‘A rose red city half as old as time’, as the Anglican cleric John Burgon famously described Petra in 1845. He never went there, but he was right about the colours even if he was dead wrong about the geological time scale. Professor Google tells me that like many other scholars of the time he was a biblical fundamentalist, and reckoned the act of Creation to have taken place in 4004 BC. So that line ‘half as old as time’ which sounds so poetically apt, was meant to be taken literally!
Petra By Night was an optional extra on offer the night we arrived. I wimped out because a) you had to get going almost as soon as you’d dumped your suitcase, b) it cost a packet (roughly $A40), c) it was a long hike in and out and d) they only gave you a cup of tea, no food. What’s more e) I was knackered after a disturbed sleep, an early start, a hard day’s sightseeing, a long drive and the threat of another early start for the next day’s hike. Good enough excuse, eh?
Everyone else went. They all said it was worth it, even though they had to wait till they got back to the hotel around 10pm to eat. I reckon I got the better deal since everybody’s gone mad with photo-sharing on Whatsapp so I got the payoff, as it were, without having to put up with the hard yakka and the hunger. And plus I was hoping to get my one can of beer chilled and drunk before the night was out, but it was not to be because of the fridge drama, a long story which I recount below.
We left the hotel at 6.30 for the 4-hour hike through the ancient site and back. It was as wonderful as I’d imagined and there were many exotic marvels to be seen, such as these two Bedouin military fellows.
Petra’s history goes back to neolithic times but it was built by the Nabateans – a trading people whose heyday was around the time of Christ and the Roman empire. I won’t try and condense any more history – there’s just too much.
You can go up and down the Siq – the gorge – by horse, horse and cart, donkey or camel. At the end of the hike in, everybody except me opted to go on Hameed’s extra uphill climb to the monastery. I wimped out again because when you’re hungry and sleep-deprived one rose red ruin is as good as another, I reckon. (My biological clock is still out of sync and I woke at 3.45am. Just as I was drifting off again the muezzin’s call to prayer, amplified all across the basin of Wadi Musa, jolted me awake and out of bed at 4.15. Everyone else pooh-poohs my misery. I swear I’ll throttle the next person who says ‘just put earplugs in’. Yes, I do have earplugs and of course I use them, I mutter between gritted teeth.) At least I walked back to the Visitor’s Centre, resisting the many offers from fellows with beasts of burden.
By late morning food and drink outlets like this had started to open and I lunched on a packet of chips and a big plastic cup of pomegranate juice, which was heavenly.
So what did you DO all afternoon, my travelling companions wanted to know. Well for a start I was able to have a look around the wonderful Old Village Resort which, as the name suggests, is based on older traditional structures modernised and adapted for modern comfort. Fabulous.
Fridge, food and sleep trauma – Annie’s ‘I wanna go home!’ moment.
This is what I wrote between 4 and 5am in my room at the Old Village Resort in Petra:
Ever since the Jordan part of the tour started on Sunday I’ve been sleeping anxiously. Our 8am departure time was changed to 7.30 but nobody told me, so I was late for the meet and greet. After that the picnic was over. It’s been 6.30 starts ever since, and I don’t mean waking up. I mean suitcases at the ready and all aboard the bus, OR, as was the case this (Tuesday) morning, all set for our 4-hour hike through Petra.
I’ve explained why I opted to give ‘Petra by Night’ a miss on Monday
night when we arrived at about 6.30pm, by which time it’s already dark. I was
hoping for an early night instead, maybe a quiet meal at the restaurant and
that half-bottle of red I bought in Cyprus. (It’s dry here but you can BYO).
But it was not to be. I couldn’t shower because my suitcase hadn’t been
brought to my room. The fridge wasn’t working so I couldn’t chill that can of
beer I bought in Madaba.
Call front desk to report fridge issue, they say they’ll send someone.
Suitcase arrives, but I can’t unpack and have shower because waiting for man to come and fix fridge. Watch TV – at least they have plenty of English news
channels – and man finally comes (while I am on the toilet, naturally). Can’t
fix fridge. Will come back in ten minutes with a replacement. Still can’t have
shower or go to restaurant.
Man returns with new fridge and installs. I decide to head off for
restaurant but can’t lock or unlock door. I call front desk again…they will
send someone. Meanwhile I can’t find sunglasses and message guide Hameed by Whatsapp is there any way the driver can check for them in the bus before
tomorrow because otherwise I’ll have to buy a new pair because I’m not going to this desert site without my sunnies!
Meanwhile I have filled up on cashews and dried fruit as hopes of a
restaurant meal dwindle.
Helpful Hameed eventually arrives with a posse including the manager who
demonstrates the eccentric but simple door lock procedure, I apologise abjectly for being an idiot and they all leave. It’s too late now to go the restaurant (which is some distance anyway) so can I ask a teensy favour please: a small jug of milk so I can have a nice cup of tea. Hop in the shower and I will bring the milk to you personally in 20 minutes, says Hameed.
I hop in the shower. Less than ten minutes later, water streaming over
me, there is a knock on the door. It’s not Hameed but another young man bearing milk. I scream ‘just a minute!’ at the top of my lungs while I scramble to turn off the water, grab a towel and rub myself sufficiently dry in those parts that need to be covered by the big loose shirt I’ll throw on to answer the door.
The cup of tea was nice but I never did get fed. On the good news front, as conveyed to me by Hameed via Whatsapp, driver Mohammed had found my sunglasses in the bus. One less thing to lose sleep over.
After that 4am wake-up I thought I’d get up and have a cup of tea….only to
find the replacement fridge wasn’t working either so the milk had probably
spoiled! I used it anyway, ready to kill for a decent cuppa. Anyway, what with
that and the muezzin and the bloke next door blithely snoring his way through it all I had one of those moments – the only one so far – where I wished I’d never left home.
I wimped out of Hameed’s special sparrow-fart hike tomorrow (Wednesday) too, because I reckoned I’d scrambled up enough hills and eaten enough dust already. (It was very windy, but otherwise the weather has been perfect.) And this time I wasn’t the only one to wimp out, which was kind of gratifying. We checked out of the Old Village Resort at the civilised hour of 11.30 to drive to Wadi Rum, which will be the subject of my next post.