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Petra - the Rose-red City - Page 3

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Whilst Julie sat in the restaurant and chatted to staff and visitors, I chose to visit the most spectacular facade in Petra, the Monastery (al-Deir), 220 metres higher than the restaurant. This involved a climb up the mountainside where over 800 steps had been hewn into the rock. 

There are over 800 steps on the way to  Al Deir - the Monastery
The start of the climb to the Monastery
Rock arch at Petra, Jordan
One of the strangest parts of the walk

The steps were of varying shapes and sizes, and often there were tens of metres of slightly uphill walking between each step.

The guide books said the climb could be achieved in about an hour, and this is correct although an experienced walker could do it in less. You don't have to be very fit or very experienced, though some degree or agility and stamina is required.

The ability to say "la shukran" ("no thank you") is also useful as there are many small souvenir stalls on the mountain.

Donkey travel in Petra
Above: Some choose to make the climb by donkey

Right: Well worth the effort is the sight of the Monastery - this 50m-square facade carved out of the rock of the mountain

Al Deir (Al Dayr) or The Monastery in Petra, Jordan

The Monastery is even bigger than the Treasury at 50m square, and just as well preserved. It is a stunning site, particularly in the afternoon sun. A very welcome sight after climbing this far is a cafe built into a rock cave; you can sit and rest, rehydrate and take on calories whilst admiring the fantastic edifice of the Treasury opposite. This is not the top, however, and a walk of another few hundred metres up a comparatively gentle slope takes you the the edge of the mountainside which rewards you with a distant view East towards the River Jordan.

Distant view of Israel from Petra
The view East from the mountain top . . .
The Monastery from Petra mountain top
. . . and the view back down towards the Monastery

The climb down, surprisingly, takes about as long as the upward journey, perhaps because of fatigue, perhaps because each step has to be taken more carefully and perhaps because of stops to admire the fantastic views down into the main part of Petra.View of Petra from above

Arriving back at the restaurant, feeling rather smug at being one of the few members of our party who attempted the climb, I rejoined Julie who had been practising her Arabic on the waiters. It was now time to make our way back to the Siq, a distance of about a kilometre uphill. Julie took a donkey, led by an interesting and well-educated arab whose English was excellent. I walked. Before leaving Petra, there was enough time to take some mint tea just opposite the Treasury, and to buy more souvenirs.

A donkey takes the strain out of travel in Petra
Julie returns by donkey to . . .
The Siq from the Treasury in Petra, Jordan
. . . the entrance to the Siq out of Petra

The return journey through the Siq was even more interesting than the one early in the day. It was, of course, just as bumpy, but our horse seemed reluctant to make the whole trip, especially when upward slopes were encountered, and the buggy slipped backwards several times in an alarming manner. Eventually, we were delivered back to 'the outside world', a world so different from the self-contained surreal landscape we had just left. Even one day in Petra leaves an indelible mark on you and we found ourselves telling our friends that they must go there. And so must you.

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