Be prepared to be amazed, not only by the beauty of this magical place but also the brilliance of the Nabataean people who built this city after coming from the Arabian Peninsula more than 2200 years ago. After centuries of earthquakes, floods and eventually changes to the trade route through the Middle East this amazing city was abandoned. Left behind is an extraordinary ancient city built to last centuries that we get to experience and appreciate.
As-Siq is the main entrance into this magical city and as you walk through the stunning 1200 meter long gorge you feel excitement and anticipation building the further you venture in. The morning was already quite warm but the high red and brown natural walls provided shade and the occasional cool breeze whistling through the gorge. As it was the low season there wasn’t a lot of people around and you feel like the only person in the world, it was so peaceful and beautiful.
Emerging from the Siq you are absolutely blown away by the remarkable beauty and grandeur of the Al-Khazneh known as the treasury and also featured in the first Indiana Jones movie. Al Khazneh is thought to have been carved as a tomb for a great Nabataean King in the 1st century BC. All the remarkable carvings into the side of the mountains in Petra are actually tombs and only 13 mummies have ever been found, the Nabataean people actually lived outside in the open valley.
Petra is huge and you really do need at least 2 days to see it all however I only had the one day and managed to go through most of it. I think I would have walked about 10 kilometers that day in 40 degree heat but it was well worth it , also there are lots of places to stop off for a cool drink and free wifi.
The Nabataean people were quite advanced and also open to outside cultural influence. I saw examples of Egyptian, Roman and Greek in the magnificent carvings. Roman pillars, obelisks and the sun disk from the goddess Isis to name a few, as well as a large amphitheater.
It is a bit of a hike but well worth it to head to Ad-Deir which is the monastery tomb. According to the brochure it’s only 800 steps but it felt like more. The 800 steps seem to be spread out over a long path way that just goes up and up and I am guessing the pathway is just counted as one step. You can catch a donkey up which I did for part of the way. I just felt so sorry for the donkey, it was a hot day and the guide just kept hitting the poor thing to go faster. In the end, less than half way up I politely told him I would walk the rest of the way but still pay him the full fare which was 10JD, poor donkey.
You are treated to stunning views as you go higher and higher up the mountain and to my relief there was a nice little cafe up the top serving freshly squeezed lemon and mint juices and nice comfy couches to relax in while you marvel at the awesomeness of Ad-Deir.
- Wear comfy shoes there is a lot of walking, sunblock and water is a given when traveling anywhere in the Middle East.
- If you do go to Ad-Der and decide to take a donkey only do so for the way up as coming down on the donkey is a little dangerous. Also pay the guide a couple of extra JDs to go slow so it’s easier on the donkey and for you. A rushing donkey means you have to work harder to stay on him, also be kind to donkeys they work hard.
- Same advice if you choose to ride a camel, pay the guide extra to go slow as they will be rushing so they can drop you off and pick up more tourist. A running camel is not a pleasant experience it’s really uncomfortable and quite hard on your lower back. I know this because the next day I was laid up in bed with damaged nerves in my fourth and fifth lumbar. Never going on a camel again.
- The great thing about visiting in the low season is that you feel like you have the place to yourself and you can get some great shots without people in them. The down side is that low season is in the Jordan summer so if you don’t mind the heat, it’s a good trade off.
- Another point about a low season visit to Petra is that you will get hassled more for donkey and camel rides, also the locals manning the market stalls will be a lot more persistent. They are just trying to make a living in tough times so don’t let it bother you, just politely decline.
- Included in your ticket is a free ride on a horse from the main gate to Al-Siq, save it for on the way out as you will appreciate it after the long walk you have just had. You do need to tip though so it’s kind of free.
- Petra by night is supposed to be gorgeous so stay over in one of the many hotels right next to the main entrance.
- Throughout Petra there are many cafes that offer cool drinks and free wifi, make sure you have plenty of small notes just in case they don’t have change. Free wifi was awesome, the Royal Treasury Tomb Petra would have to be one of my most original FB checkin post.
If Petra isn’t on your bucket list add it and go, it would have to be one of the most amazing places I have ever been lucky enough to visit. The Jordanian people are so friendly and Jordan itself has many treasures to see.