Monthly Archives: September 2006

Petra: 30th September

Li il-laha illa Allah Mohammed rasul Allah – good god not again?! I swear it was so loud this morning I thought that the temple was at the bottom of my bed (perhaps the use of God was not a good choice of word!) Another 5am wake up call – thankfully I managed to turn over and go back to sleep – it just shows just how shattered I actually was. I woke to the alarm clock that Janet had set for half 8 and boy I did not want to get up!
Janet hopped into the shower first and while she was in there Jan knocked on our door to confirm a time for breakfast – I stupidly hadn’t invited Janet but thankfully she had enough gusto to invite herself. After a quick shower and change and a lay out of things on my bed that I would need for the day – off we went.
Now I’m not really one for breakfast but I think we needed some form of luxury. The interior of the hotel was beautiful. It was just how I imagined the interior of a Sheikh’s palace in the middle of an Arabian desert. A room which was the full height of the building was the room that seriously wowed me – we must have gone up the side of it in the lift to the roof terrace last night. There were wooden balconies all the way up which must of had some of the rooms coming off them I guess. The wood that was used was very dark – mahogany like I suppose – I am not entirely sure. There were large chairs with plush cushions and the most amazing chandelier which was vast and although it hung quite high it seemed quite oppressive because it was so enormous and it looked like it was made of a metal made of copper and silver with some turquoise stones in it if I remember rightly – imagine how heavy that must have been.
Sadly we didn’t eat in this amazing room but had to walk through it to get to the breakfast room which was a large high ceilinged sunroom that overlooked the pool – or so I saw through a gap in the curtain. The sun was so bright that there was at least a gauze drawn in every window to keep it cool I guess. I felt so decadent but yet so inappropriately dressed!
The variety of foods all ready for consumption was quite amazing from sardines and cold meats and cheeses a variety of breads, pastries, a variety of fruit juices, cereals and a small selection of fruit – mostly dried and yogurts. Then of course there was the hot selection as well – English breakfast etc omelettes to order – and finally what I had 2 of – waffles made to order – the totally fresh one I had just sugar with and then the next one I had chocolate sauce with – ooohhhhh yummie! It was the experience that made it though, the somewhat over extortionate price – we felt like school girls escaping bland school food!
After our delicious and frankly well earned breakfast we very quickly headed to the gift shop where I was hoping to find the Petra by Night DVD for Helen’s parents and perhaps a picture book of the area, just incase the worst possible thing happened and either my camera broke, or even worse got stolen. Jan got a couple of things and paid on her card and then I tried paying with my MasterCard but for some reason it took ages for it to go through and do I asked him to cancel it as time was running out and we were meant to be heading down to the Siq again to make our trip up to the High Place of Sacrifice after meeting the others at the Why Not?! shop at the bottom. I paid in cash in the end and we hit footed back to the Edom to dump our purchases, collect our cameras and head off. Hazim and the others were all waiting in the foyer but we rushed straight past them screaming something along the lines of two minutes.
So we made it back down and headed out with the others (Jan & Janet of course Hazim, Martin & Deb, Anne & Margaret) to the main gate again to meet Emily, Alex, Jeanne & Ronnie at the Why Not?! Shop. I still walked down in awe of my surroundings but I do feel that we walked a little too quickly, but I suppose that there was a schedule that we were slightly off due to our slightly later than planned departure (oops!)
I chatted to Debs until the beginning of the Siq, she and Martin booked this as a break from a stressful life back home – a relaxing break at that! As amazing and wonderful as the first day or do has been I would certainly not call it relaxing! We were chatting so much that we got a little bit behind and kept being shouted at by the others who were frog marching ahead to keep up.
Passing The Treasury again after walking through the Siq was just amazing even though I have seen it before I still found it absolutely amazing again. The sun was not on it quite as much as yesterday but it was amazing to see it in another light – quite literally!
So we arrived at the ‘Why Not?!’ stop and were all absolutely dripping in sweat – how attractive! We sat and had a coffee and waited for the others to reach us. We suddenly saw Ronnie fly past (almost literally) on a camel and Hazim went flying after them to see what was going on – she was totally whacked from her walk up to the monestary and was taking the fastest mode if transport back to the hotel!
Alex and Jan showed us a book that they had both got about a New Zealand lady that had married a Bedouin souvenir seller in the 70’s and lived in the caves that over looks the why not shop. Jan reserved the last one in the shop and we a headed off up to the High Place of Sacrifice. It was about 11.45am when we headed off and we later found out that the temperature was around 37 degrees. The phrase ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid day sun’ springs to mind!
We were told that the walk would take about 39 mins, maybe 40 to get up there – bollocks. We had to remind Hazim that it was us walking now. Some of the steps were perfectly ok but some were wasting away but most you really needed pretty long legs as the steps were quite wide and I was taking 2 small steps on everyone. About 10 mins in – according to Jan that was only as far as we had gone but oooh bloody hell it felt like way, way longer than that. I was seriously struggling with my face feeling like a waterfall. I was SO hot – my top was frankly disgustingly wet. My asthma seemed to be fine, it was my poor heart that was going (to be read with an Indian accent) ooh bloody hell! I had to rest and wipe my face and wait for it to slow back down again – it really was quite scary I have to say. Maybe my heart was reacting to what my head was thinking or rather the thoughts that were rushing through my head. (suicidal ones)
All I could think about on the way up, which was really quite a quiet walk apart from Jan checking constantly on me seeing that I was clearly struggling – was what a perfect place this would be to die. I’m in a place that I have always wanted to visit, life hasn’t exactly been rosey as of late – well really as of ever. I still have that constant feeling like living my life is like being sunk or rather stuck in sinking sand – no light at the end of the tunnel going no where. I have only two proper strong ropes to grab on to for support and help constantly (Mum & Dad) other ‘ropes’ who are ‘always there’ always seem to snap. I think that I worked myself into a bit of a state, as well in my head and it really wasn’t something that I felt I could share with my fellow travellers.
We saw the Petra rose finch on the way up which sort of looked like a robin red breast. Hazim told us that it was the national bird of Jordan. Somehow – god only knows how how we made it to the top. I had jaded a conscious effort on the way up not to look at the view until I was right at the top so that I could really enjoy the breathtaking views and take the photos on the way back down again. I was recovering quietly at the top getting my heart rate back down when Hazim grabbed my hand as I was apparently about to be ‘sacrificed’. It is not entirely known whether human sacrifices took place up here but it was clear that sacrifices did take place as there was a clear place where blood ran and so on where animal sacrifices are more likely to have taken place.
We headed a little further on where we all sat close to the edge admiring the panoramic views of the city of Petra and more importantly the Royal Tombs below. Remembering how I was feeling of the way up and exactly what I was thinking of I began to feel really sick – particularly thinking frankly just how easy it would have been to jump off. I suddenly had a huge urge to call Mum and Dad – remind myself of why I am always wary of actually going through with any of these thoughts that I have – I know that it would totally destroy them and probably Hugo but that is about it. I sat behind jan so that I was right by but not directly by the edge and called. Thank god they were in. The fax machine noise came on so I called back and they were both on the line which was special and, totally unbeknown to them. I needed to hear their voices to remind myself not to do anything silly and tell them that I love them. People don’t seem to do that often enough these days.
