Suitcase and World: Petra - The Monastery.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Petra - The Monastery.

Today, we returned to Petra. Our destination was the Monastery - known as Ad-Deir in Arabic.

Our guide, the previous day, had suggested that we plan on returning to the Treasury around 9a to see it in the morning light. With that in mind, the group met downstairs for breakfast and headed out around 8:30 - it would take us about an hour to walk from the hotel to the Treasury.

By the time we arrived, it was around 9:30a and the Treasury had indeed taken on the red/orange light of early morning light - it was no longer red rose as we had seen it the afternoon before.

There was a lone policeman patrolling the site.

We didn't linger long at the Treasury before heading down the Street of Facades.

Lei on the Street of Facades with the Royal (Urn, Silk, Corinthian and Palace) Tombs in the background.

The Street of Facades merges into the Colonnaded Street, which led through the city centre of Petra. The Colonnaded Street was flanked by temples, public buildings and shops.

At the end of the Colonnaded Street is the Qasr al Bint, which archeologists think was the main temple of Petra. It is the only freestanding building in Petra to have survived centuries of earthquakes and floods. It also happens to be located a short distance from the mountain steps that lead up to the Monastery. I think that's the reason why the area in front of Qasr al-Bint is a popular one for the donkey vendors to be. For a few dinars, you can hire a donkey to take you up to the Monastery. Kindly waving off all the vendors, Lei and I continued on our walk.

In the hills surrounding the Colonnaded Street and Qasr al-Bint, the leaves of the black iris, Jordan's national flower, dotted the landscape. In this region, it's the species Iris Petrana that grows in the wild. It would be at least another month before the flowers would be in bloom so I could only imagine what the hills would look like dotted with the dark black/violet iris flowers in full blossom.

With no location markers to point us in the right direction, it took us a few missteps before we found the start of the path of 850 steps to the Monastery. That's right...850 steps, uphill!

Daniel and Lei watching donkeys and their riders climbing the steps. We would see a lot of the sure-footed beats and their Bedouin owners all along the way to and from the Monestary.

Steps - that's a broad definition when you talk about those that lead up to the Monastery. When you think of steps, you think of two flat levels of pavement that intersect at a 90 degree angle. There were some of those, sort of, on the way to the Monastery.

Other times, steps were just indentations carved into the rock.

I was careful where I placed my feet as I did not want to fall and further injure myself. This was particularly true when I was walking back from the Monastery! As the steps wound their way up, there were eye-catching vistas to be enjoyed.

Every now and again, we would catch a glimpse of Petra monuments from above.

View of the Royal Tombs from the path leading up to The Monastery.

The sun was drifting in and out of the clouds, creating shadows that change the color hues of the rocks. It was also getting colder and more windy as we continued our walk up.

As with the boulders that hem in as-Siq, the rocks that flank the path to the Monastery had striking colors and unusual striations. Lei and I could not resist and we both bought rock samples from a Bedouin girl and her sister.

Riders atop sure-footed donkeys would clamor up and down the hills with ease.

Every now and again, we would spot moutain goats....

being herded by Bedouin shepherds.

Bedouins also set up shop all along the path and more than once, we would be urged "look for free". The shoppers in the group could not resist the opportunity to look at all the wares that were laid out for view. What was really remarkable was that without exception, every Bedouin vendor that we came across spoke very good English - apparently, something they've picked up over the years simply conversing with tourists whom they encounter on the path. As with many Jordanians that we had met in our short time in Jordan, the Bedouins were very hospitable - often offering us a cup of tea to warm us up. We graciously declined and continued our walk.

After about 45 minutes of climbing steps that wound their way up a hill, we finally made it....the Monastery.

The Monastery is Petra's second most famed attraction.

Huge in size, the overall design reminded me of the Treasury though much more modest in architectural embellishments.

See the blue speck in the foreground? That's me!

There was a restaurant and shop nearby where you could sit on a bench, have a cup of tea and enjoy the view of the Monastery. It was getting windy and cold so we stayed there for about an hour and then headed back down the path, through the as-Siq, out of Petra and back to the hotel.

I had a glorious time wandering in Petra as it was filled with one mesmerizing sight after another - sometimes it was a monument that caught my attention and other times, it was simply the breathtaking scenery that surrounds this ancient city. It's a place of rich history and timeless beauty and I am so lucky to have been able to experience it in my lifetime.

Lei was as enchanted with Petra as I was. Here are Lei's recollections of her day at Petra.