Read Part 1: Dead Sea & A Mountaintop Sunset
I woke up early on my second day in Jordan with a sore throat and visibly swollen tonsils. After a quick Google search, I discovered there was a hospital about a 15-minute drive away, so I arranged a taxi through the hotel concierge. We were planning to spend the morning at the ancient city of Petra before driving to a camp in Wadi Rum, so I figured if I hurried I could grab some antibiotics and be back before breakfast had finished.
It was a beautiful drive, first through the colourful backstreets then up into the mountains. When we got to the hospital, the taxi driver insisted on coming in with me. He told me the doctor would speak some English, but the reception staff would not. He was right.
I waited on a cot in the smallest, most humble emergency room I had ever seen. The bedsheets didn't look very clean and I was thankful I wasn't there for something worse. The doctor came in after a few minutes and I painfully explained what was wrong. He told me to open my mouth and I did; he then stuck in a tongue depressor and his iPhone flashlight. "Ahh," he said, and left the room without another word. My driver came in a moment later, holding my prescription. "Infected throat," he told me. It was the first -- and hopefully last -- time I've ever received a medical diagnosis from a taxi driver.
After a quick stop at a pharmacy back in town, I asked the driver to drop me off back at my hotel so I could grab some breakfast with my travel buddy before heading down to the ancient site. It wasn't the most ideal day to hike through the desert but we were scheduled to leave for Wadi Rum that afternoon, and I knew I'd be more likely to regret bumming around the hotel, instead of visiting the one spot that had inspired me to come to Jordan in the first place.
At breakfast we met up again with our tour guide, and he introduced us to three other travelers who had hired his colleague to take them around Jordan. They were planning to visit Petra as well, so we decided to all walk down together.
It cost us around 50 JOD to get into the historical site. Beyond the Petra Visitor's Center are numerous vendors, offering local souvenirs. We stopped at one and bought some traditional headscarves to help shield us from the heat; the vendor showed us how to wrap and tie them, something I unfortunately haven't been able to replicate since.
We then started down the Bab as-Siq ("Gate of the Siq"), which is about a half-mile-long pathway that takes visitors to the Siq, a narrow gorge that leads the way into the ancient city. Walking from the Visitor's Center to the Siq took around 15-20 minutes but can be quite hot as there is no shade along the way. There are horses, donkeys and carriages that can take you along this path (for a generous tip), though we didn't do this as we weren't sure how well the animals were treated.
Walking through the Siq is beautiful. The rock walls soar up on both sides to heights of up to 150 meters, and at times we had to hug the walls of the narrow pathway to avoid being hit by oncoming carriages. After walking for about 30 minutes, we finally caught a glimpse of the Treasury, peeking through the walls of the gorge like a golden mirage.
Though packed with tourists and vendors, the Treasury was still impossibly beautiful. I wish I had a photo that would properly do it justice, but it really is a place you have to see in person to experience its full beauty. The Petra Archaeological Park also offers evening candlelight tours to the Treasury, which I hope to experience on a future visit.
Once we got past the Treasury, everything else seemed to be a bit underwhelming, especially with all the vendors selling trinkets and advertising wifi hotspots. We were glad to see a stand selling fresh juice though, so we sat down and enjoyed some refreshing pomegranate juice served by a guy who looked like an Arabic Jack Sparrow.
Since our time in Petra was limited and the rest of the group wanted to hike to the end, I let them go on and conserved my energy for a bit before continuing on alone. The short break also allowed me a chance to soak in the beauty of the place beyond the striking walls of the Siq and dazzling beauty of the Treasury. I marveled at the ruins of Petra's 8,000-seat Nabatean theater and the ancient tombs which, although beautifully carved out of the cliffs, could almost be missed at first glance.
Unfortunately I didn't make it much further than this; the heat and fever were getting the better of me, and I knew that every meter I walked, I would have to walk again to go back. Walking through the Siq was still beautiful the second time around and there were areas along the winding path where I seemed to be completely alone. The hard part was walking back along the Bab as-Siq under the direct sunlight, and I had to rest again at the Petra Visitors Center with a cold aloe juice before heading back up the road to my hotel.
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