So Jan and I creamed up and as a result were behind the others but that turned out to make our trip down even more spectacular as at points we could see specks of the others walking down further below but it was just us – totally different to what the guide book said!
I was glad to get back to the bottom my legs were like jelly and I could not get them to stop shaking when I stood still – it says the most bizarre feeling to put it mildly! I decided that frankly I deserved a bloody nice present for completing and coming out the other side of that little trip. I asked about the book as I quite fancied one too – one of the works in the store went down to the city of Petra to get a few more copies. Most of the others headed back which clearly left just Jan and I still shopping etc! I found two bracelets a mother of pearl star one and a beautiful moonstone one – I got them both, stuff it I frankly aren’t it. When I went to pay for it the son of the lady that had written the book served us so I asked him to sign the book too (his mother had clearly signed some before she left to tour the UK) which he willingly did. I tried to barter but as he pointed out they charged me for paying by card so I couldn’t really get a much cheaper price – fair enough I didn’t really care. Paid on the MC and the called through to check the details and Jan and I wondered off to start heading home to the hotel – boy we were seriously cutting it fine as we had to be out of the hotel by 2pm and it was 1:30!!
I was caught up with as embarrassingly, and I am not sure why – my MC had not worked so I paid on my current account instead which went through fine. We then decided that donkeys were definitely the answer and we managed to spot our little friend from yesterday. We hopped on the donkeys but we were told that we had to get off at the Treasury (literally around the corner from the Why not?! Shop) because of the ‘tourist police’ and that he would catch us up further up the Siq. We nevere paid him and he never caught us up further up the Siq. I am not quite sure how but we power waded back to the top of the Siq with me still acting like a Japanese Tourist with a camera around my neck!
Once at the top we got on horses to get to the entrance gate – the men were all arguing overe who was going on whose horse. I got in one in the end which I. Thought as rather fat and managed to trot most of the way back – Mum would have been most proud. Jan walked most of the way and so I had a while to chat to my horse’s keeper – the poor bugger was only pregnant which I was totally appalled by.
We then pegged it back to the hotel at very fast walk/ fast jog – how I have no idea as I was in so much pain. Some of them were in the foyer ready to go and we had some funny looks from them as we walked back in but the most bemused face by far was Hazims who we met on the stairs and all he said after looking at his watch was – we are checking out in 11 mins. So with a path of sweat beads behind us we said oh don’t worry we will be on time! The disbelieving face frankly said it all. (amused but totally disbelieving!)
After peeling off the sopping – no I am seriously not exaggerating! I leave that to Hugo and Dad! – clothes and shoving them in a case , quickly reorganising my bag for the night in the desert I jumped in the shower. Janet had warned me that there as no hot water when we bumped into her in the corridor so into the shower I jumped. OH MY GOD!!! How cold was that shower! After the unreal heat of the day though, boy did it feel good.
We arrived back downstairs 16 mins later – I was impressed with our speed and although he wouldn’t admit it – I think Hazim was too. What seriously amused Jan and I was that Alex was down 7 mins after us – yes we were that sad and timed it! We headed to the Red Cave again for lunch that Hazim had organised for us all – I felt like no food at all as I as seriously dehydrated and could have just done with water but I didn’t want to make myself noted.
We pottered around a little before heading to the Movenpick to have a coffee and try and get some bottles of wine for the evening in the desert. Thankfully Jan managed to get hold of a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine. It was at this time that I realised that Alex was an Ospreys supporter as he was receiving updates on the match with Glos – I said if he was coming to the Rec that I’d try getting tickets for him for next weekend.
We headed back to the hotel just in time to catch the bus to the Wadi Rum without really winding Hazim up – Jan and I were getting good at that! So we waved goodbye to Petra and headed out towards the desert highway for our night in the Wadi Rum. We paused briefly on the way out to look at the view back over Petra and the town of Wadi Musa. There was some hill with a house and a fair amount of green trees on it of which there was some mention of it being linked to the present, or was it the past King of Jordan’s brother. You can tell I was clearly not listening very well. We managed to get the driver to take a group photo of us all.
Then we headed on – the bus journey was a decent couple of hours and I think that I managed to kip a little between looking at the view. We passed into the entrance and further into the Wadi Rum following the railway that Lawrence of Arabia built in the early 20th century. The colour of the sand was just amazing in amongst the weathered bulbous domes that seemed to just spurt up from the ground.
We got onto the open backed jeep – well most of us did – me of course armed with a camera took photos for pretty much the entire jeep ride to our Bedouin camp where we would be spending the night. The mountains had loads of really weird ridges and the texture of some of the rocks were like dripping candle wax. With the sun almost setting we were racing back to the camp to try and delay and watch the sun set there.
When we arrived after our fairly bumpy journey and several bruises later we got our bags and put them in the tent where the camp was placed, surrounded in an L shape by rocks to protect those below from any adverse weather conditions. Jan and I didn’t go up the hill to look at the view from there – that was absoloutely out of the question – my legs were still totally like jelly and the mere thought if walking up there made me feel totally sick. We were shown where the loo was – thankfully not just a patch of open ground and a shovel which was what I was expecting and dreading but thankfully a form of flushing loo and the water facilities were basically a big wooden box of water with a little dripping tap and a bar of soap to wash our hands with.
Ronnie came back down and joined Jan, Hazim and I chatting by the fire on the mattress, with a bottle if Baileys and we admired the sunset sat on our bums. My tummie was still having a few wobblies dehydration, sunstroke or just the emotion of the day getting to me. Whatever way I was quite able if drinking a couple of plastic glasses of Baileys. It started to get darker and slowly but surely everyone came back down from the mountain/hill and join us around the fire and there was enough of us around and do jan cracked open the bottle of red wine.
Supper literally came out of the ground, it was amazing. Baked potatoes and onions and some meats and then salads and there was way too much food really, we hardly made a dent in it. I really didn’t feel like eating that much and do I had some meat only to put something in my tum. I stayed chatting with all of the others for a while and slowly people started lugging their mattress and heading out a little way away from the main camp being careful not to park our sleeping beds on the road! Anne, Margaret, Ronnie, Janet, jan & jan & I all put our beds around each other and eventually headed off to sleep. We giggled for a fair while and Hazim came and joined us too in the end which set Ronnie off totally. I have absoloutely no idea what time we all got to sleep or indeed exactly how much sleep I got. It was amazing sleeping in the desert though, quite surreal in many ways, thankfully not too cold.

