Trip to Wadi Rum and Petra: Part 2

As promised, here is the follow-up post detailing my weekend in Wadi Rum and Petra!

On Saturday (American Sunday…) we were woken up at 6:30am and sent to have another buffet in the dining room of the Bedouin camp. One of the many foods I have discovered a love for in the Middle East is Labneh. It tastes similar to Greek yogurt, but is much more whipped and less heavy.  It tastes so good on pita with a bit of jelly, but that isn’t the healthiest breakfast so I only reserve it for special occasions. Otherwise, labneh tastes just as good on cucumbers and tomatoes!

After the breakfast buffet we were bussed to Petra. I slept during most of the hour-long ride, but was awoken by our tour guide discussing the history of Petra. Basically, it is an entire city carved from rock. Previously, I had thought Petra only consisted of its most famous attraction: the treasury. However, the treasury is only one part of the massive city. To enter, you must walk about a mile through huge, winding crevices through towering rock. Several scenes from Indiana Jones were filmed in these pathways.

One of my favorite pastimes is utilizing the power of rumor and spreading harmless hearsay. During our hour-long journey to the treasury, I started discussing how the treasury was made completely by wind erosion. I loudly stated how incredible it was that small sand particles could erode the side of a cliff into a beautiful building completely at random. Soon, I heard other students telling each other about this feat of magic. Ha! The truth is that the inhabitants of Petra carved the city, obviously.

The path spits you out directly in front of the breathtaking treasury. Our tour guide graciously gave us an ample ten minutes to snap pictures and look at this world famous site. I say this facetiously because ten minutes was hardly enough time to evade the pushy Bedouins harassing us to buy their goods, nonetheless actually take pictures. Alas, here are the few I did manage to get….

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Afterward we were pulled along like chained slaves led by our tour guide through the city of tombs, shops, and the amphitheater. It is really incredible to think about how an entire city of 30,000 people was carved completely into the side of mountains. Even in the extremely hot sun, the cave-buildings remained cool. On the topic of warmth, CIEE failed to mention that walking around Petra all day would feel like Arizona in July. I had made the poor decision to wear thermal underwear under my black jeans. I was sweating the entire walk, but luckily I wore a lightweight, breathable top. I even had to bum some sunscreen from Lauren to prevent getting burnt.

At the opposite side of Petra, we arrived at the restaurant for lunch. Yet again, another buffet awaited us. After we ate, we were given three hours of free time to explore. Much to my apprehension, I agreed to go with my friends on the 950-step hike to the top of Petra to see the monastery. It looked the exact same as the treasury, so I validated the experience by reminding myself that the hike burned off at least of a few of the buffet calories I had consumed the previous day.

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Caroline, Allison, and I walked back down the trail, stopping at various Bedouin shops along the way. I didn’t buy anything since most of the jewelry looked mass produced and not hand crafted. We were all extremely exhausted from the early wake up call, heat, and hike, so we walked straight through the ~3 miles back to the bus which then drove us the 3 hours back to Amman. On the bus, Allison and I realized that after being trapped in the desert for a weekend, we were anxious to return to the familiarity and, dare I say, homeliness of Amman. I have only been here for a month and already my little apartment, the CIEE building, and even the UJ classrooms feel familiar and routine.

I am definitely glad I was able to see the most famous place in Jordan, but like zoos, architectural sites just don’t tickle my fancy. Animals and buildings look the same in person as they do on Google Image search. I love having unique EXPERIENCES – not views. For example, Google Images cannot tell you how it feels to float in the Dead Sea or go skydiving, but my photos of Petra look the exact same as the millions of others you can find online.

Next weekend I am going on a CIEE day trip to Jerash and Umm Qais. Jerash is famous for its impeccably preserved Roman architecture that rivals that of Italy while Umm Qais is known for being one of the Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis and it offers a great view of the Golan Heights . The weekend after that, we are scheduled to go on a day tour of “Biblical Jordan.” Again, if you know Katie, you know this isn’t really my cup of tea. However, the only other option was an entire day of cycling through the desert which REALLY isn’t an interest of mine. Hey, at the very least there is a guaranteed buffet in the works. When you’re a poor CIEE apartment student, the promise of free pita and hummus is all you need.

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