Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jordan Jollies - Day Five

Jordan Jollies This will be our first Petra day. Because we loved the Dana Hotel so much, we had decided that we would return there in the evening. Petra is maybe a 45-minute, easy drive from Dana. In daylight we are able to see Dana properly, and it really is a fabulous little place.

Petra itself was virtually unknown to the world until it was made world-famous by the shooting there of parts of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989. It had actually been unknown to all but a few local residents until Johan Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it in 1812.

The entrance to the Petra site is actually in the town of Wadi Mousa. The site itself is meant to be free of any tourist tat - the tat, the hotels and restaurants are in the town. Fortunately there is also a digital photo shop, so BetterArf was able to get the photos off her camera chip onto a CD (miracles of modern technology).

BetterArf and Offspring, noted equestrians

You buy your tickets for Petra at the visitor's centre. I bought 2-day passes, 25 JD each for the grownups and 13 JD for Offspring with his magic student card. From the visitor's centre it's a couple of kilometers to the entrance to the Siq. The Siq is a narrow canyon, possibly one kilometer long, that leads into Petra itself.

First glimpse of The Treasury from The Siq There are dozens of people offering the use of horses, mules and pony-and-traps to get down to the Siq. We opted for horses at 2JDs a head, and then continued down the Siq on foot. The Siq was just amazing. Bizarre rock formations, different coloured rock strata, impossible structures. Probably worth the entrance fee just to see this. But at the end of it, at right angles to the Siq and directly facing you, is The Treasury. A complete building facade carved out of the red rock of the mountainside. At this point we were assaulted by assorted bedu kids who all wanted us to buy things (it was only later that we found that these bedu actually live inside Petra).
We mooched around for a bit, and then one of our party (certainly not me) decided it would be a laugh to climb the 800 steps to the The High Place of Sacrifice. I don't know exactly how high this is, but I was certainly glad to find an old geezer selling water when I got to the top. It was possible to get on a donkey to take you up there, but I felt that that would be cheating. The High Place of Sacrifice, by the way, is a bit of a temple where they used to, you know, sacrifice things.

The walk down is obviously much easier than the stagger up, and we amused ourselves by telling folks on the way up that there was nothing at the top or that it was closed.
The Treasury

A hard day at work for the cops of Petra

We mooched around the valley some more, and explored the Amphitheatre. Offspring was walking along what would have been the front of the stage when a five-year-old kid started trying to climb up behind him. Being a kind-hearted soul, Offspring pulled the kid up, at which point he tried to sell Offspring some postcards. I was sitting a few rows up in the amphitheatre when the kid spotted me. He ran over, climbed the tiers with ease, and thrust his postcards at me. I declined to buy, at which point he adopted the time-honoured sales technique of beating me around the shins with the product. It didn't work. And honestly, I have never seen so much snot on a child in my life!

The Amphitheatre

Up to The High PlaceAfter four or five hours in Petra we were getting hungry. There was no food to be had inside the site, so we left. We were somewhat tired by this time, so when we finally staggered out of the Siq, we were definitely up for horses. Unfortunately I got a bit of a scoundrel, who wanted to torture his horse and me by making it gallop. Actually it was fun, but the horse's owner demanded more money because the horse was tired now and probably could not work for the rest of the day (yeah right). Whatever, I pay him.

Back on Wadi Mousa's main street we settled outside the SandStone Restaurant. I tried to order Mansaf, but the owner said they only did that on alternate days. Today was Maklouba day so I had a mixed grill instead. BetterArf had the maklouba and enjoyed it. I had a few beers (Philadelphia, one of the local brews) and Offspring had shisha (double-apple, of course).


We left Wadi Mousa at about 4pm, but got hideously lost after Qadisseyah and end up driving 100km trying to find the Dana Hotel! We finally got there at about 6.30. The weather in Petra had been pleasantly warm, but in Dana it was cold and blowing a gale.

One thing we had been warned about by our Jordanian friends: Jordanians are without exception 100% hopeless when it comes to putting up signs for things. In the case of Dana Village there are six signs close by (three on each side of the main road), and they are spaced maybe 100 meters apart. Unfortunately, they all direct you to the unpaved road into the quarry 4 kms away. So that's, like, a bit wrong. There is one other sign that is actually correct, but you can only see it if you are coming from the north. If you approach from the south, well, yes, you can see the sign, but only the backside of it that has no words on it. So that's how you find Dana Village.

Apart from that, I'm lovin' it! Jordan is just one of the most remarkable places I've ever been to, the people are lovely, really hospitable (plus you actually get to meet them 'cos they work in shops, hotels, drive taxis etc), the landscape and history are incredible.

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