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Part of the route up the The Place of High Sacrifice

 

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Hazim demonstrating a living sacrifice – I felt like I was dying anyway from the walk in 48 degree heat!!

 

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Alex and I posing looking out on to the horizon! Look how pink my face still is and we had been up there a good 15 mins by this time!

 

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Part of the view that Alex and I were looking out over

 

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Some views of inside the Siq getting back to the hotel

 

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This is my donkey’s keeper and I think the donkey was called Whiskey oh how Jan and I laughed taking these pictures!!

 

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Another stunning view through the Siq – this was quite near the beginning I think

 

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In the back of the open 4×4 driving out to our base camp for the night in the middle of the Wadi Rum

 

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This was our supper – cooked in a hole in the ground

 

Petra: 29th Sept

La il-laha illa Allah Mohammed rasul Allah (There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet) – the call to prayer, or part of it, was how we were awoken at 5am this morning. The temple or rather mosque sounded as though it was on our balcony it was so blooming loud which meant of course that I was not going to get back to sleep again. I must have dozed a little more than I thought as I was not awaiting the alarm at 7:30am when it went off. We showered and headed down for breakfast where some of the others were. The coffee was gross and the selection was frankly nothing special. There was flatbread which I put my apricot jam on. I was not too sure that I really wanted to attempt the pre-cut tomatoes and cucumber in case they had not been washed and heaven only knows how long they had been sitting out. Didn’t want a tummie bug on the first day really!

The bonus about sharing a room with someone was that we could check that we had everything and check on what we were wearing and so on, so we headed down to the foyer where we plastered ourselves in suncream and sorted out the insurance forms with Hazim and gave him our local payment and we were all ready to head off. It was not far at all from our hotel (The Edom Hotel) to the visitor centre where we got our tickets for the next two days entrance to the sight. Near to here there were loads of stalls selling tourist bits and pieces and most important of all the bottle of water. There was obviously one called The Indiana Jones Store and one called the Titanic Stop. Some of us borrowed money off Hazim to get water for the journey and I let on about my little alcoholic stash that I had brought with me and I informed everyone, jokingly, that they were not to worry as I was not an alcoholic – to which a lady stood next to me said – ‘oh I am!’ OMG ground open up and swallow me moment or what to put it mildly! With headress on some – others of us had caps etc – Martyn looked like a bride having his put on, it was quite funny!

