Monday, April 2, 2012

Petra, Jordan 3/5 -3/8

After traveling through Egypt, Jordan was a walk in the park. The traffic was comparable to the USA, so we felt sufficiently safe to rent a car at the airport. We drove straight from the Amman airport to Petra enjoying Arabic techno and American pop music.

See a closer view of our interactive map.
See a closer view of our interactive map.

We stayed at Sofitel Taybet Zaman Resort, a reconstruction of a Ottoman stone village modified to be a hotel. Each room was decorated with local craft and had a unique layout. Even the walkways within the village were all different from each other.

A view of one of the resort's walkways
The entrance to our suite
Our bedroom. The hall leads down to our restroom and living room.
Delicious traditional Arabic breakfast at the resort. Hummus for breakfast.
Laure's dream come true.

The lost city of Petra is one of the new seven world wonders and Jordan's main tourist attraction. The once nomadic Nebateans created Petra as their capital around 100BCE and was a major stop along the middle east trade route. During its heyday, the city contained 30,000 people, was mentioned in the bible, and had interacted with the Roman and Greek Empire.

In 131AD Rome took control of Petra and expanded the city. Trade routes eventually shifted, two major earthquakes destroyed much of the city, and soon Petra was abandoned. Only the local Bedouin people knew of the Petra's location and kept it their secret. It wasn't until 1812 that a Swiss explorer tricked some Bedouins into showing him the city while disguised as a Muslim holy man. It was the first time since the city's fall that a westerner had seen the city. In the 1980's UNSECO oversaw the city's conservation efforts and relocated the local Bedouin people out of Petra and into a modern village. A few still remain in the ancient cliff side dwellings and some have opened their homes as tea and Turkish coffee shops to tourists.

The city of Petra is definitely no longer lost.
Enjoyed tea and coffee at the home of a Bedouin named Mofleh.
He is one of the last Petra residents.

We took our friend Thu's advice to plan for three days at Petra. Many tourists come for one day and see the two popular temples, the Treasury and the Monastery. Our three day stay allowed us to take our time exploring the ancient ruins and to hike many of the trails throughout the city. Despite the major earthquakes that struck the area, many of the buildings (tombs, the theater, and cliff houses) still stand today. You may recognize some of the sites from movies. The majority of the city is open for visitors to explore and literately climb through. We felt like kids exploring the abandoned city.

Quarup climbed in and out of the abandoned cave homes.
Rich mineral in the sandstone created amazing colors.
Lonely Planet book helped guide us through 2000 year old treks.
The Monastery (Al-Deir). We did not find any Transformers inside.
A rarely seen view of the Treasury. Well worth the long hike.
The Renaissance Tomb

On our first morning we hired a guide to show us the highlights of Petra. He advised us that restaurants within Petra were overpriced and not as delicious as food we could find in nearby town Wadi Musa. We took his advice and picked up items for picnics at a local bakery between Petra's visitor's gate and our hotel. The bakery had a nice selection of stuffed breads and the best baklava we've ever eaten.

Baklava chef Mohammed and his trays of sticky goodness.
Breakfast at a vista point above the Treasury
Picnicking at the High Place of Sacrifice (Al Madbah)

After dinner on our last evening, we went back to Petra's visitor entrance to take the Petra Night Tour. Eighteen thousand candles lighting the way from the visitor's entrance, through the Siq, and all the way to the Treasure. Once we arrived at the Treasury, we were given hot tea and listened to live Bedouin music. The experience was something special that couldn't be captured by camera - but we tried.

Here's a link to some professional pictures