10 February 2010
WHOA, Petra. WHOA.
The Great Wall of China. The Pyramids of Giza. The Taj Mahal. Petra. It is without a doubt, one of the most spectacular historic sites in the world, yet Petra doesn’t get nearly the amount of “street cred” it deserves. Nestled deep in the canyons of south central Jordan, Petra is an entire city carved into the sides of mountains. You approach through a long Siq lined on both sides by one of the world’s oldest irrigation systems. This entryway end at the Treasury, an enormous red sandstone facia carved into the face of rocks. It’s like the gorgeous architecture version of Mount Rushmore. From there you continue on down other streets and avenues lined with buildings, amphitheaters, religious facilities and the like. It’s so massive, I find it difficult to really focus my eyes on any one structure.
What makes it all the more inspiring is that there is really no other known place on earth that even remotely compares to it. I meet a slightly older couple from Utah and we end up spending the entire day together. Our paths originally cross because we are all vying to be the first people in just after 6am. We called it a tie. I think I continued my function as a tag-along because he was an archaeologist and there is no one better to explore the hidden world of Petra with than an archaeologist.
The day included a picnic lunch atop the highest peek in Petra, which houses the city’s monastery and most religious site. From there you can see into “The End of the World.” That is, according to the sign at least. More temples, more mosaics and more unbelievable facias carved into the sides of mountains. More water breaks (there is absolutely no shade AT ALL and the sun is giving us a beating). More Americans that aren’t nearly as cool as we are (obviously) and a delectable Jordanian paella to finish the day before we re-enter the park to experience Petra at Night.
It is on this tour that I realize how unbelievably incompetent human beings can be. Three rules are announced before we depart. Number One: No talking. Number Two: No pictures. Number Three: Walk Single-File. Do you think any of these high-functioning, intelligent, worldly human beings are able to follow these instructions? Absolutely not. Sadly, scared for the future of humanity, I am unable to contain my rage and become Petra’s official “traffic cop” to which I receive a less than appreciative response. But my goodness, can’t you people follow directions?