Onwards and upwards (and upwards and upwards) to the pilgrimage route! It’s now somewhere between 12.30 and 1pm, and we’ve been exploring Petra in the baking sun for almost 7 hours. But yes, there is more.
We set off through the valley – Wadi Ferasa – and sadly I have few photos of this section as I was running drastically out of memory on my phone, but we paused at many more tombs, caves and areas of worship as we made our way up the steep steps and through the city. We passed areas designed for bathing, resting and eating – in the time of the pilgrimages through Petra, the journey that we were covering would have been split into several days, if not weeks. We also passed many stalls run by the villagers of Wadi Musa, who are the only people who have the right to work in Petra. Until recently, they also had the right to live in Petra, but with growing tourism the government allocated them an area of land overlooking the city.
Our tour guide (Ayman from now on) who undertakes this walk once a week, marched on ahead as we paused for photographs, water breaks or just to take in the incredible landscape. It is a dramatic and rewarding walk, with a clear route. Passing what would at one time have been a fountain in the shape of a lion carved into the sandstone to refresh pilgrims, we knew we were close, and we eventually reached the High Place of Sacrifice and an altar, perched on cliffs 170m off the valley floor with nothing but common sense keeping you from becoming a sacrifice. It is unknown exactly what took place here, or who specifically was being sacrificed to, but Ayman was quick to insist that nothing beyond animal sacrifice took place here.
Continuing on a little further, we stopped to take in the city of Petra and really appreciate just how high up we had climbed. The photo above doesn’t even begin to do the view justice.
We parted with another member of our group whose knees were giving up on him, and set off for our final ‘once in a lifetime moment’ of the day – the Treasury from above. Ayman regaled us all with assurances that he was the ‘only tour guide in Jordan to take this route to the Treasury’, and while I can neither prove or refute that claim, it definitely wasn’t the easy route. After about half an hour of clambering up and down rocks and shrubs, we were looking once more upon the Treasury (from a very precarious ledge). The money shot. Absurdly, I didn’t get vertigo while I was physically standing there, one wrong foot away from becoming a thinkpiece in the Guardian, but when I was trying to fall asleep that evening I kept waking up thinking I was falling over the ledge. Others in the group’s vertigo did kick in at the time, with varying reactions, but we all appreciated the stunning view over an incredible feat of ancient engineering nonetheless.
We said our goodbyes to the Treasury and clambered over more rocks and shrubbery to reach an alternative path back to Wadi Musa, complete with goats and one of our stray dog pals from earlier in the day. Sore feet, mild sunburn and an unbelievable excitement to sink into bed carried us back to the hotel after a long but incredible ten hours exploring the city. Petra -1, Western travellers – 0.
Thank you Petra for an incredible day and evening, and to Ayman for making it come alive. An unforgettable experience.