Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Rocky Beginning: Petra

Today we walked for 10 hours around Petra, which for good reason has a reputation as Jordan's most spectacular tourist destination. But first, and update on the events of yesterday.

After we got on the ferry (which looked like a wooden yacht and came complete with loudspeakers blasting 'My Heart Will Go On'...bad omen...?), we rode for an hour or so across the Red Sea and landed in Aqaba. We we got to the port, we were informed that since we were not with a guide, we would have to wait while our passports were run over to the immigration office. Twenty minutes. Ok, ma feesh mushkila...but 45 minutes later , the women were bored and the men were growing restless. What do restless men do? Start devising ways to compete with each other. Earlier in the day we had decided that we should have a kind of ongoing sport or competition to keep things lively. We came up with man points. A word on man points: they are awarded by the girls when a boy displays behavior that merits commendation. We don't set the rules out beforehand, but rather award points when we see fit. It keeps things more interesting.
Possible things that might merit man points: any display of chivalry, such as carrying a girl's bag; eating exceptionally manly food, i.e. raw meat or small rocks; building things; preserving national honor by blaming Canada when things go wrong; saving small children from burning vehicles/high places.
Things that might detract from man points: sulking, complaining that one's skin is getting too dry, looking at the calories in a snickers, speaking French.

When we were at the port in Aqaba waiting for our passports, Dan suggested Kalaris play the ultimate trump card in man points and challenge a guard to a push-up contest. The guards at the border have two jobs: unnecessarily complicating the entrance process for foreigners, and looking intimidating, both of which they do quite well. They have skull patches on their arms, and Andy remarked that since we weren't actually in Jordan yet, we should be nice to them. Whimp. Soon we got our passports back and caught a bus and then taxi to Petra. After a much-needed delicious dinner, we all went to bed.

So. Petra. Petra means 'rock' in Greek, which is unoriginal but highly appropriate. There is rock. A lot of it. And it's really pretty. When you first get to Petra, you walk through a gigantic passageway apparently formed long ago by diverging plate boundaries. There are beautiful rippling walls on either side, and it looks as if Moses just parted a solid sea. The light was gorgeous, and had just begun to throw the honey, tanned and rose-colored stone into relief. When you get to the end of the passageway, the Treasury is right in front of you. The Treasury is one of Petra's highlights. It's a giant tomb carved out of the rock wall. There's a huge urn above the doorway, which was allegedly where a pharaoh kept his treasure from the Israelites. No one ever found treasure there, but the urn is riddled with bullet holes from people trying to split it open.

After the Treasury we traipsed around for hours, climbing up hills and in one case up over 800 steps to see the various tombs carved by the Nabateans. One of the most popular tombs was that of Sextius Florentinus, or the sexy tomb. The name lent a great deal of allure to the place, so of course we had to go. Apparently sexiness is something many aspire to but few reach, because we couldn't find it. We persevered, though, and finally stumbled across it. Kalaris, Ariel and Alison immediately started striking poses, including ones that involved the use of columns. I'll leave it at that...Eventually we decided we'd seen all there was to be seen, and after purchasing some souvenirs, we hopped on the bus back to the hotel. Tonight - Indiana Jones (that last one, which features Harrison Ford, Sean Connery AND Petra). Tomorrow - Amman and the Dead Sea.