So after a photo request of the rest of the group we made our way into the Bab as Siq (Gateway to the Siq) Just inside the entrance to the left is the horse and donkey sanctuary where you could take horse rides from down to the Siq itself. There were 3 enormous monuments in this section which are called Djinn (spirit) blocks that were built by the Nabateans. It is not known for certain exactly what they were built for they could have been tombs (or built as dedications) to their God Dushara.

Along from these there are four pyramidal obelisks which were built by the Nabateans on the 1st century BC. There is an eroded human figure on the top and with the 4 pyramid type things they are thought to represent the 5 people that are buried in the tomb. The scenery was really open at this point but you could see that the scenery was about to change. It was about 34degrees which was quite hot enough to put it mildly! The ground was quite rocky underfoot and you had to watch were you were walking quite a bit. I was always snapping away like a Japanese tourist but I didn’t care what I looked like or how much I held the others back – I was here to get my monies worth no matter what! We had hardly seen anything but I had a grin on my face like a Cheshire Cat and was as happy as larry in a place that I had been dying to see for such a long time.

Just before the entrance to the Siq you can clearly see where the Wadi Musa itself is actually blocked by a dam and it is pretty much int he same place as it was built by the Nabateans in 50AD to divert the flood waters away from the Siq. You can see on the righthand side and 8m high tunnel which was guarded by another god block.

The path then dropped away and was far smoother with a bit of sand over a concrete pathway. The stone was rather pale and almost white, thank god I actually got some sunglasses before I left. The path was originally framed by an ornamental arch which collapsed in 1896 but the last few rocks at each side seem to have survived. All the was along the left hand side of the Siq a Nabataean rock-cut water channel and then further down on the right hand side you can see the remains of a terracotta pipe for water which probably was built at the same time as the Nabataean Dam.

The Siq was formed when tectonic forces split the mountain in two. Walking through the Siq is the most surreal experience being surrounded by these huge rock walls that are about 150m high and the path between them ranges from about 2 – 11 metres wide. Along the way the path turned into cobbles which made the photography and walking at the same time rather tricky! I nearly fell arse over tit ona couple of occasions! There were some small votive niches with Greek styles and some Greek inscriptions too. There was a small shrine carved into a freestanding rock in a part of the Siq that was quite a bit wider than in most parts. The colours of the sandstone rock on the walls of the Siq were amazing, I could come back at a variety of times of the day and each time I have a feeling tha the colours will still be spectacular and such a range again but just totally different.

You can see the carving of a camel and a merchant in an Egyptian style headress in the wall just before a bend but most of the legs seem to have gone as workers knocked right through them to hold the water channel – how can they possibly be quite so thoughtless? The Siq becomes narrower again and darker but with a bright light at what looked like the end of the Siq and my heart flew into my mouth – this was it, this was what I have been working towards seeing. This was my target I suppose. Even though I had booked this trip before I headed back to Dr B-J to be rediagnosed with depression I saw this as my target to work towards to be feeling more stable by. It took me a little longer than the others to arrive at the Treasury I suppose that I was really just wanting to savour the moment – enjoy it in my own time.

The most amazing thing about it is taht it is over 200 years old and was designed to impress then and it still does now. It has been protected from the wond and rain from day 1 because of its positioning. The Treasury itself is mainly a facade that is fourty by thirty metres. The name was given by the Bedouin of Wadi Musa who were unaware of classical history and believed that it was the work of Pharoh, Lord of Black Magic.

The legend goes that in pursuit of the Israelites after the Exodus the phaoroh was slowed down by having to carry all of his treasure so he created the Treasury and deposited his riches in the urn at the very top of the facade – out of human reach. For centuries after it was abandoned Bedouin marksmen tried to shater the urn, and so release the treasure, but to no avail – all they managed to do was to blast off chunks of the solid urn. At the base of the facade some recent excvations (which are viewable through a grille) revealed that the Treasury was carved above a line of older facades also probably tombs. Hazim also said that this was a third story to the Treasury.

Inside the Treasury doorway there is just a blank chamber with smaller rooms coming off it – you can see the archways. In the entrance portico there are archways to rooms which have unusual round windows above the doorway. You can’t actually go right into the rooms but Jan and I stuck our noses in!

We sat on teh benches at the back of the opening to the Treasury looking at the facade itself as Hazim went into some of the history with pictures of what it looked like many years ago – amazing really, to think how intact it still is compared to most building of its age. I can imagine that in high tourist season it would not feel quite so magical with a bustle of people at the bottom of it. We obviously came at just the right time as apart from a few locals it really felt as though it had been opened just for us!!

We went and looked in a tomb to our right as we were sat down the colours on the interior from the sandstone were quite quite beautiful. There were lots of dug out holes and little alcoves and Hazim explained to us that the Nabataeans used to just lay the deceased in the shallowish hole adnd that a tomb like the one that we were standing in would have been for an entire family. The doorway is sealed, the bodies are left there and that’s that! We started moving on down passing through the outer Siq passing the Tomb of the 17 Graves but just before that we saw a row of tombs which all seemed to be atdifferent heights because of the floor level rising during the Nabataean occupation of Petra.

