Pacing through Petra

22.8.16


My excitement for my Jordanian getaway peeked when I entered Petra. Don't get me wrong, the first day in Amman was great. I enjoy Greek and Roman ruins and basic architecture, and Jerash had plenty to keep me occupied, still there's nothing like actually visiting an ancient city which is not only one of the new 7 wonders of the world, but also a city that's not fully discovered and is an archaeological destination as about more than 80% of the city is still to be uncovered. It doesn't get any exciting than that! The city after all is referred to as/a Lost City, since it was rediscovered just a few centuries ago. Of course the thought that one might stumble onto something and may actually unearth something new from the ancient civilization that once lived there, is somewhat thrilling, even though it's unlikely. Still, a girl can dream!


cooking at PETRA kitchen

 

One activity I was pretty offhand about was the cooking session, which was the first thing we were to experience on our arrival at Petra, where guests not only consume but also prepare their own 3 course meal. It's not that I cannot cook, I can to an extent and I survived a year abroad in Italy, it's just that I choose not to cook but prefer devouring instead. But this was a group activity and seemed like it would be fun. And it sure was. I ended up with my hands in most dishes and helped prepare most of them.  

Our menu consisted of a soup, three cold mezzes and two cold mezzes and finally the main course. I fought between the urge to snapchat and click images but eventually lost to the lentil soup that needed stirring, after the head chef pulled me forward to stir. After that, I was involved in mixing vegetables, rolling out and shaping the dough into tiny discs for the thyme and cheese pastries as well as stabbing the tiny discs with a fork before adding the toppings. It does feel nice to cook your own food every once in a while.
Almost half of our group was vegetarian, and the chefs at Petra kitchen was prepared for that. Since the main course was a chicken dish, there was also an aubergine version for the others. It's advisable to call ahead and inform the staff regarding the same. Be informed that this is not a cooking class, but an activity. You won't be cutting or marinating or doing any prep work, but mixing and cooking items that have already been chopped to perfection. You'll also be subjected to a small commentary on each dish you're helping prepare. Like did you know that "baba ganuj" literally translated to coy daddy or as our chef called it sugar daddy? Of course if you're looking to amp up your Jordanian cuisine skills, Petra Kitchen does offer a 5 night cuisine class which includes shopping expeditions with the chefs to local markets. How enticing does that sound?

Petra Kitchen is definitely worth a visit. For inquiries, reservations and other information, visit their website


VISIT TO LITTLE PETRA (SIQ AL-BARID)

In between our amazing lunch at Petra Kitchen and our scheduled Petra by Night tour, we had an entire evening to kill. A visit to Little Petra was the perfect fit and kept us occupied. As the name suggests, it's a mini version of Petra and can be covered in under 2 hours. It's not as amazing as Petra is, but is worth a visit.

Little Petra, also known as the cold canyon as the sun barely touches the place, is laden with a number of rock cut stairs, a temple and a few other rock cut homes and a very clear picture of a few ancient Nabatean art remains on a few ceiling and walls. Also, at the end of the canyon, you will come across a set a rock carved stairs (if you can even call them that) with a hand written "the best view in the world". When I read that sign, I made up my mind. I was going to climb this thing that resembled stairs and feast on the best view in the world which I assumed was a panoramic view of the mountains. It probably was not a good idea for anyone wearing a maxi dress and carrying a DSLR to take on a task such as this one unfolded to be. I soon realized this just before I got to the half way mark. I would have to get on my knees and climb a few of the larger blocks to reach that view. Still, getting up there seemed like no problem to me, I have trekked in the past, but it was the return trip and the coming back down that posed a challenge. I quickly weighed my options and had to abandon my mission. The sun was setting and I barely had 10 minutes to get out of the 400 meter long canyon and back on to the bus, or else I would be left behind at Little Petra! So goodbye "the best view in the world".

On a plus side, during the winding road from Little Petra back to Petra Guesthouse (where we stayed) we witnessed a lovely sunset.


PETRA BY NIGHT

Finally after some time to freshen up and a few packed shwaramas later, we were gathered at the gate leading to Petra where we waited to get in. We were the first in line since our hotel was literally right next to the entrance. While some members of my group finished off their packed shwaramas before lining up at the gate, I stuffed two into my bag (for later) as I thought it would be nicer to star gaze and also have the Treasury as my view while I eat mine.

