Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Petra part 1 - The Siq to Al Khazneh (The Treasury)

We were offline for a few days, finally able to get away from Amman and do some touristy things. Originally, before I came, we had hoped to plan a trip to Amsterdam, Paris, Cairo or Santorini together. Our trip all depended on whether Pae could get a visa on time and on her flying schedule, which sometimes changes day to day. So, we decided on Santorini, figuring it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go somewhere like that!Pae ended up not able to go because of scheduling, so we decided to visit Petra, right here in Jordan. We got a bus down to Ma'an in Wadi Musa, 3 or so hours south of Amman. The bus brought us right to the Petra visitor's center from where we set up base at a hotel no more than 400 meters away. The Sunset Hotel.There was honestly no more than a one kilometer stretch of hotels, restaurants and gift bazaars lining the road outside of the entrance to Petra, with more hotels up in the hill city of Wadi Musa. For such a big tourist attraction here in Jordan, I was surprised that there weren't more hotels close to the site. I think it's because most tourists come as a part of an organized tour group and after Petra, they hop back on their buses and head to either Aqaba on the Red Sea (beaches, diving and snorkeling) or to Wadi Rum where they sleep in Bedouin tents in the middle of the desert. Either way, I'm guessing that over 75 percent of the visitors to Petra don't stay in the local area.Okay, off to Petra! We found our hotel, exchanged dollars to dinar, got into our excursion deserty clothes, put on sunblock, grabbed several liters of water, packed it all into my backpack and set out. Our first order of business was to pay our entry fee to Petra, normally 33 dinar per person (about $47 or 1,400 THB). We half-jokingly asked the man selling tickets if they gave a discount for employees of Royal Jordanian Airlines. He looked at us and asked, "Do you live here?"..."Yes"..."How long you live here?"..."One year" replied Pae, not knowing that he would demand her working papers, immigration card, etc...which he did.Haha, so he would certainly see that she has only really been in country about 5 or 6 months so far. He carefully and at some length examined her immigration and employment documents and then said, "Okay, One dinar". HUH??? ONE DINAR??? Hahaha. Not complaining Pae handed the man the equivalent of a buck forty or 45 Thai Baht before he changed his mind. He looked up at me and smiled, "For you, 33 dinar" haha, I just laughed and took half of the 66 dinar that I had been prepared to pay for both of our entry fees and handed it to him. So we started out our adventure by saving 32 dinar. Not bad, those 32 dinar would come in handy later!We began walking to the entrance of Petra called the Siq or The Shaft which is a crevice or crack between the towering rocks that form a pathway to the lost city of Petra. There is about a one kilometer walk from the ticket gate to the Siq. I had noticed at the ticket counter that the ticket price includes a horse ride to the entrance of the Siq. Some dude, in his eyeliner, mascara and Bedouin robes offered us to ride horses so we tossed Pae up on one, her first horse ride, and I walked.The guy refused to take 1.5 dinar as a tip asking for 5 instead...we told him we would not be able to eat if we tipped 5 and that we already payed 33 to enter. He gave us the biggest "you're so cheap" crusty.Finally I gave him one dinar, one dollar and 50 fils (half dinar). After you get used to the pressure of these people trying to make you feel guilty for not giving them more money, it is actually kinda fun to negotiate tips with them. In the end they smile and go look for someone else to try to squeeze more out of.We entered the Siq. We had seen photos online but were not expecting it to be so long, so orange, red, pink. I wasn't expecting to be as amazed as I was at the patterns and layers of sediment that could be seen from the base to the hundred-meter high sedimentary rock walls of the Siq.We weren't expecting the echo of horses hooves cloppety clopping on the cobblestone. We weren't expecting the chilly breeze blowing through the over one kilometer "shaft".We weren't expecting the amazing contrast between the bright blue sky and Petra's "rose-red" walls. It was beautiful and I commented to Pae that if we turned around and left after only seeing the Siq that it would be worth the time and money. Beautiful.The Siq opened up in to a larger cavern where, carved into the towering sandstone wall is Al Khazneh which is better know to tourists as "The Treasury". This has become the poster monument in Petra, considered one of the new seven wonders of the world. Seeing the workmanship of the carvings, it's sheer size and it's beauty, it definitely lived up to the label of a "wonder".We soaked up the site and tried to get some pictures that didn't have too many other people in it, and also tried to get one or two photos with both of us together.A nice man took a decent one for us, so we were happy. From the Treasury, we slowly made our way further into the unknown...to be continued!!

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