Then came the street of facades but just before this we stopped at a sand art shop where a gentleman was creating these amazing pictures in the layered sand. The different colours of sand area ll from the area which made them so amazing. We were shown how he created the pictures – predominantly camels- which was by using a whole array of pokers and fillers pushing the black sand down the side of the layered sand already in the bottle. As they were made in glass containers I was a little dubious in case it shattered whilst carrying it around and so I didnt get one. I really wish I had now!

Next to the sand art was another little stall that was selling some jewellery and little creatures made out of sandstone. The most amusing thing about this little store was the gentleman who was minding it. He had never properly learnt English in school, only from tourists coming through and some of the things that he was coming out with was hilarious – Jan and I were in absoloute stitches. ‘This is not Primark – but Primark price’, ‘Asda Price Ping Ping!’ ‘Buy one get one free – BOGOFF’ That was just the best. Jan and I referred to him as Bogoff man from then on and the mere mention of him had us both in stitches. He was also putting on a hilariously bad cockney accent.

The heat was beginning to set in as we must have been at about mid-day now and we were all a little pink to put it mildly! After walking through the street of facades which is loads of facades carved side by side out of the rock on at least four different levels.

We had our rest stop and re-feulled and re-lotinoed ready to head off again, nearly. We had a joke from Hazim which we then proceeded to hear on fairly regular occasions on a daily basis, the main line of it was ‘I have some gooide news and some baddie news’. . . .

From our rest stop we headed on down passing the theatre which has been dated from the first century AD. As many as 8,500 people could be accomodated in the seating and what makes it so impressive is that the entire edifice was carved out of the mountainside. Then over to the right in the distance we could see the Royal Tombs on the east cliff with the likes of the Urn Tomb, the Silk and Corinthian tombs and the Palace tomb. You can walk right up to them I thinkbut we didnt really have that much time to be able to do that and thinking about it too, Hazim didnt actually tell us about all of them.

We paused under one of the few trees in the ‘city centre’ which is a pistachio tree that stands over the Nymphaeum and had a bit of a chat with a camel that was quite close to us before we continued down the final part of the city centre.

We walked down the Collunaded Street which had the same flagstones in place on the floor since the Romans put them in place. Quite mind blowing to think that I was walking over the same stones that the Romans and all of those that followed hadwalked on too. By this stage I was so hungry, hot, tired and in need of a rest in the shade that I hardly listened to the info about the buildings that led down to the courtyard in front of Qaer al-Bint. I know that we passed through the Monumental Gate (which sadly no longer has the arches in tact) and by such places as the South Temple, The Temple of the Winged Lions and of course Qasr al-bint.

We were given the choice of going to the 5* restaurant or the one run by the Bedouin locals and therefore benefits them directly. The food would be the same in both and Hazim saung his praises for the local Bedouin one and so we all went there. There was quite a large group of other tourists who were German. It was actually quite nice only hearing the babble of our own English voices.

I was a little dubious as it was an all you can eat style of buffet – something that the guidebook strongly advised against having as you never know how long it has been sitting there and just how well the salad had been washed and so on – and there was no way that I was going to be hovering over a loo for the rest of the holiday – particularly as the night in the desert was still to come.

We had a sort of incrediblyy smooth bean hommus and a vairty of salad and some little bits of meat – I hate to think what they actually were, but they tasted delicious. I had some watermelon for pudding which, I have to say was incredibly refreshing. We all looked totally whacked and scarlet in the face from the heat but only a few seemed to have actually got sunburnt. Of course all of the waiters and the other Bedouins in the area were not eating because it it Ramadan and of course Muslims are not allowed to eat between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Hazim had to break it though because he needed water whilst guiding and informed us that he would be fasting for a few days after Ramadan to make up for the days that he missed.

We went to the little museum where I got some postcards in the tiny gift shop which had some finds in it that dated from all periods of occupation at Petra – we were whisked in and out pretty quickly which was a bit of a pity really as I never finished reading all of the boards. Outside the museum we spent a little while trying to work out what to do. Emily was very keen to head up to the Monestary then but the rest of us were not quite so keen to do so at this point as we were all a little exhauseted. I reassured her that I would go with ehr in the morning as did Alex and we decided to start heading back to the hotel to get ready for the Turkish Bath that we had booked for the evening.

We went via the Petra Church on the way home which is Byzantine in style – pretty unoriginal name I thought. It was built in the late 5th century. There is a modern shelter which covers the site to protect it was built in 1997. The mosaics in it were spectacular down the aisles which depicted the bounty of creation. We spotted a rather large gecho – our only bit of wildlife apart from the goats and of course camels, donkies and horses that we saw being used as transport for the tourists.

We walked back towards BOGOFF gentleman where Jan did some bargining and got a couple of pieces. We managed to loose the rest of the group somehow but caught up with them again in the Treasury opening by which time Jan and I had decided that it would be hilarious to take a horse or donkey back up to the entrance to the Siq. We wanted to leave the camel to our trekking in the Wadi Rum.

