Tag Archives | Petra

Petra Perfecta II


Here’s the thing about Petra, which may or may not be true about other “must sees” on the bucket list: does waking up and seeing the Eiffel Tower become old hat? Does one get jaded about regular viewings of the Taj Mahal? Maybe…although it’s hard to imagine.

It seems impossible, though, that a person could be bored walking through the wadi at Petra. I imagine even a millenia ago, one Nabataean resident saying to another, “Dude, look at the colors of those rocks! Holy Aphrodite!”

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about a pretty piece of quartz or something. I’m talking about the insides of caves that look like this:

No, those rocks aren’t painted. They’re just… rock.

The outsides of the buildings look like this:

On our second day in Petra, we wandered, marveling, through the wadi (okay, I marveled; children may have expressed their wonderment by attempting to parkour along the side walls of the canyon) and headed into the city itself. Here’s a thing I didn’t know about Petra: it’s huge. You could walk in its caves and paths and temples for hours without retracing your steps. There are even paths that lead you out of the valley by climbing up along the top of the wadi–and despite the ardent desire of my children to do something death-defying, we did not walk along those sheer cliff walls.

We went along a colonnaded walk that, at one time, must have been the main thoroughfare for the city:

Along this colonnaded walkway were women selling mementos – jewelry, mostly, and “antique coins” (although in one display of genyoowine coins, Liam found…a US penny and a French euro); and in fact, all the way up the steps to the monastery, there were little “shops” (small tents, or sometimes just a blanket spread on the edge of the steps) selling, basically, the same merchandise, which had been carted up the cliff by a donkey, the back ends of which occasionally confronted us as we heaved ourselves up the cliff:

Up. Up. Up. A house with balloons attached to it would’ve helped.

See those little bitty people in the distance? Yeah. That’s where we started.

Up. Up. Some of us who were not me might have muttered about needing to back to the gym, which might have made others of us decide to dash up a few steps, just, you know, because we suddenly felt like sprinting.  Luckily, those of us who were showing off stretching our legs were able to relax when we got to the top and enjoy the view:


That view…and this one:

Did brotherly love cause the embrace? Or sheer exhaustion?

Astonishingly, as tired as we were, we did not visit the Sunset Shop:

At the end of our pilgrimage, we found answers to many questions:

One brother asked about the possibility of making a sacrifice of the other brother, but we prevailed upon him instead to view the end of the world:

Okay, true, probably it’s not the end of the world. But it felt very close to being at the beginning of time.








Continue Reading · on November 6, 2012 in Travel

Petra Perfecta

I want to write something Sensitive and Important about the post-Sandy recovery, but all I can say is: donate to the Red Cross or your favorite relief organization; make sandwiches and buy supplies to bring to a donation center (for a list of donation centers click here).  I have nothing more to say other than to suggest that I think the props Chris Christie has been tossing towards Obama have just as much to do with hoping that now Springsteen will return his calls as they do with anything Sandy related.

Given that I can’t tell you about the relief work I’ve been doing for hurricane victims other than clicking the “donate now” button,  I’m going to regale you instead with tales of an ancient city that probably never had to confront hurricanes or floods: Petra.

If you’re a person whose kids, hypothetically speaking, start to gag and quiver at the mention of “museum” or “sight-seeing,” then Petra is the place for you. It’s history, and museums, and sight-seeing, all wrapped up in one climbtastic site.  I mean, not that my kids balk at the thought of cultural enrichment; my kids thrive on museums and on exploring cities; they love trying new foods.  As long as the new food looks exactly like the food they get at home.

For a person used to the way the U.S. does ancient sites (or what passes for ancient in that neck of the woods), Petra is wildly unsupervised: you can climb up to the thresholds of ancient temples; clamber around on stone walls that have been standing for millenia; lean against columns that have been there since Christ was a boy. And, of course, you can fall off any of these places onto the rocky ground, or you could plummet to your death into the crevasse alongside the approximately eightygazillion steps up to the top of the mountain overlooking Petra.

