We drove through the Jordan River Valley on a slow, single-lane road for an hour or so before coming into Amman. The drive to Petra took an additional five hours; the darkness hid its secret for one more day. We stayed in a beautiful hotel, and enjoyed the local food and wine in a setting straight out of Arabian nights.
Due to the early cold weather, my daughter and I waited until 9 am to visit the ancient site of Petra, which spans more than 100 kilometers and was shockingly reminiscent of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.
The city, carved intricately into the rocks, is over 2000 years old, has been lived in or visited throughout the centuries by Bedouins, Romans, and the Crusaders.
After a short ride on horses we walked through the Siq, the official entrance into Petra, and immediately were awed by the Khazneh, or the Treasury, a 40 meter high elaborately carved façade over a huge simple cave. The pink hue was overwhelming and soon we were seeing browns and blues as well. This site was popularized in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
It is believed that while this city’s largest temples and impressive fronts were built as tombs, there were as many as 30,000 people living here in the first century A.D.
After exploring the valley of this canyon we decided to hike to the High Place of the Sacrifice, an arduous trek. We were greeted at the top by two local Bedouin women who were impressed with our grit. They were trying to capitalize on the meager tourism industry and offered to sell us some small pieces of the local rocks. In turn they pointed out the Tomb of Aaron, Moses’ son, showed us the site of the sacrifice, and recommended an alternate route back down.
WARNING: GO NO FURTHER WITHOUT A GUIDE
This posted sign almost deterred us. Soon enough though, we regretted our decision as we found ourselves up on a very steep rock face with no apparent way down. My daughter spied some steps on the other side of this expanse that looked like a giant pregnant woman’s stomach. Without any discussion she scampered over the upper portion of the stone belly and then looked at me to follow.
Unfortunately, I glanced down first AND there was no ledge, only a 100 foot drop!
Panic set in and with each heavy beat of my heart I slowly slipped over the bulge. My legs started to shake and I envisioned one of these tombs becoming my own. Thankfully, my daughter understood my dilemma and calmly talked me through this attack of nerves.
Once I alit on the other side I blurted out that I had literally been “petra-fied”. My elation at survival added even more sunshine, color, and beauty to our surroundings.