Jan managed to find us two donkies. It took us quite a while and a lot of effort to get on the saddle as we were drained of all energy. Eventually we were both mounted and off we went with the two donkey cavers. Apparently my donkey was called Whiskey and Jan’s was called Jack. We did nothing but giggle all of the way down pretending that we were Indiana Jones and so on. I had my rucksack on my back and so I couldnt get to my camera but Jan had hers to hand and took the most hilarious one of me on my donkey with the donkey handler on the back. He was saying some eyeopening things which I seriously wonder whether he knew what they meant or indeed where he had heard them from.

You have beautiful eyes, they are just like the Japanese – not sure if that was a compliment but seeing as my sunnies were on and there is no way that he could have seen my eyes it had Jan and I in giggles. Once you’ve had black you’ll never go back was another one that one of them kept coming out with. They told us that they dont actually go to school and that they live at the place of High Sacrifice – Hazim told us that that can’t be true as no one lives on the site anymore.

We passed all of the others on the way back up and we both thought that Hazim looked really annoyed with us. Jan explained that it was probably because it was not a part of his agenda and that Arabs are not that used to Western women who are independent and speak thier mind. Well he had his hands full with us two together!

We paused at the top for the others to join us before we all alighted horses before heading back up to the entrance gate. I really didnt think that I would feel as safe as I am usually pretty nervous around horses but I was fine. We only walked back up to the top so it actually felt ok which I was very proud of! Jan took a photo of me on a horse for Mum but it came out really wierdly with these black lines all over them. We spent ages tryin g to work out what had happened . . . it turns out, we think, that she must have taken the photo before the shutters had opened.

Once back at the hotel we all went to our rooms to get ready for the Turkish bath. I was looking forward to this – after our long hot walk I was really looking forward to the opportunity to relax but I had no idea what to expect. Our fleet of taxis arrived and off we headed.

It was still quite light when we arraived at Salome Turkish Bath. We left our valuables in lockers and were then shown to the changing rooms. Those that did not have a costume were given a sarong type of thing to put on. Once in our Turkish Bath attire we all alighted, with the flip flops that we had borrowed, into the rooms. (I am not quite sure how hygenic they were) and a sort of mitt that we were given to apparently rub ourselves with, it was not really an exfoliator but more like sandpaper.

We had to sit in this sauna type room after having cold water thrown after us. For some reason I managed to make it in there as one of the last and there were a couple of spaces left to sit on. As soon as I walked in though the heat of the steam felt like I was doing an inhilation. I sat down next to Margie and lept back up again the marble slab must have had the heat under where I was and my bottom illed! I tried perching on one cheek which was slightly more successful but I was also half purched on Margie as well which became incredibly uncomfortable and so I sat with Anne just olutside which was still pretty warm. She was outside as not only did she too find it too hot but also she is not good inconfimed spaces. So we chatted outside whilst scrubbing ourselves with the mits to get off all of the dead skin. Every so often someone would come out and splash cold water or warm water over themselves more often than not it came our way too. I had to keep reminding people that I had my contacts in.

We stayed in that sectino for a what felt like hours. Sweat was pouring down our faces and in fact all over my entire body but I suppose that was the whole point as that was all of the impurities coming out – Christ I clearly had laods. I just kept thinking about quite how surreal the whole situation was! Anne and Janet went in to have their massage and once they were done Ronnie and I went in.

The people that were doing it in there were men which frankly surprised me greatly int he first place. They were in bermuda shorts and I was asked to get up onto the marble slab and lie face down with my head on a cold hotwater bottle covered in a cloth. I was scrubbed with the mitt all over after being doused in tepid water. They certainly weren’t gentl with thier scrubbing, it really felt like the first layer of skin was being taken off my entire body. Oh god let this be over and done with soon is all I kept thinking!

It was indicated to me that I needed to take the straps off my shoulders but clearly that was not good enough as the straps were then yanked down to my waist. Ummmmnnn HELLO??!!!!! Didn’t feel at all akward, luckily Ronnie was kind of in the same room as I felt SO uncomfortable and could see all these images of me being assaulted by this man that there and then I wanted to pull my costume up and getting the hell out of there. So I was lathered up on my back and arms and the scrubbing continued and I started to get the giggles at the current situation and the absurdity of it.

The moment of hell came when ‘TURN!’ was shouted at me. Dear God NOOOOO!! Not only was the marble slate so slippery by now I seriously felt like I was going to come flying off it and landing in a heap on the floor. I was trying to retain my dignity and covering myself up amd was given a tiny piece of cloth to cover my boobs with – yeah, hardly covered my nipples it was so small and trying to cover myself whilst turning over so that nothing popped out that was not meant to!! God I felt embaressed. I felt prudish too. I am pretty sure that I would have been way less body concious if I had known what the ‘massage’ actually involved!

I had one arm holding on for dear life to the tiny bit of cloth and the other was being pummled and then when the other arm needed to be done it was a case of swapping the arms over very gently so again nothing spills out. Once that was done he crossed my arms over one way and then the other and then put all of his weight on – blimey I didn’t half hear my back click and again when he did it the other way. I had visions of me being unable to walk after this. Then with my legs being pushed back to my knees which again clicked really loudly. Yet more scrubbing and assaging with yet more embaressment when my behind was subjected to the scrubbing massaging and so on – I thought that it was cleverly hidden away by my swimming costume but that did not seem to bother the getleman in the slightest. Good god I felt used and abused to put it mildly! Worst of all Hazim came in part way through to check that we were all ok – he would have got more than the eeful that he had bargined for!! The whole experience ended with being doused in wateragain and off I slipped – quite literally having pulled my costume back up – it has some suppot/stapping on th interior which made everyhing skewif but by this stage I was past caring. I had to shower and used what I now believe to be handwash to wash my hair – oh well!

