Petra

The ancient city of Petra is one of the main tourist attractions of Jordan.

Todd and Chad and I set off one afternoon and after a 3-hour drive south from Amman we arrived at the modern town of Petra. We checked into a hotel, ate supper at a restaurant called the Red Cave, and then went for a Turkish bath.

This is, of course, not a tub bath but a steam bath, with steam so dense you cannot really see the other people near you, and you have to be led into the room by the hand of an attendant. (In case anyone is interested, when men are in the bath, the attendants are males. And the bathers wear lightweight, colorful towels around the waist.)

The bath actually had two rooms. The inner room was hotter than the outer one, and the steam was so hot and dense, and breathing was so hard, that I soon left the inner room to sit in the outer room.

After a half hour of this, the attendant came and led me into still a third steam room and had me lie down on a marble slab for a 20-minute, vigorous massage that occasionally bordered on too rough but overall was totally delightful, aromatic and relaxing. Then I was led back to the first steam room, where I continued to relax and perspire while my two friends received their massages.

Afterwards, dressed in street clothes again, we sat in the lobby of the bath establishment, sipping tea and having far-ranging conversation with the two men who had attended us in the bath.

Next morning, off to begin our hike down a ravine to old Petra, a city carved out of solid rock in a valley accessible only by this narrow pass through towering cliffs.

This remarkable city was built by the Nabateans, a gifted people of ancient Arab tribes. They constructed the city about 100 BC and made it their capital. It was annexed by the Romans in 106 AD.

Later it was abandoned, and after the 14th Century it was completely lost to the West, until a Swiss traveler, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, rediscovered it in 1812.

Petra is now known as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Back to the journey, after a half hour of walking you come to the Treasury, the most famous and perhaps best preserved building of the settlement.

My little friend, British Bear, travels with me everywhere and, having a keen sense of historical appreciation, he makes his way into key scenes, as you see in the above photo.

Other scenes…

When the Romans controlled Petra, they built a major avenue with pillars, shops and temples. Parts of these features remain today.

It takes another half hour to walk the entire length of the valley-city. At the far end of the valley, you may, if you wish, climb 800 steps cut into the steep rock mountains to reach a building called the Monastery. We so wished, and we so climbed.

Evidently this building never actually served as a monastery, but was used as a Christian church or chapel in the Byzantine period.

The climb up to the Monastery was more challenging than we expected. Our advice to future travelers is to pay the money to ride up on a donkey. In our opinion, the exhausting climb on foot does not add anything positive to the Petra experience!

From that mountain top we jarred our way down again, then walked up through the valley-city again, looking again at the impressive tombs of ancient wealthy people.

Then up through the narrow ravine again, which widens at a few places.

We returned to the modern city four and a half hours after we started this trek, grateful at having visited this astounding marvel of the secluded rose-red city (as you have seen, much of the rock is rose-colored) but also glad not to have to walk another step.

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