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Let's take a stroll through Petra. No need to worry about the heat, walking for too long, wondering whether you can keep your balance on a donkey. Just click your way through the scenery and believe that you're there! (And, the bathrooms are as good as you are used to at home!)
We'll begin by skipping the entrance (saved 11 JOD already!) and find ourselves walking down the trail alongside the horses. We are following the route of the stream, on our left, which would flow through the Siq itself, except that a small dam has been built to divert it.
A few caves can be seen, but the first of any note are the Djinn blocks on the right, and the Obelisk tomb across the wadi bed on the left.
At the entrance to the Siq you have to leave your horse and continue by walking. There is much to see as you walk down the slope. At the entrance look out for the remnants of an arch that would have welcomed the visitor. Due to the faulting of the area there are numerous cracks opening up to right and left. In a storm these would bring surges of water into the Siq, causing flash floods, so most of them are now dammed for your safety.
The Nabataeans finally fell to the Romans in AD 106 because the Romans cut off their water supply. You will be able to observe the effort made to trap any source of water throughout your visit to Petra. Look out for the channel on your left as you walk through the Siq. It did not merely transport water down into the city, but actually trapped water running down the cliff face. If you are abservant you may notice the sections where the channel was covered. In some places there are remnants of the clay pipe through which the water ran.
Look out for the camel train carved into the cliff on your left.
The Khazneh - "Treasury" - is the highlight of any visit to Petra, (though the longer walk always makes the Monastery more satisfying). One realizes how much lower the original bed of the stream was now that a lower level has been excavated below the stairs up to the imposing Treasury doorway. Now a whole deeper layer has been excavated below the bottom step, revealing two or three more tombs.
The Theater was built during the Roman period, and is said to have actually held water for some of the staged productions that were held there.
The 'Street of Facades,' as my guide calls it, is located beside the temple.
From the theater one can look across the front of Jebel Khutba and see the village the government built for the bedouin. The tribe that had lived in the tombs for generations were moved into this village, and depend now for their livelihood on work they can obtain in the tourist trade.
The Tomb of the Princess has one of the tallest facades. It is set back into the cliff with a stone staircase leading up to the main platform.
Over the years that I have been visiting Petra the Great Temple is for me one of the major discoveries. Its enormous expanse, the large pavement with its underground cisterns, the gigantic pillars toppled, each piece like stacked dominos. It is best viewed from across the stream, near the church or the Temple of Lions.
However much time I have available, I always want to go see the church. Directly across the valley from the Great Temple, it is close to the city walls (marked on the map). The condition of the mosaics is amazing, and I have never seen anything like the Baptistry, which you might miss if you didn't wander around every corner. I could barely be restrained form climbing down into the cistern, since the opportunity was there.
But if you visit Petra and do not take time to do the 45-minute walk up to the Monastery (no more a Monastery than the Khazneh was a Treasury!) then you are committing yourself to a return visit. You really have to walk up there. And if the magnificence of Ad Deir itself is not enough, just look at the view towards the west. Aaron's Tomb can be seen on top of the mountain, and the rugged range descending to Wadi Arabah reminds you why Petra was so difficult to conquer.
The series of tombs around the west side of Jebel Khutba are shown here. They include, (from the right), Princess Tomb, Urn Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, and Sextus Florentinus' Tomb.
After passing the Theater a path heads to the left, up the ridge, aiming for the High Place of Sacrifice. It is a steep climb, more abrupt than the Monastery, but well worth the effort (especially for you, armchair traveler!). From the High Place you can look down on the whole of Petra, in miniature.
As you reach the plateau of the summit a pair of rock-cut obelisks welcome you. These were built, as most of the rest of the monuments are, by removing rock, not by carving a stone and raising it to this position. Imagine the work necessary to remove 5 meters of the top of the mountain to expose these!
The 'pile of boulders' visible near the small dukkan was a Crusader Fort, one of a number in the area. The high place is beyond it, to the left.
After leaving the High Place, walk directly past the shop (enjoy tea if you wish) and look for a trail curving to the right after about 50 meters. This will take you down to the rest of the ruins, bringing you out behind the Roman Street and the Great Temple. There interesting ruins on this trail make the exercise worthwhile.
As the trail zig-zags down from the summit don't miss the lion carved into the rock. Those with energy may wish to climb the stairway cut into the slope beside it.
Once you reach the valley there are a number of interesting, unique, tombs. One of them, on the left, is the Soldier's tomb.
The tomb illustrated (the name escapes me, so far) has no roof, but the arc cut into the end wall suggests that it may have had a barrel-shaped wooder roof at some point. It can be found by ascending the steps cut into the cliff beside a lower, square, tomb. To the right, beside the 'barrel-roof tomb' is a square water cistern. It is possible to descend into it.
Little Petra is about 15 minutes drive from the main village. The road to the right, between the Movenpick and the Welcome Center, will take you there. You also drive through the village constructed for the tribe that was moved out of the ruins. Swing through this, first left, then at the bottom a long loop to the right. After another 5 minutes you will get to a T, where you turn left and park by the cliffs. If you walk straight through it is like a mini-siq. At the end, at the top of some steps, is an awesome view, which you can say is the real reason for the visit. Remember the children of the bedouin families. They will be friendly, and the small rocks they sell you are an important part of the family's income.
If you want the exercise, ask for one of them to guide you to the Monastery from Little Petra. For me, (not my students!), this hike was the highlight of our visit to Petra. Remember, I said "hike." Have plenty of water, time and energy, because after getting to the Monastery you will be walking out of Petra.