So, some history (courtesy of Wikipedia... to be taken with a grain of salt, of course): Petra is an ancient city established around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean people, but evidence shows that the area has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years. Ooold. It was a major city with people coming from all over to trade in frankincense, myrrh and spices - just like the wise men! The buildings and tombs left standing are all cut into the huge red rocks, which helped to preserve them. It was eventually taken over by the Romans sometime in the 2nd century, and started to decline pretty swiftly from there. The world outside the Middle East knew nothing of Petra until 1812 when a Swiss explorer bribed some guides to disguise him as an Arab and take him in. His notes and sketches caused it to blow up as a tourist destination. Now known as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it's also Jordan's most famous attraction. And it's ridiculously expensive to get in. It costs 33 JD ($46) per person for non-Jordanian visitors. And that's only if you are staying in Amman. If you come from Israel or a cruise ship for the day to visit, it's 55 JD. Oh, but don't worry... included in your ticket price is a "free" horse ride to the start point, which is 2 km from the ticket booth. I say free, but of course you have to tip.
Me on the horse. This is the best picture Matt got. No one said he was a good photographer.
As amazing as this place is, no historical site is worth $50 for one day. That's just gouging. They're raising the prices in a couple months though, so I guess we were lucky to go when we did.
Walk through the Siq
Anyway, after the horse ride, you start out walking through the Siq, (a long gorge) sometimes on the original stone road. Along the way are lots of carvings of deities and such in the red sandstone cliffs, and two rock-carved irrigation channels run on both sides. There's even a camel caravan carving meant to represent all the people coming from afar to visit... although you have to use your imagination and get pretty creative to see it.
The lead camel herder's feet are still visible.
The walk through the Siq culminates in a view of the Treasury, probably the most impressive sight in the whole place. It's topped with a funerary urn, the legendary hiding place of a pharaoh's treasure. The Treasury's original function is a mystery, but it's believed to be the mausoleum of the Nabataean king Aretas IV. Or so says my brochure.
First view of the Treasury through the rock walls.
The Treasury. It's surrounded by rock cliffs, which must be why it looks so good.
From the Treasury, you walk out in the open to see tons of ancient tombs, from the ones for royalty to ones for regular folks like you and me. They are all pretty impressive. There is also a "shopping street" that would have been lined with columns, but most were destroyed in an earthquake in the 4th century.
Me in front of the Queen's tomb.
The Palace Monument and the Corinthian tomb. Two of the Royal tombs.
Camels and the Royal tombs in the background. You could pay for camels or donkeys to take you around, or even horse drawn carriages. We decided not to spend any more money as we were still in sticker shock over the price of the tickets.
There were a bunch of other things to see as well, but I feel I should leave some things for you all to discover when you visit Petra. I don't want to spoil everything. All in all, it took us about 5 hours to see it, and we even skipped some of the farther sights. Combined with our 8 hour round trip from Amman, it made for a pretty long day. It was pretty amazing, though.
Anyway, I think I spoke too soon when I posted that we weren't going to Finland. Let me clear this up: we ARE in fact, going to Finland. We'll be leaving from here... sometime... and getting to Helsinki for Matt to start the startup... sometime. One of his co-workers already did the loading, so it shouldn't take too long. Mary, (another roadwife... surely you've heard of her. Who hasn't?) has been to Helsinki before when her husband did a job there almost exactly 2 years ago. Funny how these jobs keep popping back up. Anyway, she said it's a nice city and there is plenty of shopping and lots of sights to keep me busy. So now I'm excited, which probably means they'll cancel it and we won't go. See, I'm learning to play the game.