While my 3 visits to the Pyramids of Giza were sandstorms of disappointments, my experience at Petra actually surpassed my expectations: It was magical, sublime. As I first thought of it, “a perfect Kodak moment”
Prior to my visit in June 2009, Petra had only been in my bucket list for about a year or two. I know, who the heck was I for having watched Indiana Jones so late in my life?! Geez, so Puerto Rican of me. Or not even! But this my friends was true. Thus, I was not able to truly feed my enchantment for Petra as much prior to the trip, leaving my mind and heart as blank canvases waiting to be painted on. And this was for the best!
I stayed at Valentine Hostel, not too far from the site in the town of Petra. It was a nice walk actually, seeing all the locals going about their business, looking at the mountains, rooftops, etc. These pics were taken by one of the travelers I met there, Janina Kucko:
I arrived quite early, before the majority of bus tours got there. This was so wonderful. I got to take in the eeriness of the site, stop to admire at the beautiful colors of the stone, taking everything in undisturbed. Speaking of remaining undisturbed, I was delightedly surprised to notice that even though there are sellers and Bedouins offering their services such as camel/donkey rides, postcards, etc. at Petra, they were not as pushy as those at the Pyramids of Giza. In fact, I personally felt they were not pushy at all. Perhaps it was the fact I was by myself and looked Arab, but even after I met other travelers and spent the whole day with them the very next day (yes, I visited twice!), the sentiment was the same. True, with a few white people with me obviously we were approached by Bedouins more, but only when it looked like we were slightly interested in their merchandise (aka looking at them for more than 5 secs). Needless to say I was very happy and impressed by Jordanians and Bedouins in the area, even by visiting a touristy site! So refreshing indeed.
Now, let’s get to the good part! The site is way bigger than I thought, for starters. The Treasury gets all the buzz, but the entire, HUGE site is impressive. Hikers will particularly enjoy it, with many trails and climbs to choose from. Geologists (or enthusiasts) will be able to stare at the rock formations for hours, getting lost in rainbows of rose-reds. Historians will marvel at the intricacy of the carvings, the long streets and the many merchants and people that went through them in their carriages or even how Moses might have touched those sands during the great Exodus. As per Wikipedia, “It is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir. Though the city was founded relatively late, a sanctuary existed there since very ancient times. Stations 19 through 26 of the stations list of Exodus are places associated with Petra.”
Walking to the Treasury was looooong. I mean, you arrive thinking you will turn on the first corner and boom, there will be the Treasury! However, this could not be further from the truth. you must walk a while actually, which makes your heart pump at incredible speed and builds anticipation in quite a way. Basically, you stopped breathing at every turn, thinking you will finally see it…
After several minutes, it finally happens. You don’t expect it. Your heart and breathing stop. And this is only when you finally spot the Siq in the distance, mind you. In my case, I stopped. Began walking with care, ever so slowly, as if I were to miss something if I walked at a normal pace. Then, you finally see it, peeking through the Siq: It is The infamous Treasury, you have finally arrived. I stayed at this spot for a couple of minutes, admiring the wonder I was in. Then, I finally proceeded, as the Siq finally revealed The full Treasury in all its glory…
And then…I cried. Tears slipped through my cheeks uninvited, unexpectedly. It was a nice feeling though, so fitting. I simply..was not expecting to be so happy, to cry of pure joy when finally seeing this site. Honestly, it has been my most magical travel experience to date.
After such an experience at Petra, I almost refuse to look at pictures of sites I know I will visit in the near future. Why? I love to be surprised. It is utterly lovely to be surprised. To feel the soft, yet brisk strokes of that brush painting on the blank canvases of your heart and mind is simply sublime.
For more details about my visit to Petra beyond The Treasury, click here (another photo essay)!
What has been your most magical travel experience?