The walk from the entrance to the Treasury (around 3.5 km) is lit with little lamps and it's quite dark. You won't get time to adjust to the darkness as you will be walking continuously without breaks or rests (unless you want to forgo a nice front seat once you arrive at the Treasury). So a little stumbling is in order. I'd recommend a low power flashlight if the darkness makes you queasy. The ground is smooth in some places, rocky in few and muddy in a few others and there are a few slopes as well. The saving grace is the cool weather and the ambiance.

Of course then there's that moment where the canyon narrows for a few feet and suddenly opens up directly in front of the Treasury and your eyes are blessed with the sight of around 1500 paper lamps. That moment is just amazing. Of course it can't easily be photographed (believe me, I tried) unless you have a tripod and great exposure settings. I was too fixated on snagging a front row seat to the show and so I seated myself on one of the mats that were laid out for us. We were handed steaming cups of local tea while we waited for the show to begin. I made cat friends there, who were a little too friendly and flocked around me. Just when I prided myself into thinking cats can sense "cat ladies" I realized the cats were taking turns, sneaking their heads into my backpack to grab my shwaramas! They didn't get to them yet, but they tried! I didn't have the heart to shoo them off, so I sat with my bag on my lap and played with them instead and tried to get a few pictures of them too.

The show was pleasant. You cannot go wrong with live Bedouin music, hot tea, a UNESCO heritage sight and one of the 7 wonders of the world! Of course you can't expect to come here and witness a laser light show that is synced with the live music. The lights are pretty homespun and change colours at intervals from red to blue to pink and purple. That's all really. It's advisable to experience Petra by Night before you visit during day time. It makes a big difference and builds up to the moment. The entire experience is around 2 hours long and once the show is over, you have a short while to get pictures and are then ushered outside the city.

Our group took our time, as most of us wanted pictures and we exited with the guards and the employees as they were extinguishing the lamps. Since it was too early to retire to our respective rooms, we spent a good amount of time at the bar in Petra Guesthouse, having a few drinks and a few pots of hookah. It certainly was a really great day.

Petra by Night is available three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) and the gate opens at 8:30 pm. The ticket price is JD 17 and can be purchased online, at local tour agencies and hotels and of course the gate itself. 


WALKING THROUGH THE ROSE CITY OF PETRA

Remember how I mentioned that it's advisable to visit Petra by night and then the day? We started off earlier in the morning, around 7ish, with an aim to finish the hike till the Monastery and get back by 12 so that we could get fresh, check out and depart. Since the weather at 7 was slightly cool, we had a great start. And then it started to get hot. And tiring. I anticipated the heat and wore a maxi dress to keep cool and carried a kimono wrap to protect myself from the sun. Of course those again didn't turn out to be great walking/hiking garb. It's hard to keep a steady pace when your dress keeps getting caught in between your legs! So I was slowed down.

I was again at awe at the vastness of the canyon. It was also very nice to actually see what we walked through the previous night and not feel like a blind bat. The contrast between the glowing rocks and the blue skies was fantastic; I couldn't stop taking pictures and snapchatting. Again, the tiny sliver of view of the Treasury was rewarding, even without the ambient lighting. This I managed to get a picture of. But there was no time to stop as we were on a mission to make it to the Monastery. 

After passing through the various tombs and street facades the Roman theater, the Royal tombs and even one wrong detour, we finally got to the last hurdle that stood between us and the Monastery, An ascend of around 850 stone carved steps. Soon I was separated from my group; I could not keep up in my wrong choice of clothing. Neither was I feeling too great to climb. On my second rest, I came across a friendly dog. Soon I conveniently decided to skip the end and find a nice shady place with a view. The dog kept me company and shared my shwarama from the previous night (sorry cats!)
Sure I could have hopped on to a camel or a donkey and completed my climb to view the Monastery, but I was happy to take a long breather. 

The walk back to the hotel was even more exhausting. The sun has peaked and I was sweating bucket loads. Even my hat seemed useless. I managed to find a huge bottle of Gatorade at a store somewhere in between and sipped for energy. A lot of short stops later; I was finally back at my hotel and in the shower, just before check out. 



So to summarize my experience in Petra; it was quite face paced. From walking through the city at night and even during the day; everything seemed worth it. You can feel the history around you. The Bedouin people who still reside around are pleasant and people and very forthcoming. In fact I would suggest going with a few treats like candies or lollipops for the kids there. 

So would I do this again? Absolutely! This time I would wear pants, make it all the way to the Monastery and reserve more time to experience this again. 


A photo posted by Auditya Venkatesh (@audiphotography) on

All images taken by Roxanne D'souza
All instagram images featured here belong to their respective owners.

The trip to Jordan was in partnership with and sponsored by the Jordan Tourism BoardThink Strawberries and Air Arabia

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