Having dried myself off and got changed back into my clothes Iand collected my valuables from the locker I sat with Janet and Anne and Ronnie – it was very quiet to begin with as I guess that we were all soaking in what we had just been through. I was not too sure that I really wanted to share the frankly horrendous and embaressing experience that I had just endured. I mean what on earth do you say to ‘So, did you enjoy that?’ We were all shiffling in our seats drinking our complimentary tea (which was delicious I have to say!) not quite sure what to say to each other it was SO British it was most amusing. Somehow the conversation adventually got around to it and we had thankfully all had the same experience apart from Ronnie who had a bikini on and did not have to remove the top half – the lucky cow! Anne however had one of the sarong things on. Oh how we laughed – God if I had problems with my swimsuit how in hell did she cope?! – god we didn’t half get the giggles then reinacting how we had each coped. The most amusing this from then on for us was watching everyones faces when they came out and then watching them fidgit until someone mentinoed it and then the reflief on thier faces that it was not only them that had been through it!! The MOST hilarious was Martyn and Alex when they came out – Alex said that the gentleman went to palces that made him feel most uncomfortable. So we all sat around drinking the complementary tea which was apparently Liptons but with some other herbs in it that he had put in it – it also tasted like it had honey in it. We had to wait for about 20-30 mins after we had paid as all of the taxis were not in service because they had not finished eating their meal as it was past sunset.

We got back to the hotel where I had a half of one of the mini bottles of wine whilst changing before meeting with all of the others downstairs ready to head out to supper at the Red Cave Restaurant. We had a variety of starters there but of course I had to be really careful with the peppers. The main meal was either lamb or chicken with rice – the same sauce – we all had a bit of both. The worst thing for all of us was that there was no alcohol allowed as they were not licensed to sell it.

We then went on to the Cave bar – well Alex, Jan, Janet, Ronnie and Emily with me of course and Hazim. It was stunning I have to say but sadly it was not serving alcohol during Ramadan and so we turned around and walked out – we all craved a beer like mad! Not that we are alcoholics of course! So we headed to the roof terrace of the Movenpick Hotel where we could get alcohol! We sat on the traditinoal cushions on the floor with a low table just how I had imagined the high class Bedouin Tents.

After one drink all left bar Jan and I who were both shattered but as we both said – what the hell, we are on holiday! So we stayed for another drink – only a small beer mind – that large one that we had started with semed to go to all of our heads it was really quite hilarious!

Hazim seemed to have a cousin who was staying int he hotel and so he came and joined us ad turned out to be very good company. He too had been a guide for Explore! but now he worked for A & K and Saga and another company too I think but I can’t remember what it was called.

Hazim ordered a hubbke bubble – one of those smoke pipe things – that was cherry flavoured. You see them in lots of Arabic countries. Jan tried some but everytime she inhaled I made her laugh and so she almost choked o it – god we were giggly!!

We got tired really quite quickly, I think that our long day began to catch up with us really quickly and we walked back to the hotel and then headed to bed., I had decided not to try the monestary in the morning and head to the Moevenpick for breakfast with Jan instead – oooh I was exhausted.

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Just a small gap of bright light and I was about to be silenced by the sheer beauty that was about to appear magically in front of me

 

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I was almost in tears by this moment, it was THAT amazing. I know its a building but trust me. You really have to go there to appreciate the magnificence of the place. And yes I did keep looking over my shoulder expecting to see ‘Indy’ racing up behind me on a horse!

 

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The Treasury in all its glory. The beauty of visiting at Ramadan meant that there were very few other tourists so we saw it without the mob of foreigners infront of it which made it even more special

 

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Creating sand art pieces. If ONLY I had the foresight to think to get one from here

 

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Some of the amazing colours in some of the rocks that were super smooth

 

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The Ampitheatre

 

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A view up to the Royal Tombs

 

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The Explore Team at supper (Jan on my right and janet at other end of table on right)

 

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Trying out the Hubble Bubble with Hazim on top of the Movenpick Hotel (was serving BEER!!)

 

Petra: 28th September

I alighted the plane to a wash of claret coloured 70’s/early 80’s fabric on the seats of the plane. I had sent the entire time before boarding the plane trying to spot the Explore! tags on people’s hand luggage – it was like playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ though! I found a couple briefly but then never saw them again. After I had my hand luggage and myself on the correct seat on the plane I was accosted by two ladies ‘oooooh Explore!’ yes ladies, you can indeed read! (The tag was sticking out of the overhead locker) smiles were had and I confirmed that I was indeed heading to Petra and carried on reading my Rugby World – I am not too fond of talking to people on planes at the best of times, the last thing that I needed was two overkeen chatters sitting next to me!

