Friday, March 8, 2013

International Adventures: Petra, Part Two

Post #101: This was originally part of one very long post (it took almost 6 hours to write, though a good part of that was waiting for the many pictures to upload). I guess the file was too large for blogspot to deal with as it would not publish the whole thing as one piece. Consequently, I have split it in two. Please read Part One first. It'll make much more sense if you do.

The Bedouin tribes used to live in these caves. In the late 1980s, early 1990s the Jordanian government built a settlement on a ridge above Petra and moved all of the people to those houses. Electricity and running water and warm enclosed spaces are a major upgrade, but I can understand why they didn't want to go. This valley is magical.

The Bedouin occupied the many caves in Petra up until that time. Here are a couple photos that give some idea of how they might have looked.

 The picture above was taken in the Cave Museum. No need to paint the walls when God's creative geology gives you a surface like that! Just work it smooth and leave it at that. The interior of the Cave Museum held lots of pottery shards, coins, and statues taken from the surrounding area, which were interesting but the thing that impressed me most were the rooms themselves; large, high ceilinged spaces with real windows and doors. What a brilliant place.

Here is a view of the Bedouin's new settlement on the ridge above Petra.

The Bedouin still inhabit Petra in their own way. They are there every day, manning the many souvenir shops and cafes. Sometimes they manufacture souvenirs on site, like this enterprising little girl. She was pounding at some particularly colorful rocks she had found to bring out their natural beauty (and to sell them to a tourist for a couple of dinars).

Here, a couple of the Bedouin men engage in a thoroughly modern pursuit, checking their smartphones. I was amazed that I got a signal on my phone and that I had email delivered to it while we were in the valley.

 Here are a couple of 'Nabatean soldiers' taking a break from photo duty.

The other major offering of the Bedouin is what might loosely be called 'transportation services' All up and down the valley there are offers of camel, doney, horse, and donkey-drawn cart rides. The drivers are persistent and pleasant. When we repeatedly say, "No, thank you." They responded, "Well, maybe tomorrow, maybe on your way out."

"Hey, buddy. How about taking a ride?"

There were many young boys with donkeys offering rides. They skip (or drop out of) school for the short term gain of making up to 300 dinars (about $420 US) a month from the tourist trade. Carolyn and I spoke with one of the older sellers and he lamented that they were making that choice because they were exchanging the long-term benefit of education for easy money. "But will they want to be donkey taxi drivers all their life? I don't think so. The government should do something to prevent it.", he added.

The interesting thing is that I heard these boys, often 10-12 years old offering rides in English, German, and Spanish (and I don't doubt they know other languages as well). Their English was entertaining and colloquially correct.  Knowing multiple languages is often seen as the mark of an educated person, so they are educated, after a fashion. I too worry about their long term outlook, as I don't think they'll be so happy with the 300 JD per month in 10 years and will have closed off an avenue of opportunity by that point.

When that same souvenir seller was lamenting their choice, which had been his 10-15 years before, I said, "Well, it's never to late to get an education." He replied,"Yes, that's true. But going to school costs money that I can't afford." And, I'd imagine he has a family to feed as well, so it truly makes a difficult choice.

One of the ships of the desert in front of the Treasury.

Enjoying a rest in the shade before going to work. The Bedouin take good care of their animals.

These donkeys are pretty sure footed as this one navigated the rock slope and stairs fairly easily, though I would not have wanted to be aboard as he did so.

I think this guy was actually asleep atop his camel!

These guys are taking a break at the end of the day. The long, black hair and pork-pie hat is quite the look.

Petra was initially developed by the Nabateans starting around 100 B.C. and continuing for the next several hundred years. Eventually the site passed into the hands of whatever group had power at the time; Romans, Muslims, Crudaders, Ottoman Turks to name the major ones.

While the Romans ruled in Petra they made a number of constructions that are still in evidence. One of those was an amphitheater carved out of the mountain.

They also added a major street, shops, roads, and a temple complex in the valley. The temple has been the subject of extensive archeological excavations on the part of Brown University

The Great Temple at Petra is huge. These pictures are mostly detail shots, though the last one, taken from farther away, gives some idea of the scale.

I loved these hexagonal pavers. They're each about 18 - 20" across and fitted together quite well. Remember, this flooring is almost 2,000 years old and has been out in the weather for most of that time.

These columns all fell over during one of Petra's many major earthquakes. I know that at least three of them occurred, but there may have been more. Stacked stone buildings don't fare too well in an earthquake.

One unusual feature of the Great Temple is the 'elephant head' capitals of the columns; an artistic variation on the standard Corinthian capital. Here's one at the top of a column, you can see the elephant head projecting out.

A little while later, in a small archaeological museum, I was able to get a close up shot of one of those elephant head capitals.

That's some pretty cool carving.

The Great Temple in its entirety can be seen here. As well, at the base of the Temple area is the remnants of the Roman road and the huge gate at its end (left center of the picture, more or less).

As faithful readers of my blog will remember, I have a great interest in stone; building dry walls with it is one of my avocations. I notice stone and geologic features all the time. Petra was the most amazing collection of stone. The variety of colors was astounding. Here are some samples of what I mean by that last statement.

  You can see just how soft the rock is by the way it has weathered over the years.

 The colors, the reds, blues, whites, ochres, are quite amazing when seen close up.

  The texture of the stone and the ribbing in it was very cool. It seems that the ribs were a bit harder than the intervening material, so they stood out a bit.

Those last two shots were taken outside the Cave Museum. I took one more that did not seem like a natural feature. It appeared that someone had shaped the rock into the jaw and nose of a camel.

See what I mean?

Mixed in with all the people and other animals was a collection of cats, dogs and birds. Here are a couple of representative samples.

Oddly enough, though I am much more of a 'cat person' than a 'dog person' and there were plenty of cats around (some of them obviously well fed and cared for), I took no pictures of the cats of Petra.

Sparrows searching donkey dung for food they can make use of.

Plant life has a hard time in a desert environment. Several of the hillsides were beginning to sprout plants that seems like lilies or some other plant emerging from an underground bulb. I only know they come from a bulb because I saw some of them dug up and for sale on one of the souvenir tables.

Plants will grow wherever they find a water source. This old fig tree was growing out of a crack in the rock part way down the Siq.

I loved the contrast between the softness of this plant and the rock behind it.

Carolyn and I explored a good portion of Petra on Saturday afternoon. John joined us toward the end.

On Sunday morning the three of us walked Petra together.

Carolyn and John, thank you for sharing the exploration of Petra with me. It was great to share the discovery of one of the wonders of the world with you.

You leave Petra the same way you come in, via the Siq, a cleft in the rock hiding an amazing valley of treasures.

The four of us had dinner together in a restaurant at the Movenpick on Saturday and Sunday, Diane rousing herself long enough for an enjoyable dinner together. The rest actually did her quite a bit of good as she looked and sounded much better at the end of the trip than at the beginning.

On Monday morning after a very ample buffet breakfast, we packed up the car and headed north. We stopped in Madaba for lunch and a short driving tour of AUM. After that I drove Carolyn, John and Diane to the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge border crossing into Israel. Once I dropped them off, I drove back to Madaba and a resumption of my workday existence.


Stephen said...

Great post, love the photos. After seeing those pictures I definitely want to visit Petra. Also, have you ridden a camel on this adventure yet?

RoboDad said...

Stephen, I have not yet ridden a camel (or a horse or donkey, for that matter). There will be time 'inshallah' (loosely translated as "God willing.")

These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along


About Me

My photo
I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.