You can see, thus, why this place would bring deep and abiding joy into the hearts of eight & twelve year old boys, right?

But they weren’t the only ones smiling in amazement. I mean, how can you walk along this road and not gasp in delight and awe?

There are horse-drawn carts that clatter along this road–frequently racing with one another through the narrow space–adding yet another frisson: there is a strong chance that one could get mown down by an over-zealous cart-driver.

At the final turn of the wadi, the money shot:

The Treasury Building, which is the first thing you see as you emerge from the wadi road. If you’re an Indiana Jones fan, you’ll remember this building from the final scenes of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (which is only worth watching for the scenes filmed in Petra or if you’ve got a really long plane ride).

The Treasury:

See that little dot at the bottom, just below the doorway? That’s one of my children, but I can’t tell which one. But that gives you a sense of scale, doesn’t it?  The Treasury is the only building that’s firmly roped off to tourists, although even ten years ago, you could camp right up on the Treasury front porch.

But climbing! The boys wanted to climb! Enough with this ancient, awesome, perfect structure, which had once been decorated in those two top rectangular panels, with bas-relief of axe-wielding Amazons.

Found some old columns at the top of one set of steps: 

Found a cave somewhere else:

And that was only the first day.  On Day Two, we trekked up to the monastery (816 steps but who can keep count, what with the panting and wheezing and dodging of nimble-footed donkeys racing up and down; and that’s not counting the part of the climb where there weren’t steps but just rock that had been worn smooth with the ages).

But Day Two will have to wait until tomorrow, because I’ve enrolled myself in NaBloPoMo this month and that means a post a day, every day. The first time I did NaBloARGH was when I visited Abu Dhabi for the first time, two years ago. It seems appropriate that I use a trip to another country as the launch for this year’s effort. I’m linking up with NaBloBlahblahblah through the YeahWrite site: an entire grid of writers feeling the pain of “just writing.”

Continue Reading · on November 4, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, Children, Kids, NaBloPoMo, Travel

does this mud make me look younger?

So I’ve done something to my shoulder.

I don’t know what I did but it’s been sore for months. Maybe I over-eagled my arms in eagle pose, or perhaps my efforts to be Miss Plank Body in chaturanga have backfired, or maybe it’s just a warning shot across the bow about what’s going to happen once I finally bid farewell to my late-mid-forties.

You know the signs. You’ve got A Back, maybe; or perhaps it’s The Knee.  Getting out of bed is no longer a bound-and-greet-the-day, instead it’s a calculated swivel of feet, leg, hips, and oof.

And there’s the face. I had the misfortune, while we were in Jordan, to stay in not one but two hotel rooms that had magnifying mirrors right near the sink. I kept catching my reflection in the well-lit surfaces and my friends, in the morning, my facial skin resembles nothing so much as the fabric of a waffle-weave t-shirt. Or, to go more high-end, some kind of fabric that Issey Miyake might use in a couture creation. Pleated, is what I’m saying.

My aching shoulder and pleated forehead–plus the rest of me–were thrilled about the prospect of “taking the waters” at the Dead Sea. For millenia people have pilgrimmaged to these salty waters, lured by the curative powers of salt, heat (the water is quite warm), and the famous Dead Sea mud, which is packed with minerals.

 It’s impossible not to laugh when you get into the water: you are, literally, weightless. Your feet float up to the surface of their own accord; you could, if you wanted to, float in the water and read a magazine without once getting the pages wet.  Diving below the surface is almost impossible; my kids tried to sink themselves by clutching big rocks in their hands, but even then, they barely got their chins wet.

We could have stayed floating on our backs forever, except that Caleb kept flipping over: he’s so light that each passing ripple spun him around like a pinwheel.

Searching for the cure to all my ills, I smeared myself with mud, rinsed myself in the salty waters, and then besmeared myself again. I repeated this process four or five times during our overnight stay at the resort.

