With one last country and one last wonder in mind I commenced my lightning trip to Jordan, with only two days here it will be barely enough time to see Petra let alone see anymore of the country. However it was Petra that both put and kept Jordan on my radar all this time with the spectacular rock carved buildings and scenery even used as the back drop to scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Firstly the journey to Jordan from Egypt is a mission in itself that relies heavily on good planning, timeliness and an unquantifiable amount of luck. With the few buses on offer I needed to get a bus (1.5 hours) that would arrive such that I could buy a ticket in the currency of the day for a ferry (1.5 hours) that would then leave at an undisclosed time, all the while hopefully finding some people to share a taxi with to Petra (2.5 hours) since buses finish about midday. Sound complicated? It's hard to imagine that Indy had more difficulty in getting here!
Initially my luck was in with a simple inquiry about the bus to the border being answered with an offer of a minibus for twice the price but ready to leave from my hotel and drop me at the ticket office - a nice start. Arriving at the ticket office at midday was easy and with yet more luck on my side I purchased my ticket in American dollars - so far so good. I then inquired about the departure time of the ferry and was told "after 2pm", with a look suggesting that he thought this was a definite time. I then met some people that were going to Jordan but not Petra (close). Arriving at the ferry building I waltzed through customs and was now officially out of Egypt, even managing to find some people headed my way - today was going like clockwork.
Needless to say it all fell apart and not only did 2pm disappear but with it 3pm and 4pm as well with the ferry finally boarding at 4:30pm and leaving at 5pm. The journey took us a little over an hour and was comfortable, with the overpriced meal a necessity after a long day without lunch. passports were surrendered on board and collected at shore with tourists processed separately and with a level of efficiency.
Departing the port building it became immediately apparent that we had left Egypt with everything more civilised, cleaner and overall nicer here. With this however came the price inflation, however we did manage to get a taxi for the price we wanted to pay but the two hour ride was still more expensive that anything I had done in Egypt. Indeed it was twice the price of my overnight train from Cairo to Aswan - a journey of 13 hours! The car was however nice and the driver keen to stop along the road for a coffee break and let us chat to some of the locals.
At first glance here the people here are much friendlier here and want to talk to you about where you are from and why you are here without the mention of "backsheesh". This provides a very tranquil feel that is consolidated by everything including the traffic. We arrived in Wadi Mousa, my home for exploring Petra finding a nice enough place to stay and a tremendous feed. The town is quite small and relies almost solely on tourism but is yet unspoilt with the possible exception of the over zealous taxi drivers.
The next day it was off to take in Petra, utilising a free lift from the hotel to the ticket office. It was here that I encountered the only 15 minutes of frustration that I felt at Petra. The government has tainted itself slightly by adding a ridiculously overpriced horse ride ($18) for the 1km journey from the ticket office to the entrance annoying taking the ticket price to $50. As you labour slowly at the whim of your "guide" you pass signs suggesting that this is dedicated to looking after and providing healthy horses and donkeys for less wealthy communities. I hope this is the case as then it was not a total waste of my money. Thankfully here is where the frustration stop and the spectacle begins.
Dismounting you are left to wander for 1200m through a stunning erosion carver narrow gorge that could serve as an attraction in itself. The 80m high walls serve to focus your attention allowing you to fully appreciate the vibrat palette of earth colours on display. With your attention now focused the gorge then gives up a few hints as to what lays at the end in the form of small carvings in the rock. Turning the final corner however you breath is taken as firstly the corner and then slowly the whole treasury comes into view already heavy with shadows at 9am (the sun abandons the treasury at 10am such is its location). Firstly you take in the magnificent size of the facade before noticing its remarkable attention to detail, complete with precise lines and columns before finally marveling at its remarkable state of preservation - the last one no doubt owing to its protection by the gorge. A spectacular sight and worthy of mentions alongside Iquazu, Tikal and the other amazing places that I have been fortunate enough to visit.
The remainder of the site is also quite nice and takes in a road with many more facades covered in rocks that are nice but not quite as well preserved as the treasury. The road then leads to the 900+ stairs that lead the way to the monastery, the second most famous building here and one that is very impressive. The sheer size of these buildings is something that you cannot help but wonder at. The columned road (built by the romans ofcourse) also present gives way to the great temple, one of the few temples with an inbuilt theatre. The stadium here is quite well preserved and is impressive holding up to 40,000 people.
The background for this wonder is also some gorgeous desert and mountain scenery that can be taken in by hiking amongst the many goat trails on offer. The second day I spent following a large percentage of these trails, trails that led to many more less visited tombs and an old crusader fortress among other things. I also took the opportunity to view the site from the sky climbing three of the mountains on display including the "great place of sacrifice". This was at the highest point of Petra and is complete with sacrifice benches and basins. The mountains provided some incredible views and it is quite remarkable that the stadium, temple and facades seem so small from your viewpoint after being astounded by how big they were the day before.
With as much of Petra as there was to see seen, it was time to head off and prepare for my journey back to Egypt. With just 2.5 days left I am hoping to cross the border with little drama and make my way to one final destination Alexandria before I fly home.