Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Petra: Utterly Indescribable

Stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
~ Job 37:14

The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment.
~ Job 38:14

I caught a bus at 6:30am last Monday bound for Petra. As I watched the sun rise over sandy, desert hills I was expectant about the adventures I would have and the sights I would see. But over the course of my trip, Petra exceeded my expectations far beyond what I could have imagined. I have procrastinated writing this post because I still find it difficult to put my experience to words. I want so badly to share just how amazing Petra is with all of you, but I fear I will fail miserably if I even try. I will try though! I will try to convey the awe-inspiring nature of the place through a few humble stories and novice pictures. 

Upon arrival I decided to first head to Little Petra which, as the name suggests, is a smaller park with similar rocks and carvings about 20 minutes away from the entrance to Petra. I tried to bargain for a taxi, but they all tried to rip me off. Before forking over the cash, I called Atef from the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp where I planned on staying to see if he'd be willing to drive me. Sure enough! He was more than willing to be my tour guide! The taxi drivers were not too pleased I took my business elsewhere though. 

Atef dropped me off at Little Petra and it was amazing! Little Petra has a totally different atmosphere than Petra because there aren't as many tourists, thus there aren't as many people trying to sell things to tourists. It was beautiful, peaceful, and above all it was quiet. I can't remember the last time I was in a place that quiet. I had to just stop and listen to the stillness. 

I could have stayed there all day, basking in the quiet, but I had an opposing urge to talk and whistle because the acoustics amongst the rocks were so cool! So I whistled some to myself as I walked along. 

My good buddy Atef picked me up when I was finished exploring Little Petra and then made a suggestion I couldn't pass up. He offered to take me off-roading through the desert to a particular overlook, which he promised would be spectacular. In hindsight, it may not have been too smart of me to go off-roading in the middle of nowhere with a man I had just met... but I made it out alive! No worries! We drove for a while, then got out and hiked a short ways. I huffed and puffed up the mountain, struggling to keep up with my tour guide who was 10 meters ahead of me, wearing sandals, and smoking a cigarette. haha When we reached the top, the view all around me was indeed spectacular. Pictures DO NOT capture the majestic beauty my eyes beheld.

And the story just keeps getting better! Atef and I walked back to the truck and he headed for the passenger side... he let me drive the truck back to the road! I hadn't been behind the wheel of a car since I left the U.S. It was so fun to rattle through the rocks and sand and herds of goats. Atef really knows how to show the tourists a good time. 

I made it back to the town and did a little browsing through some of the shops. There was a sweet, young Jordanian woman working in one of the shops, which is pretty unusual. I typically only encounter men in the shops, so when I'm alone I tend to keep conversations limited and short. But I got to talking with this woman and after a bit she invited me to stay for coffee. We had a lovely time talking and laughing and learning from each other. 

The next day I had the extreme privilege of meeting up with a group from my home church in Oregon! It just so happened that Athey Creek planned a trip to Israel and Jordan this year! They were only in Petra for one day, but it was a huge blessing to be able to spend time with them. I have to say it was a bit weird to be with a big group though! I'm so used to being on my own all the time! We did the main hike through the Siq (a long and narrow gorge), past the Treasury (made famous by Indiana Jones), and up 800 steps to the Monastery. 

The Treasury, peeking out through the walls of the Siq.

The Treasury and some camels!

The magnificent Monastery.
The colors of the sandstone as we walked through the Siq were exquisite. Different shades of pink, grey, and brown (a result of various minerals in the rock) change and glow depending on the light. Coming upon the Treasury for the first time, I was struck by the grandeur of the monument. And you cannot help but be completely impressed by the feat of the Nabatean people who carved the structure into the rock. The hike from the Treasury to the Monastery is arduous to say the least, but it is not without company. Bedouin men on donkeys followed us most of the way up asking if we wanted a ride to the top. Bedouin women have small shops set up along the trail, selling trinkets and jewelry, "No charge for a look." 

Reaching the Monastery was well worth the effort of 800 steps, burning muscles, and the bombardment of donkey ride offers. Once there, the whole group gathered inside the Monastery. We sang a couple worship songs and then Pastor Brett did a brief study on the biblical significance of Petra. It was awesome!

I parted ways with the Athey group that afternoon and headed to the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp for the night. I had a relaxing evening sitting around a fire, eating a delicious dinner, and drinking copious amounts of "Bedouin whiskey" also known as sweet tea. Then after an equally delicious breakfast the next morning I headed back to Petra for round two of hiking, sunshine, and people pestering me with donkey ride offers. Even after refusing, twice I was tricked by the line, "Lady, you dropped something... You're smile." Very funny. 

First, I hiked to the High Place of Sacrifice, where I was rewarded with more stunning views in all directions. It was here that I met Sami, a sweet Bedouin girl trying to sell me some necklaces. I used what little Arabic I know to ask her name and how she was doing (although I'm pretty sure she knows way more English than I know Arabic). She was beautiful. 

Sweet little Sami and her armful of necklaces.
After a quick snack break, I hiked up another mountain, Jabal Al-Kubtha. A nice Bedouin woman with a CUTE baby pointed me in the right direction. I'm telling you, it's the cute children that entice the tourists to look at the trinkets they are selling. This hike led to a spot on the mountain that overlooked the Treasury from above. Check it out! 

There was a very nice guy with a tent set up at this spot. I would argue he has the best spot in the whole place actually. He offered me some more Bedouin whiskey and I took in the view. It is here that I will pause briefly to implore all of you to be good tourists. I heard numerous stories from the kind Bedouin people I talked to about tourists who were rude and disrespectful. They also know when people feel uncomfortable out of ignorance. I know firsthand how important it is to be safe and cautious, but that doesn't have to come at the price of basic niceties. And sure, at a place like Petra a lot of people are there just trying to sell you things. However, I met some genuinely kind people who merely want to show what an amazing place it is. So the next time you find yourself hiking through Petra and you make it to the top of a mountain and a nice person invites you to sit and rest, be friendly, strike up a conversation, and take it all in. :)

Now, I could have stayed and basked in the beauty of Petra for hours more, but unfortunately I had to catch a bus. As I came down the mountain, the same woman with the CUTE baby waved to me and asked how I enjoyed the view. I had just enough time to sit and have tea with her and little Lulu. A lovely ending to my incredible trip. I made it back to the bus worn-out and dusty, but full of fresh desert air and experiences I will most certainly cherish for the rest of my life. 

There are many more stories I could tell about this trip, but I'll close with one of my favorite camel pictures. Aren't they great!? 


  1. Hooray!!!!!! Can't wait to hear more someday! Love your stories.

  2. Yes! I'm so glad you got here. Now -- Wadi Rum?

    1. As you read, I LOVED Petra!! WOW!!!! And yes, Wadi Rum and Aqaba are on my list of things to do before I leave. For sure! Prof. Dyson, I am just so glad you suggested Jordan when I was first figuring out what countries to go to. My time here so far has been incredible! Thank you!