Africa

Excursion to Petra from Egypt (part I)

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That day we woke up very soon because we had a very long day ahead of us. We were going to Petra (Jordan) across three borders by road: Egypt, Israel and Jordan. We did not know how the thing was going to go and, although we had the multi-entry visa, at least I continued with the doubt of whether it would really help us. The taxi driver did not come at the indicated time, supposedly due to problems with his car and quickly the hotel sent for a new one. With that we left 45 minutes later than expected. We wanted to get to the borders soon to avoid queues. From Tarabeen to Taba there is an hour on a road where you see how time stopped in the area after the attack at the 2004 Hilton Taba hotel. Half-built hotels and apartments and people who, because of the extremes, ran out of way of life.

We enter Jordan

Upon arriving at the border of Egypt they tell us that we have to buy a stamp worth 2 pounds (0.24 euros) to leave the country. We buy the stamps and go to the departures window. There we have to fill out a form and deliver it along with the passport. At the window I read a sign that says that tourists who plan to return to the country have to notify them (I imagine that they will receive a multi-entry visa, although I read on the Internet that the one they give you there is not entirely valid). We notified the officer that we already had the re-entry visa, he looked at it and gave us the exit stamp.

Map of the site of Petra. © National Geographic Travel # 115

We left a road that led us directly to the border with Israel, which is about 50 meters walk, and before leaving Egypt another officer asks us for a passport. He looked at it and asked us something I did not understand, then he started talking on the walkie-talkie, wrote us something in his passport and returned it to us.

Upon arriving in Israel, a police girl asked us in perfect English if there had been a problem in Egypt with my passport to which I replied that I had no idea. He looked at our passport and told us to go to the office. There they look at your passport, again, and ask you why you want to enter Israel, if you're staying, if it's the first time, etc. You answer calmly, they put the stamp of entry to the country and give you a blue paper that you have to present when you leave the country. On the border of Israel the controls are more exhaustive than on that of Egypt. When we finally left and entered Israel, I looked at my passport to see what a problem there had been and I noticed that the date of departure from Egypt had not changed the date and put the one of the previous day. If that…

Israel is like entering another world. Just outside the border there were taxis waiting, a taxi driver approached us and offered to take us. We told her that we didn't have shekels and that we had to change, but she told us that she was taking us to an exchange office or that we could pay her $ 20 for the race. The price seemed expensive, but since in Israel the taxis have a meter, I thought that having it waiting would be more expensive, so we accepted. He took us to the border while making a tourist comment about the just six kilometers that separate Egypt from Jordan: the aquarium, the shopping center, the IMAX, luxury hotels, etc ... It's like being in the US, what it was All an impact for us. We enter the Siq.

Upon arriving at the Israeli border with Jordan, they told us to change money, to deliver the blue paper they had given us at the entrance and to pay 94.5 shekels (17 euros) of exit fees from the country. Don't see this about crossing borders, they make you pay for everything! With the ticket that accredited that we had paid the fees we went to get the exit stamp and prepared to enter Jordan. Jordan's border is more like that of Egypt, but Jordan is seen as not such a poor country; He is not rich like Israel, but not as poor as Egypt.

On the border of Jordan, we changed currency and prepared to enter the country. There, an officer who wanted to speak attended to us and, seeing the passport that we were from Spain, asked us: «Barça?» And it goes and it turns out that it was from Barça. After the typical soccer conversation (the Arabs love football and I think they went to meet the only ones who don't give a damn about football) he told us to move on to another window. There the officer asked us that if we were from Barça, we said yes and he replied that if we were from Barça, he would not let us into the country (he goes and it turns out he was from Madrid). Well, we told him not to worry, that if we had to be from Madrid, we were.

Finally, after an hour crossing borders we arrived in Jordan. At the exit of the border there were several taxis waiting. We went to ask one and he told us 60 dinars. Everyone agreed and there was no way to negotiate, so we waited to see if anyone else came out to share it, but seeing no one we accepted and paid. In fact, the border is in the middle of nowhere and there is no other way out.

From Aqaba to Petra there are about two hours. As I said, Jordan is a richer country than Egypt and it shows by cars, among other things. Before arriving at Wadi Musa (a town attached to Petra), our taxi driver stopped and we could see the mountains surrounding the area of ​​the ruins from afar. When he arrived at the town he asked us if we wanted to go to the hotel to leave our backpacks, but since we didn't want to waste any more time, we told him to take us directly to Petra. What a mistake! With what you have to walk in Petra, going with backpacks makes it even heavier.

Unlike Egypt, everything is very well organized in Petra. First you have to go to the visitor center where tickets are purchased (1 day: 21 dinars; 2 days: 26 dinars; 3 days: 31 dinars) and you can also hire a transport service (horse or cart pulled by a donkey) . From the visitor center at the entrance of the Siq there are 800 meters and to make this journey you can hire a horse that costs 7 dinars if you hire it at the visitor center and maybe less if you haggle with the guides. Another option is to go by donkey cart that takes you from the visitor center to the treasure (2 Km) and costs 20 dinars. As we had just arrived, we decided to walk because it was downhill.

Upon arriving at the Siq, the narrow passage that leads to the city of Petra, one can do nothing but marvel at nature. The Siq is not a cannon, but was formed through various seismic movements. You walk along its winding road as if you were surrounded by the skyscrapers of New York, all the time looking up for more than a kilometer until at last ... you reach the Treasury.

Petra became famous for appearing in the movie Indiana Jones and the last crusade. In the film, inside the Treasury there was a crossed centenary that guarded the Holy Grail. There are many references to Indiana Jones in Petra and Wadi Musa. The Treasury is called that because centuries ago a rumor spread that said that the Egyptians, in persecuting Moses, stopped there and in that place they kept their wealth (I hallucinate with the rumors). In fact, the Hellenistic facade of the Treasure contains the size of an urn that is all bored by bullets, since more than one tried to open the ballot box, because they believed it was there that the treasure was stored. Obviously, within this tomb of an ancient Nabatean king there is nothing. Only a couple of huge, perfectly cubic and empty spaces dug with great precision in the rock. The "treasure" is undoubtedly of an architectural type, a sample of the craftsmanship of the Nabatean people who take away the hiccups of all visitors.

In front of the Treasure we sat to contemplate the pink stone carved on the wall and to eat the kebab that we had bought in the town before entering. After the Treasury we continued along the road and saw that on the right and left there were tombs carved into the rock with great patience and geometric accuracy. We walk down until we reach the Roman theater (also excavated in the rock). From the Treasury there are two other means of transport: the camel that goes from the Treasury to the Roman theater and the donkey that takes you from the Roman theater to the Monastery, the high place of sacrifice and the royal tombs. To climb these places you have to walk a lot and climb many steps carved in the irregularly shaped rock.

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