My eyes are in overload, my lungs are strained and my nostrils are comprehensively disgusted.

There’s fresh dung splattered on my pathway in Petra and the acrid stench is impossible to ignore.

Nothing, however, will stop me from climbing up through this ancient stone city of Jordan. I am on a mission to see all I can in one day.

Labouring in the wake of the Bedouins’ beasts of burden is not recommended, but their very hard working donkeys, mules, horses and camels are high in number.

I can’t help but wonder what foul evil they are fed. It cannot be grass. Unsurprisingly, I am later told their diet is not pure vegetation.

The delights, or otherwise, of dung are part of Petra’s charm. It is a 2,200 year old wonder staffed by old school people needing tourist dollars to survive.

For some tourists Petra is all about Hollywood’s “Last Crusade”.

Jordan’s top attraction did feature prominently in the third (and should have been last) Indiana Jones film, but the long gone city is much more than that.

It is a desert wonderland full of palaces, temples and tombs carved and smoothed from multi-coloured, sandy cliffs.
Over its dry expanse, there are secret caves, carved tributes and mounds of collapsed structures. Tackle the well worn staircases and there are vistas of volcanic valleys.

People talk in hushed tones in the 1.2 kilometre long narrow gorge known as The Siq. The walls amplify sound.

Savvy visitors listen for the clacks of Bedouin horse hooves and press against the rock wall just as the sound becomes thunderous.

Just when you think The Siq has no end, it reveals its prize: the tomb known as The Treasury. Also called Al-Khazneh, it is the Indiana Jones star location and Petra’s crown jewel.

Morning light amplifies its beauty. It is a Nabataean King’s place of rest where an Egyptian Pharaoh is whispered to have hidden a treasure.

Petra was built by the Nabataeans in around the third century BC as their capital city and place to do trade.

It was abandoned centuries later after a series of large quakes and left to a dark corner of history until its rediscovery in 1812.

The fortress city is now a UNESCO world heritage site and the number one reason that hundreds of thousand of people visit Jordan. Well, it got me in.

It is the dimensions and intricacy of the monuments that drops the jaw.

Like the giant moai of Easter Island, it is a marvel that they were carved and sculpted all those years ago. Again like the moai, the features are eroding away.

The sand is returning to the desert floor.

The busy, dusty space in front of The Treasury is hawker central.

There are almost as many people trying to part tourists from their Dinars as visitors themselves. Here tourist police monitor trade and have tea in the nearby cafe.

You can tell they have a steady relationship with the postcard, jewellery sellers. I spotted the nondescript man directing the younger hawkers how to approach tourists. He easily blended into the background as he urged them back into the fray.

Desert cats and dogs wandered idly around in the heat and lay sleepily on cafe tables.

Camels festooned with ornamental saddles pose for photos in front of The Treasury while their young masters wait for passengers. There was a soon to be familiar exchange; ” Want a ride miss?” No, “Why not?” I am happy.

No vantage point was complete without a Bedouin jewellery stand. I found this one without a human attendant at a particularly high lookout.

There had been a dozen or so similar stands on the way up to this point. The business of tourism wears you down.

What talk of desert dung would be complete without a dung beetle?

I found this one mid dung roll. These creatures have plenty of material to work with.

My water supply was good and it was not the height of summer, but Petra was still hard going.

I took my time and went off the well beaten tracks. I climbed for views and entered dark tombs.

It was impossible to be truly alone. Petra is Bedouin land and the people sleep up in lofty caves where it is cool at night. Boys roamed around laughing, looking for attention.

There are 800 steep steps to see the Ad-Deir Monastery monument.

This is where the path gets rough for tourists and donkeys. Both strain on the way up. You can see it in the puffed faces of the humans and the grim backsides of the asses.

Animals rights groups have complained about the treatment of the animals. I did not hire one, but I watched as quite a few people did.

The creatures would do the up and down journey many times with people of varying weights. Hesitation was not rewarded.

It is a harsh life living on the whims of tourists.

I saw a whole family in a cave not far from the main track. A western woman had stopped and gone over to cave’s entrance and started waving repeatedly without speaking. I heard the man of the family call out “What? What do you want?”

I sat with a lovely Bedouin man who’s offered me tea and welcomed time out of the sun. As a Bedouin he can not travel far as his people are usually refused visas. He had a few happy jokes and a better then average attempt at the Australian accent.

After five hours on the move, I pushed on to the top of Petra’s world to see The Monastery. While The Treasury featured in an Indiana Jones film, the Monastery was in a Transformers flick.

I barely saw the monument as I came around the last corner. I’d seen the cafe first and headed there like an arrow in search of hydration.

The cafe had a graffiti marked cave with cushions, artefacts and equally weary and dusty wanderers.

People looked sympathetically at each other while contemplating the walk back to Petra’s front gate.

The King of Jordan was there.. well sort of. So I sat under him and had the best mint tea of my life..

This was followed hours later in my hotel by the best bath in my life..

But before I go.. here’s a handy use of a cave as a Petra garage by the local people. You can see there is room for one more car.

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Comments

8 Comments

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  1. April 11, 2012

    What a trip you’re having. I’ve been enjoying every step through your photos, but this Petra blog, um, something extra special.

  2. Murray #
    April 11, 2012

    Loving the story Karen.

  3. Oksana Rall photography #
    April 13, 2012

    Very nice post and photos. Much more interesting through somebody`s eyes and thoughts.

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