The Rose-Red City and Crusader Castel (June 13 – 15)   Leave a comment

Petra

The rose-red city, half as old as time, sits in a large complex of valleys surrounded by tall cliff walls. As you start down the main valley you are led through a narrowing valley that slopes down flanked by carved dwellings and temples. While most of these are small it is impressive to see how they are carved into the mountain side, many of them with intricate detail. Although Petra was established in the 6th century BC (as the capital of the Nabataeans) it has withstood time and nature, even earthquakes, extremely well.

Towards the end of the initial valley sits a tall natural gorge known as the Siq. This is a 1 km long trail, at places only 3 meters wide, with tall cliff faces on both sides. Walking through here in the early morning with no one around gave us a sense of exploration and the thought of stumbling upon a long forgotten civilization.

As we meander down the Siq we suddenly find ourselves staring at the famous Treasury through the remaining gorge. As we walk out we are able to appreciate the full scale and detail of the structure. The most amazing part is that this building is carved right out of the cliff face. After marveling at the Treasury we continue along the narrow valley and find a large open valley with the walls covered with carved structures.

To the left we climb a long series of stairs and switch-backs rising above the valley floor to what is known as the High Place of Sacrifice. While there isn’t much up there, it did give us an excellent view of the ancient city below. Once back down we continue through the valley to a large amphitheater carved into the side of a mountain. Farther along we come to another section with multiple, very intricate, structures carved along the cliff wall on a tall hill. Viewing these structures also gives you a view of the surrounding area where we were able to see many other carvings in almost every mountain face in the area.

As we continued to follow the valley floor we find a stone road constructed by the Romans after they had conquered the area. This road is flanked by the few remaining columns that once lined the path. On both sides sit the ruins of once large temples. Towards the end of the road, where the valley begins to narrow again, the path to the Monastery begins. This long and winding path led us up to the top of the mountains where, carved out of another large cliff face, sits the Monastery. This structure is just as impressive as the Treasury and was used as a Monastery during the Byzantine period.

Petra is an amazing sight and one of the most unique places on earth. The bright red, iron rich sandstone that the city is carved from shines in the morning and afternoon sun. Many of the dwellings and structures show layers of rock that look like paint swirls of dark and light red, orange and white. The entire area is huge and it is easy to picture the large caravans of camels bringing goods from Asia and Europe and finding shelter and a place to trade in the valleys of Petra.

Shobak

Shobak was built in 1115 by king Baldwin I of Jerusalem. After the success of the first crusade the christian armies extended their empire into what is today Jordan with fortifications to protect pilgrims and merchants. This particular castle sits on a steep hill and is  surrounded by hilly, yet fertile, terrain. In 1184 the Muslim commander Salah-ad Din besieged the castle and it fell two years later.


The castle itself sits primarily in ruins but enough remains to allow the imagination to fill in the gaps. Three walls surrounded the inner keep that all sit atop a steep and at some points cliff face mountain. Multiple levels are still standing and the lack of ropes, guards or tourists gives you the feeling of discovering a long abandoned fortress. It is great to stand atop the ruins and imagine the muslim hordes perched out side with their siege engines pounding the walls while your troops fire back with trebuchets, ballistas and arrows.

Our tour ended in an escape tunnel that, starting in the center of the fortification, winds down into the mountain at a steep angle. This pitch black tunnel seems to go forever until we finally saw a shimmer of light that leads up a ladder and onto the road that leads to the castle.

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Posted June 21, 2012 by Magan and Brenden in Asia, Jordan

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