance to the park. This is the first time I have been to Petra since they have finished the new visitor’s center, and it is a huge upgrade. Shops circle a lovely plaza with plenty of room for groups to meet and guides to give some orientation. It was good to see some of the traditional shops are still there (such as the Indiana Jones Gift Shop and my personal favorite, Jeff’s Books), but I did not see the Titanic shop.
One change that might be a problem for some visitors is that the shops inside the Park are no longer allowed to sell “box lunches” to visitors. The only restaurants are the very expensive and crowded, well past the center point of the hike. We were warned by our guide not to try and sneak in a lot of food, although there were no bag inspections. We stopped for water (and Turkish coffee, naturally), and the venders had snacks like chips and cookies, but no sandwiches are allowed any more.
Our guide Ash did a fine job explaining the details of the Siq, the long canyon leading down to the Treasury. There are several places guides typically stop and give an overview of the Nabateans and there culture. Ash kept these brief and to the point, something appreciated by the students. He also pointed out some recent damage to the cliffs caused by the extreme cold last winter in Jordan. One of the major factors in preserving Petra for 2000 years is the lack of rain and freezing temperatures. Some of the facades of the tombs could easily be damaged by freezing rain.
The students took lots of pictures at the Treasury, although a few too many of the cats which run around the area. I thought the area was less crowded than previous visits, but they have allowed the donkeys back in the area, so there was far more evidence of donkeys (ok, poop) than before. You have to watch your step on the uneven stones and because of the piles!
After a break, most students climbed up to the Royal Tombs. This hike gives a spectacular view of the whole valley. I went with a few others to the Temple of Zeus. This is a huge complex and has been very well preserved by Brown University. It is remarkable to me so few people visit it, most just walk up the first flight of stairs and take a quick picture and move on. There are many this to see and I spent more than an hour poking around the nooks and crannies with Zac Thompson.
Usually no one hikes up to the Monastery since there is just not that much time left in the day, and the Royal Tombs are also something important to see. But when I said you probably could not climb to the Royal Tombs and the Monastery, Cameron Cramer and Jeremy Herr too that as a personal challenge. They ran from one to the other, although the steps slowed them down. They win the Iron Man away for this trip, since they made it to the bus with plenty of time to spare. Amanda gets the Miss Popularity award, it turns our people think she is a Jordanian super-model.
It seems to me everyone is exhausted after a long day at Petra. Some headed to the pool, but I think a few took before dinner. Tomorrow we will cross back into Israel and visit the Red Sea for some snorkeling.