Today was our big walk through Petra. Because our hotel is right next to the entrance, we were able to leave at 9 AM and walk over to the visitor center at Petra. The students seem very happy at the extra sleep, especially since we got to the hotel at nearly 10 o’clock last night. The hotel dining room was open to eleven and the service and selection is excellent. Everyone seemed very happy to have pasta (and the dessert tray!)
I have been coming to Petra since 2005 and during this time the park has undergone a number of significant changes as tourism has continued to increase. The visitors center now has a large plaza with the number of shops and a small museum. Jeff’s Books is still there, and I probably spent way too much money on books on my way out.
Our guide Mohamed led us down the long walk to the treasury building, stopping from time to time to explain various features of the tombs or the water system in the Siq (the famous gorge through which one enters Petra). The high temperature was close to 95 Fahrenheit, but the morning was cool and there was a stiff breeze. Unfortunately this stirred up some dust and one of the students needed to change their contact. Another girl unfortunately took a little bit of a stumble had to limp most of the way.
There were not very many groups on our walk down to the Treasury, but there was quite a crowd taking group pictures and far too many selfies. Visit of the treasury before, I noticed that there are far fewer little boy is trying to sell things in the past few visits. Occasionally someone will try to sell a postcard set for a dollar but it was less oppressive then previous years. I also noticed several of the shops along the way have closed or perhaps moved. I’m not sure if this has to do with a lack of tourism over the last few years caused by fears of traveling in the least, but it is sad to see some of these shops closed. Nevertheless I did see several familiar older better win man selling obviously fake coins. Capitalism seems to win in the end.
Our guide led us on a little bit of a back way hike through some of the tombs that are not on the main road. This would not be in accessible hike for an older group, but from my college kids it was exactly what the wanted. The were several excellent views of the whole valley and we squeezed our way through a few little caverns and tombs. Not everyone joined us on this hike, but they walked through the traditional trail and we’re supposed to meet us at a particular seller where I had arranged for a “box lunch” (it is actually in a plastic bag). Due to a lack of proper signage, they unfortunately walked well past the restaurant and got to experience a little bit of Petra we don’t usually walk through. It was about 20 minutes before they actually joined us. The cool breeze had stopped and there was absolutely no shade where they walked. When they came back in to where we were already eating they did not look particularly happy.
This box lunch was an excellent deal. There were two type sandwiches, one cheese and the other some sort of meat, a bag of chips, a little cup of water, a juice box, a hard boiled egg, an extremely bruised banana, and two vegetables, a cucumber and a tomato. Eating a cucumber like a carrot is actually pretty good, and I highly recommend it. Eating a tomato like an apple doesn’t do much for me. I was sort of hoping for an orange and perhaps some cookies, but for the price I could hardly complain. I also purchased more water, which is probably the most important thing the students could’ve done as well. I’ve drank six water bottles in addition to the two that I brought with me in the morning. I will be leaving the bathroom tonight, but I do feel pretty good right now.
After our lunch, we split up into several groups. One group went back to the hotel to rest. There’s also a very nice pool at this hotel I suspect that may have affected their decision. One other smaller group hiked up to the Canaanite cultic center. Although I’ve never been up there I understand it also has an excellent view of the entire Petra area. Another group went up to the Monastery. This is another tomb like the Treasury, but it is quite a distance from the main site at Petra and up about 850 steps. (Better left to the young is my thinking.)
One group went with me to the Royal Tombs, which were converted into a Byzantine chapel. This is a fairly easy walk up a series of steps, and provides an excellent view of the entire valley. There were not any tourists there when we arrived, so we were able to spend some time in the cool of the cave looking at the parents on the walls. One thing that is changed is that the Park service has put a large fence type barrier up inside the main cave so that you can’t walk all the way up to the front anymore. It was not like this in 2015, and it is unfortunate since there are some interesting tombs and an inscription at the front of the cave.
By the time my group had finished at the Royal Tombs, it was well into the 95° high. We walked back to the Treasury for final pictures and more water before the long uphill walk back up the seek to the visitor center. I got back to the visitors center about 3 PM, which is typical of our tours in the past. I contributed to the local economy by purchasing two books from Jeff’s Books. I’ll probably say something about them later since one is a nice looking collection of oral testimony about the early days of Petra before it was a major tourist destination.
By the time I reach the hotel lobby, I must’ve looked pretty lathered. The hotel is used to seeing people walking in from Petra and had a nice tray of chilled cool rags for us when I entered the lobby. This is the sort of classy thing that I like about this hotel.
We are planning to meet at 7 o’clock for dinner and I expect most of the students to be absolutely exhausted and ready for a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we crossed back into Israel at the Arava crossing near the Red Sea. Will have some time for the students to swim in the Red Sea and do some snorkeling if they choose to. We will be at Tamar archaeology park by the early afternoon.