It was just getting bright and the call to prayer had started as we left Amman heading towards Petra. We were driving the Desert Highway to make our way to the city of Petra. On the outskirts of the city, within the rural district we could see some makeshift camps lining the fields. Our driver explained that these were not permanent homes but more like camps for seasonal workers that only exist for the duration of the harvest and that these people would return to their villages once harvest was complete. It is a way of surviving which many Irish would have been familiar with in our not so distant past and vividly depicted by the national broadcaster in a documentary production in 1971 called “The Tattie Hokers”. This is a different world to the enclosed safe environment which is Europe. If you have any doubts as to what life is like without the safety net of social welfare you really don’t have to travel too far outside of E.U borders. There seems to be huge employment in security as police and soldiers are a common sight in Jordan but as we travel further into the desert our driver tells us that mining is also a big industry. With these developments come small towns where the workers live. The mining corporations supply homes to their employees as a perk. I can only imagine that these communities have strong bonds as there truly is nothing else here in the desert. After 3 hours of driving the Desert Highway, we finally reached the long awaited City of Petra.
The driver dropped us at the entrance of Petra and we headed on into the ticket office. It is difficult to describe as having seen pictures I assumed we would see the enormous temple within a short walk but it is a bit of a distance to walk. There is the option to go on horseback from the ticket office to the beginning of the gorge (included in your ticket). There are a string of horses all lined up for the tourists just like a scene from the O.K. Corral but our driver had warned us that it could be dangerous and best to go on foot.
It is an absolutely extraordinary place. As you walk towards the opening into the gorge the vast walls of every shade of red rock towers above you on either side. The passage is no more than 2 meters in places. Just when your about to give up and wonder if you were ever going to see anything through this endless valley, you turn a corner and see what is known as The Treasury, a neck straining 37 meter tall architectural wonder. At this point the camels and their owners wait for tourists who are tired of walking and, for a price, they will bring you the rest of the way. The animals are beautiful and appear well looked after. But heeding our drivers warning we kept walking. The walk, when at a leisurely pace, takes about two hours to the main canyon and you can choose to climb to the monastery. The way to the monastery was not very well sign posted so Róisín believed it best to not go rather than get lost in the vast valley. This is a spectacular place and after four and a half hours of walking I had seen enough, I now understand why it is also known as the "Red Rose City". I was told there are evening tours to the City of Petra called "Petra By Night" where the light up the path to the Treasury with tealights and that would be something to see and possibly merits a return visit. It runs every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, if you would like more information, please click this link: https://www.visitpetra.jo/DetailsPage/VisitPetra/EntertainmentsDetailsEn.aspx?PID=4
Petra was the first location where total strangers asked if it would be okay to have their picture taken with me. A young Jordan woman on a day trip with her family struck up a conversation with me. I guessed that she wanted to practice her English speaking skill as I had seen her stop and chat with a couple of Americans earlier. She wore a black full length chador (full body cloak) which only left her face exposed. I supposed what surprised me was that this young woman in this dress was eager to start a conversation with a westerner. But I suppose that more reflects my ignorance to be surprised that she would want to speak with me. She was very polite and asked my age which surprised me a little. I asked her to guess and she guessed 16 years old (very polite and very generous). She told me how old she was, she asked my name, where I was from, etc; the standard stock questions that you learn in any language class. Her younger brother pushed in close to hear what his 23 year old sister was saying to me and he clearly had no clue but had such admiration for his sister and her abilities. Her mother also looked on admiringly, so proud of her daughter's skill. She then asked if I would allow her to take a selfie which included me. I asked her why would she want a picture of me? a lady she had just met. She very shyly said she wanted to show her friends a picture of the lady she had been speaking with. I agreed and took the picture and she said her goodbyes. I later asked our driver when we returned why the woman wanted to take a picture with me. He explained that many of the people in his country want to know and interact with westerners, and her bringing a photo of a westerner home would be a way to show off to her friends and relatives.
We finished our day in Petra and headed to Wadi Rum.
Hi, I'm Olive and I am the writer of this blog. I am traveling the world with my 22 year old daughter, Róisín, who has just graduated University. I wanted to document this journey because it is unusual for a woman of 58 years old to go on adventure that most students do on a gap year. I will try to share my insights into this epic journey with you along the way and maybe inspire more people my age to go on these crazy adventures too.