I slowly took in my surroundings . . .noting that the electronic equipment was something ou of the 60’s with a dial for the different radio stations etc and the fact that the whole bit was stuck on to the chair with glue! No way in hell was I being electrocuted by that – there was only 1 screen at the front as well to watch the movie on- it was so old-fashioned it is a surprise that it is still going. The films that were on I had never even heard of so I was not really that bothered about the dodgy electricity on the chair. Something told me that this was the sort of thing that I should be expecting out there.

Thankfully I ended up having a free seat next to me (no huge smelly person like I seem to have on nearly every other flight that I am on) – I took my trainers off in a bid to try and feel a bit more comfortable. After about 5 or so mins I noticed a rather unpleasant stench – I havent used the word smell as it was way too bad for that. I actually checked the usual places for my own body odour but it was SO bad I repeated checking as I became really paranoid – definitely wa not coming from me! After several sniffs in a variety of directions I discovered that it was coming from somewhere further down the plane – clearly not a race for cleaning thoroughly!!

I got my bag down from the overhead locker and the lady sort of in the seat next to me – Jan I think her name was – Oh God I’ve forgotten already , that’s going to be really embarrassing. SHe turned out to be another single female on the trip, but I wont be sharing with her as she has paid a single supplement and only paid £600 before that – need to delicately bring that up with the rest of the group at some point to see if everyone else paid that or the same as me (£695 without single supplement) or less. I kept seeing some random flashing lights – I couldn’t quite decide if it is because of some of the windows have their shutters open and so it could have been from the lights outside – yeah didn’t trust that heap of junk at all – I do feel that I am being rather sceptical but there we go! I wont even go into the whole meal saga – oh bugger I meant to tak a photo of it. Basically suffice to say it was frankly revolting and does not even deserve being written about any more. All that I will say is – PEPPERS!! We went through some pretty bad turbulence – some of the worst that I have ever been through – there was a bloke over the speakers saying something &^%%&*())( seatbelts *&^%$£”!” it was incredibly like the Spanish Football Manager on the Fast Show – you could only hear one or two words that were definitely in English! I just turned my iPod up louder and tried to think why I was on this godforsaken plane and think about exactly what I was actually going to be seeing. Oh GOD the flashing – its beginning to give me a headache now! To top it all off it started to feel like a sauna in here now and some little twerp on here clearly has germs and they have gone straight up my bloody nose which now wont stop running or sneezing. This is a bloody brilliant way to start the trip. At least no screaming children . . . oh no I’m sorry I can hear one over the iPod – HELP!!! It wont go up any more.

I walked off the plane with Jan and looked out for the Explore! sign which we found in the end. We waited for the plane to clear and worked out who was with us for the next few days. There was a young couple but I couldn’t work out to begin with if they were married or brother and sister. There seemed to be another couple as well and then two ladies from the plane who turned out to be sisters and a lady who had a bum bag on and a pen on a string around her neck and a couple of others. There were 11 of us in total and we handed our passports over to the guy who met us who informed us that he would get them all stamped and we waited a little while at the passport control before we all went down to the baggage reclaim sectino. We were being eyed up and down by the Arabs that we passed. I know that Explore! sort everything out and that he works for them but I was pretty nervous about handing over my passport to him and not being with him when he got it stamped – I mean he could have run off with them all. I need to stop being so paraniod.

The bags took ages to come through – I swear that they were bringing them all frmo the plane manually one at a time! I made a trip to the loo and it was not as bad as I thought that it was going to be! I was desperate for a fag – although there were others smoking in the terminal , not from our group, I didnt really want to start off on a bad foot in this country. Once we had all the bags they had to be screened AGAIN before we could leave the airport.

There were families waiting to greet loved ones off the plane clearly the whole family had come to the airport with flowers and presents galore and much kissing and hugging was going on all around us. It reminded my of the beginning and end of Love Actually. They were totally unaware of thier surroundings though as we nearly knocked over a couple of Great Great Grannies on the way through with our pully bags trying to get out. We were directed to a mini bus when by which stage we were outside ,eant that I could finally light up. We said goodbye to the gentleman who had guided us through the airport which was rathr confusing as we all thought that he was our guide! Hazim turned out ot be our guide and he greeted us very chirpily (at about 1am) and was more than thrilled to notice that one of the group smoked. Great – really don’t want to be labelled with that too much.

I managed about 2 puffs of my fag before jumping onto the bus (being driven by a driver whose name I never got) and we headed off to Petra and our hotel. Hazim told us a few bits and pieces about what the airport was called and named after – Queen Alia who, if I remember correctly was one of Kind Husseins wives who was killed in a helicopter crash near to the airport. We headed out on the Desert Highway towards Petra. Hazim lent me a little pillow to lean on so that I could get some sleep on the 2 or so hours drive. I did try looking out of the window once we were well onto the Desert Highway, there were no lights at all on the road to show markings at night and the sky was simply magical dripping with stars. Something told me that the night sky in the desert would be even more amazing than that.

We arrived in the hotel and unloaded the bus. It must have been about 3am and our room numbers were sorted out and I ended up in sharing a room with a lady called Janet, or is it Judith?! We organised a wake up call for 8am all heading out at 9am to see the sights. When we got to our room I sorted out a couple of bits to be ready for the mornings activities. We decided to set the alarm for 7.30am so that we could have some snooze time before getting up for real.

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