Day Seven: Petra

Today was the walk through Petra. For many students this is a major highlight on the trip. 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 and the Indiana Jones store is still there, but the whole entrance is cleaner and well organized.

Petra Group

I highly recommend you visit the museum just outside the entrance, a thorough visit might take an hour. There are several short films on aspects of Nabatean Petra as well a a good mix of artifacts from each period of the site. I think there needs to be a room dedicated to the Bedouin who lived in the caves until only a few decades ago, but other than that it is a well-designed museum.

Our guide Ash led us down the long walk to the Treasury, 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 morning was quite warm, over 100 Fahrenheit by the afternoon. High heat means more flies than I have ever seen at Petra.

The area in front of the Treasury was extremely crowded when we arrived, which means tourism in Jordan is strong. The sellers were not as bad as recent years, or maybe the large crowd kept them occupied. There were far more long tables after the treasury than I recall, blocking access to some of the tombs. One of the tombs has been converted to a coffee shop…

Starbucks Petra

After our lunch of sandwiches (a kabob for me, with lemon mint juice, which was not as cold as hoped), we split up into several groups. One brave group went up to the Monastery. This is another tomb like the Treasury, but it is quite far from the main site at Petra at the top of about 850 uneven steps. If you can make this hike, you ought to do it, but maybe leave that one to the young.

Another group went with me to the temple of Zeus a Byzantine church (called the Petra Church) and then to the Royal Tombs. This is a fairly easy walk up a series of steps, and provides an excellent view of the entire valley. I had not visited the church before, there are some unusual mosaics in the church. There was a cache of papyri found in this church as well.

Monastery Petra

When we met for dinner people were exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep. But they soldiered on and made good use of the dessert section of the excellent buffet at the Movenpick Nabatean Castle. I don’t know how accurate this is, but I did more that 22,000 steps today, which google tells me is over ten miles.

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