Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Petra - The Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time

Old Cars - Rallye Med

When we got to the hotel last night I noticed these classic cars parked at the front.  They all had maps on their doors, and numbers on them as well.  It turns out that 20 cars are driving around the Med.  It is taking them 2 months.  Here are a some shots of the cars.  I will confess to a weakness for classic automobiles.  So, here is a vintage Jaguar.
And an Austin Martin.
You can get a better look at the map of where they are going (the yellow).  You will note that they skipped Algeria.  They followed the coast road across the top of Africa.  Here is another shot, with Bruce talking to one of the people.
As you can see, they were all loading up to leave.  They were heading for Amman.


After a lecture on the history of Petra, we began our long day exploring the site.  You enter Petra through the Siq, or Gorge.  A fair bit of this has been excavated down to the original paving stones - the entire way was paved originally.  This was once a trading center, linking China in the East to Rome in the West. When Rome conquered the city in 106, the trade was diverted and the city declined.

As we walked down the Siq we noticed channels cut into the rock on either side for water.  The Nabateans were very good at water control and management.  The Siq is deadly without such measures if there is a flash flood.  You can see the channel, uncovered now, in the left hand wall.
Of course the classic view that we all remember from the Indiana Jones movie - exiting the Siq and seeing the Treasury.  It is not a treasury, it is a tomb.
As you can see, this is quite a popular tourist destination.  This area has not been excavated down to the original level.  There is at least one more level of this facade that goes down, so there is something like 7 meters of sand that has been compacted that needs to be removed. The architectural style has elements of Syrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman styles.  They carved from the top down.  The indentations to either side of the facade were used for the scaffolding.  Here is a picture of the upper portion of the facade.  The figures to either side of the center are Amazons.
And, of course, there are cats in Petra.
We also saw (and played with) several ginger kittens, who wouldn't stay still for photos.

The rock is sandstone and comes in wide array of beautiful colors.  The irony is that the Nabateans plastered over their facades - much as the Greeks and Romans painted their statues and buildings.  Here is an example of the beautiful rock.
For our first day in Petra we walked down to the Old City, ate lunch and then went up the climb to El Deir, or the Monastery.  Of course, it is not a Monastery, it is a tomb.  The climb was not easy, but it was well worth it.
We then continued on up to the viewpoint.  It was hazy, and a bit windy up there, but it did give a great look back at the way we had come.
Of course, now we had to walk back.  It was a 4 km walk just to get to the Old City, and then we climbed, and climbed and climbed.  It was a long walk back, but by then it was late afternoon, and much of the tourist crowd had gone.  As we walked back through the Siq you could really see the Rose Red in the rock.  It simply glowed.  Once we got out of the Siq proper, there was still quite a walk (all uphill) back to the visitor center.  I will confess that we wimped out and took a carriage the last bit.  It was a pretty bumpy ride, but better than walking.  Tomorrow we are planning an easier day of it, just the walk down to the Old City, and some exploration of the sites that we didn't check out today.

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