This is my eleventh (K) entry for the blogging from A to Z Challenge.
Stairs. How could there possibly be more stairs? Hadn’t we just climbed 850 stone stairs? Didn’t we just have to duck under overhanging rocks, side step boulders, and give the right of way to the donkeys carrying either the smart or lazy people up and down this ancient thoroughfare? The answer to all of the questions was yes, so I accepted it, and kept climbing. The man made sign told me it would be worth it though. And how can you ever argue with a sign made with such panache?
This was my first visit to Jordan, a country that has never rated too highly on my list of places to go. Not sure why. It just would not make my top 10, probably not even my top 20 if I’m honest. But having been there, and having seen all of the amazing history and architecture and cultural and spiritual remnants, I don’t think it would take too much for me to go back again.
Our four day whirlwind tour started in Amman, the capital, and on the second day we arrived to our hotel just outside and over top of Petra, a place I was suddenly very excited to see. Our guide/driver originally said we should spend half a day in Petra before we saw something else in the region, but we convinced him that we wanted to spend the whole day there. And by the time we made it back to the parking lot as the sun set and the gates were being locked, we were glad we had spent every single second there we could.Most people will recognize at least some part of Petra from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After Indy saves the day he, his dad, and a cast of others ride away from a building known as the Al Khazneh or the Treasury, probably one of the most photographed places in the world. As you reach Petra, and the Treasury, after walking down the mile long Siq, you can’t help but whistle the theme to Indiana Jones as soon as you see the yellow tones of the building in front of you. Well I did at least. With map in hand, we knew we wanted to see as much of this fabled city as possible. And that definitely included El Dier, the Monastery. Situated on the other end of Petra from the Treasury, and including a walk up and over nearly 900 steps, getting there in the middle of day, even in January, would be tough. I hoped it would be worth it.
As we strolled along the Colonnade, many of the pillars still standing along the stone streets, we stopped at the new Movenpick Hotel inside the site for some much needed water before setting off for the next part of this Petra adventure. Signs on some of the tents proclaiming free wifi looked a bit odd, but it shouldn’t really be surprising any more. Armed with water and a good pair of walking shoes, we started up.We passed people going the same direction we were, our youthful exuberance undaunted by the afternoon sun and the prospect of further elevation changes. When a Bedouin led down a series of donkeys, each one looking for another passenger, the thought entered my mind that “wouldn’t it be a true experience by taking an ass to the top?” But then I thought that only made my sound like an ass so I continued walking, carefully sidestepping people resting on the stairs, or the odd stray cat. If my time living in the Middle East has taught me anything it’s that there are way too many stray cats around. They seem to be everywhere. Some in much better condition than others as well.
I had started out counting steps. I wanted to know if all the brochures I had read were telling the truth, but then I thought … who cares? It’s a long way up, lots of steps were taken. So that was the end of it. And then you plateau …
El Dier rose magnificently to my right, fully carved into the sandstone, nearly taking up the whole face of the mountain that held its many chambers. I expected to see less people up there, my faith in humanity probably doing a disservice to the so many. But hey, you see more than a dozen women wearing 3” heels sitting in horse-drawn carriages in Petra and you tend to think people don’t exactly realise where they are going.“Come on, we can see it from over there.” My travel companion and friend Kay said pointing towards a small summit just to our left. She took off walking before I could reply.
A solitary tree stood on guard on the tiny summit, a realisation that this place was indeed etched in history. And when we got to the top, with no one else around us, we could look down towards El Dier in true admiration. The place was incredible. Bigger than I would ever have guessed, dozens of people dwarfed by its importance and magnificence. As I took it in and snapped a few photos, it dawned on me that we were not alone.
A soft gentle mewing alerted me to the little orange cat standing on a rock beside me. He was joined by two others. All three of them in wonderful condition, obviously belonging to the Bedouins who run the shops and try and sell their wards on the streets of Petra. How often had they seen El Dier? Was it just as impressive the tenth time as it was the first? I have cats, I think I can speak cat, but this was a conversation I wasn’t going to have in front of another person. I decided, on their flippant actions and desire to spend more time with us that these cats had seen enough of El Dier to last nine lifetimes (do you see what I did there?). Getting a final cuddle in before journeying back towards the start of the 850+ step journey back to the colonnade, I shook my head thinking back to why Jordan was never on my list of places to travel.I still remain in awe.