Am I cured? Well, my shoulder still hurts. I finally went to an orthopedist who, after I had six x-rays, came up with a brilliant diagnosis: I have a sore shoulder. He prescribed an anti-inflammatory which, as near as I can tell, contains no Dead Sea salts.

And as for my skin?  While the mud dried on my face, Liam looked at me. “Wow,” he said. “I can see every single line and wrinkle. Your face looks like some of those buildings in Petra.”

Great. My face is a crumbling monument.

True, my post-mud skin felt smooth and soft – soft enough that I bought a packet of mud to give myself facials at home.  But I’ve discovered the double-whammy cure for pleated skin: First off, don’t wear your glasses when you look in the mirror. What you can’t see doesn’t exist. (Hey, it works for Mitt Romney and poor people.)

Second cure?

No magnifying mirrors.

Continue Reading · on October 29, 2012 in expat, Travel, yoga

Living on Jordan Time. Sort of

It all would’ve been fine if Caleb and Liam hadn’t quarreled about who woke up whom at what time.

There we were at breakfast at the wonderfully named Moevenpick Hotel (say it out loud: move-n-pick, like pick-n-roll but without the ball), just outside the gates to Petra. We’d spent the entire day before climbing around ruins that had been ruins since Christ was a boy—literally—and now my own darling boys were wrangling about whether Caleb woke up at 6AM or 7.

Liam, adamant, insisted it had been six; Caleb, equally adamant, insisted that it had been seven.

Husband solved the problem by consulting the oracle of google,which told us that Jordan had instituted “winter time” (daylight savings time) that night, so that, in fact, both boys were right: it had been seven AND six.

Wicked early, no matter how you slice it, but it stopped the bickering.  We dutifully turned our watches back an hour, took one more look out the windows at Petra’s sandy hills, and then packed our car for the three-hour drive up to the Dead Sea.

So lucky, we told ourselves, that Jordan had turned back the clocks: it meant that we could take our time on our drive, but still have most of the afternoon at our Dead Sea hotel.  We puttered along, in our rented Citroen (has ever a car been more aptly named?), marveling at the view (okay, Husband and I marveled at the view; the boys marveled at the sights unfurling on their iPads. Upside: no bickering, no whining, no whenarewegonnabetheres. Downside: they saw almost nothing of the splendid, ancient countryside).

Indeed, that extra hour gave us more time in the Dead Sea, where we bobbled around until sunset, watching the lights come on in the tiny towns on the opposite shore (Israel, the country that can be seen but not named).

Blissfully scrubbed, skin gleaming from our self-applied mud baths, we presented ourselves at the hotel restaurant for our 7PM dinner reservation.

“Oh no,” said the host. “You’ve missed it. You’re an hour late.”

An hour late? How could that be? We checked our watches, showed him our iOracles, all indicating that it was 7PM on the dot.  We explained that we’d even been so clever as to adjust our clocks back, to account for Jordan’s daylight savings time.

He nodded, pitying comprehension dawning on his face. “There is no daylight savings this year,” he said.  “On Wednesday, the government decided not to.”

Just like that?  Like an entire government of Bartlebys, they simply preferred not to?

Apparently so.  And our oracle, the god google, as is the case with oracles, refused to admit its mistake and could shed no light on why Jordan would simply withdraw winter time; nor would it tell us what time our plane would leave the next day.

Here’s how I see it: if my kids hadn’t argued about who had woken up when, and if Husband hadn’t consulted google and found out about the time change, then we wouldn’t have changed the clocks…And we’d have been on time.  So my children, google, and the King of Jordan are to blame for our confusion.

Our flight the next day, by the way, was listed online as leaving Amman at 3PM.

We arrived at the airport to discover that the flight was leaving on time.

At 4PM.





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Continue Reading · on October 28, 2012 in expat, family, Kids, lost in translation, Travel, Uncategorized

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