One of the highlights of our grand journey was Petra. The whole place is a masterpiece and I think you could honestly spend a week exploring it. The people who carved all these things out of the rock, the Nabateans, used scaffolds to hoist themselves up there and then they tapped at the rock until it turned into a masterpiece.
Petra is located in Jordan and the Jordanians rely on it to bring a steady stream of wealthy tourists into their country. They have excavated about 5% of the underground city in about 10 years, which indicates that either the underground city is gigantic or they need to step it up a notch. If the outside is any indication, the inner city must be incredible and I, for one, am anxious to see it.
When you visit there you think you must have stepped into another dimension. There are horses, mules, and camels everywhere and there are young children strolling up and down the roads offering to sell you rocks (“Just one American dollar!”).
The primary reason for having so many animals there is to give people a ride back up to the parking lot after they’ve trekked down to see the city. The first half of Petra that you see is the Necropolis and was built exclusively to house the remains of dead people. You have to hike for about an hour to even reach the part where people actually lived. By the time most people make it to the living part of the city they’re exhausted and appreciate the help getting back to their buses.
The picture you see above was taken in front of The Monastery. To reach it, you have to climb up a huge flight of carved stone stairs. This looks easier than it is. Wes and I were running short on time but saw people hiking up and thought we’d try too. The funny thing was, I had no idea what we were climbed toward. I kept going up and up these stairs until finally I said to Wes, “What are we even doing?!” You see, I am not an athlete and as such do not willingly consent to get sweaty unless it’s for a good reason. He, along with many others, assured me that there was something really cool at the top so on we went even though our legs were shaking and our hearts were beating too fast.
These stairs look a lot prettier when you haven’t climbed a trillion of them. As we went, we passed a number of bedouin women selling trinkets on the side of the trail. Passing us on either side were boys leading mules up the stairs. These mules carried the tourists who were either too tired or smart to try climbing the stairs on their own.
One of the mules was led by a little girl who stopped her mule next to us and started talking to Wes in Arabic and gesturing at the ground. He saw that she’d dropped her riding stick and picked it up for her. She responded with huge smile and said to us, “Shukrrrran” (Thank you in Arabic) with the most extravagantly rolled r I’ve heard. It was beyond cute and for some reason that’s stuck with me almost more than the pain from the climb.
When we got to the top, we barely had time to take a picture before we had to run down the mountain again. We did, however, meet a guy from Iraq who was really nice. He snapped the picture you see above and asked me to take a photo of him with Wes. When he told us he was from Iraq he looked a little nervous, like we might try to push him off the mountain or something, but we were all on our good manners and everything turned out fine. Somewhere in the world, there’s a picture of Wes standing with some random dude in the middle of Petra and this makes me smile.