The day began very early with having to go to the bus station early to catch the 6 am bus down to Petra. It was easy to wake up because I’d just been woken up by the prayer call at 4am :) Walking into the bus station I got my ticket and sat. While sitting, in came Deborah, the archeologist I had just met at the Dead Sea the day prior. I then got in board, and in the seat next to me sat down a woman and behind us, her two daughters. The woman looked local, but not. She was shorter, in her 50s, with curly brown hair, but not too curly, cropped near her neck. She had glasses and a sweet grandma like face that smiled at me when she sat. Her daughters spoke with a North American accent and they were talking about the border crossing into Israel. My ears perked up to hear their story as I’ll be trying out the border crossing in the next couple of days. Just after that, the woman sitting next to me and turned to begin a conversation. She had brought her daughters to visit her mother in Palestine for the first time.
Throughout our conversation, I learned that she was a Fulbright scholar who had left there to go to the US and study. She’s a scientist working with biomedical type things. She detailed about her childhood how they would play in Jerusalem, and now things have gotten so bad for them that it’s like a prison within each city. She feels like it’s gotten so much worse that she’s thankful she was able to leave when she had the opportunity so her children wouldn’t grow up in that type of environment. She continued to talk about her life as she met her Moroccan husband, worked in Saudi Arabia for 2 years as a woman, and the challenges that that presented. Simple things such as her being chased and harassed by men because she had a little piece of hair coming out of her hijab (head covering).
She applied for a green card in the US after her studies because she had a relative that already lived in the states, in Tennessee funnily enough. She said that since they never came back with information on her green card, that she had to end up somewhere, and there was an opportunity to become a resident of Canada, so her and her husband chose there to start their family. Fast forward 20 years, and she now has a US greencard that finally was approved just 15 years after her application. It was incredible to think that they even process an application that old, because obviously, you would have to decide to create a life somewhere else. I really enjoyed speaking with her, learning more about Palestine, the environment that lies just over the river, and am even more interested in visiting to see for myself what life is like there. It was a great way to pass the 4 hour ride down to Petra, and I’m lucky she sat next to me so she could share.
Once I arrived, I checked into the hotel which was perfectly located at the main gate of Petra. The reviews were right when they said you couldn’t be any closer. So I dropped my stuff, had a quick lunch, and headed into the park for my first experience of visiting Petra. On my way down the hill I met an American couple that had quit their jobs and were traveling around the world for an indefinite time. They were from Oklahoma, and really nice letting me know their thoughts of Petra thusfar. I decided to go against the recommendation for my first day which was to not try to go all the way to the monastery, but I decided since I didn’t have a full day, I should go ahead and see the monastery, so I could focus on the other places for the full day tomorrow. I’m glad I did.
Going through the park was really tiring, as you head down the paths in between huge beautiful rock creations that are painted red, maroon, rust, all in stripes showing their ages and wear. The views were beautiful, and sounds of horse shoes hitting the rock floor as carriages flew by haphazardly speeding with usually heavyset tourists who couldn’t make the walk themselves. The end of the path brings you to the grand entrance, the treasury, and this is a sight to behold. It peeks through the curved walls of the towering rocks where you catch a glimpse, you are stunned by it’s smooth immaculate beauty of craftsmanship. What’s even more amazing, is that it was carved completely from the rock on the hillside, from the top down. The amount of mathematics, precision, architecture and design that went into this structure was awe inspinring, and was a beautiful experience.
I then continued down the path through various structures of tombs, wall carvings and the like, and hiked all the way to the Monastery which offered yet another beautiful view of these amazing structures. The view from the top of the mountain overlooking the Monastery was incredible, and though it was a strenuous hike for about 3 hours, I’m glad I went all the way. I decided to ride a camel back which was fun, and very tourist-like, but fun none the less. After my ride back up to the Treasury for just $5JD, I was relieved to be heading back to the hotel to shower and get some food for the night. I slept like a ton of bricks in a fabulous, clean, soft bed that night.
The next morning, I had a great breakfast at the hotel and started my day off with a full belly and went down to do round two. This time, I wanted to do the ‘Indiana Jones’ trail which takes you above the valley by hiking on the mountains by horseback. After settling on a deal from the horse guys, I was set off with a guide, which turned out to be horrible, to go along the trails at the top of the mountains. This is when traveling alone can become frustrating, because despite his inability to communicate in English, he knew the words for pay me big tip, it’s hot, no water, I need big tip. This is the fastest way to not get a tip, and after about an hour of his babbling