We have psychologically prepared Ryo for a lot of walking today, and after a solid breakfast with omelettes we are off at 8 to Petra. We meet up with our French speaking guide who is taking us as well as another family from Chambéry: a mom with her two kids. The boy, Lukas, is the same age as Ryo and very chatty, so they soon become good pals. Our guide is more of a hiking guide than a historian, so he is a bit longwinded with his rambling explanations.
After a long preamble about who the Nabateans were (long story short: they were pre-Islamic Arabs) we enter the famous Siq, a spectacular narrow gorge that the Nabateans turned into the entry path to their city by deviating the original river with a dam and a tunnel. To supply the city with freshwater however they continued to draw some of the water from the dam into irrigation channels along both walls of the gorge, rather like a millrun.
After following the meandering Siq through sheer cliff walls we reach el-Khazneh (The Treasury) made famous by the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s beautiful, monumental, and breathtaking. Nabatean architecture is remarkable both for how this people carved their monuments out of the cliffs, and also drew their inspiration from various antique styles by combining Arabic, Roman and Greek architectures. El-Khazneh is only one of the many tombs that can be admired on this gigantic site, as well as more modest caves that were the living quarters of the people.
We progress further to the “theatre district” where we come to the end of our 3 hour tour and part ways with our guide and travelling companions. We’re glad to head off on our own itinerary but Ryo is distraught to lose his friend Lukas and takes a bit of time to cheer up again as we climb up in the ever-increasing heat to the sacrificial obelisks. The view from up here is fantastic, and going down on the other side of this mountain is fun, and thanks to the fairly challenging walk there are very few tourists on this path.
We reach a secluded part of the Nabatean town with several interesting temples, then cross the bottom of the valley in searing heat to try to find a restaurant (and water!). We find a restaurant at the foot of the next range where our afternoon program is to climb to Al-Deir, the monastery. The lunch break in the shade is very welcome. Le Basin restaurant is buffet style with the usual tourist fare at usual tourist prices.
Feeling restored, we start climbing and see just ahead of us that our French companions from this morning have hired donkeys to climb to the monastery. We choose the sporty (and cheapskate) option and decide to attack the 900 stairs with our own two feet. About half way up we catch up with our friends who are taking a break after having dismissed the donkeys, not feeling too comfortable on the poor beasts. We finish the climb as a group and discover the monastery, arguably more impressive than the better-known Treasury, and accompanied by splendid views all around as we’re no longer in the bottom of the valley. The kids are not particularly interested in the architectural and geographical particularities of the site and are happy to hang out together again while the adults push on to further viewpoints.
Climbing down Ryo and Skye wait for Sandra a bit who is finding the descent harder on the legs than going up. Skye haggles with vendor for a little terracotta oil lamp… the going price is between $25 and $35 but it’s the end of the day and people are looking to sell so Skye bargains one down to $5.
Once back down on the valley floor, Skye parts with Ryo and Sandra to make a couple of detours to check out some Byzantine mosaics and visit the magnificent Urn Tombs. He meets up with the family again a bit further on and we then retrace our steps back out along the Siq. A Bedouin guy insists on us hiring a horse for Ryo. Skye jokes that Ryo is allergic but the guy doesn’t understand so he tries again, saying that Ryo is scared of horses. This plan backfires on Skye as the local chastises him for allowing Ryo to be scared, and says we must raise our child to master his fears. Ryo of course isn’t scared of horses in the least, and Skye admires the guy’s salesmanship so he gives in, and Ryo is thrilled and proud to ride the last stretch on his own.
Back out the gates Skye calls Mahmoud to rescue us and bring what is a very tired family back to the hotel. Our legs are really stiff after an almost 20 km hike over 9 hours in the sun. It was a great trek in an exceptional setting. We are all dusty and enjoy our shower before heading up to the rooftop terrace for a supper of hummus & kebabs, before finishing with baklava & coffee. We will all sleep very well tonight!