Exploring Petra

We’d pre-arranged for transport from Feynan to Petra. After breakfast we said farewell to our amazing Bedouin hosts and were directed towards our transport, 4 x 4 truck which would take us out of Feynan and back onto the main highway. It was an interesting journey that took us out of the valley and way up into the mountains and we learned why so many folks drive these great big vehicles; It was a bit of a bone shaking journey!

Our taxi drove us to our accommodation in Petra; we chose a small bed and breakfast in the hills, rather than the glizty hotels located at the entrance of the Siq. Our lovely host greeted us with a cool drink on the terrace and talked about how we found our way around and places we could eat. After we settled in our room we decided to head off in search of a late lunch.

The main street is aptly called Tourism Street. It’s early in the season so things felt very low key as we wandered down. We choose a small restaurant and ordered a few local dishes and cold drinks and after our meal we headed off to find the Petra Museum. We have a few days here and we didn’t want to rush to get into Petra. Jolanda at our B&B suggested that before we visited the site we should spend some time in the museum and if you have time we would thoroughly recommend that you do the same.

When planning your trip to Petra make sure you are there on a day when you can visit Petra at Night. It’s a wonderful experience but not available every evening. Also it’s one of the few things not covered by your Jordan Pass; you can buy tickets online or buy your tickets at the entrance during the day. We bought ours when we arrived in the afternoon and took our place in the queue at the requested time, getting ready for our first glimpse of the Siq and the Treasury at night. It was expensive but still a wonderful experience.

On our second day in Petra we set off after our breakfast and returned to Tourism street to visit one of the modern wonders of the world.

The ancient city of Petra is situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The rock-cut capital city of the Nabateans in the 4th century BC, became during Hellenistic and Roman times a major centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India. Located at the crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia this once-great metropolis and trading centre is now one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites.

Petra is nestled within the hills of a very arid landscape. The remains of the extensive water engineering systems, water cisterns and reservoirs are an outstanding testament to the Nabataeans and their mastery of water, making life in Petra not only possible but extremely comfortable. Excavations have revealed palaces and gardens and pools and it’s clear that this was an affluent and beautiful city in the dessert.

By the eighth century, Petra was largely abandoned and its stone structures and palaces became shelters by nomadic shepherds. In 1812, the ruins of Petra were discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (led there by local Bedouins). He went on to describe the ruins in the travel chronicles and word soon spread. In 1929, British archaeologists Agnes Conway and George Horsfield, as well as scholars Tawfiq Canaan and Ditlef Nielsen, launched a formal project to excavate and survey Petra and that work continues today and Petra continues to reveal her secrets. Some experts believe that perhaps only 20% of Petra has been excavated!

If you’re visiting Petra I strongly recommend you take a comfortable pair of shoes! It’s huge! You will be walking a great deal. As you enter the site there are many local Bedouin offering donkey, horse and camel rides. One ride is included with your ticket but ensure you barter and agree what’s included in advance as sometimes they take you further and charge you more! BUT – if the thought of walking several kilometres is not for you then take advantage of the transport options that are on offer. If you fancy something more comfortable there are even little buggy carts available at the ticket office.

We choose to walk. Yolanda had told us that we needed to be very clear when we arrived that we did not need transport. Nor did we need postcards or souvenirs. Of course be polite and kind but… a firm no thank you is needed… often! We walked from the entrance and faced the gauntlet of requests for camels or donkeys or horses… and postcards. It’s not a problem, we just strolled on saying no thank you and we were never pressured. We wanted to walk. And walk we did!

After a little while the entrance of the Siq narrows into the classic route that we had seen in pictures. Because we’d been to the museum the day before we could already make out the water systems that had been built by the clever Nabateans; yesterday’s visit really helped us to understand what we were seeing.

Onwards we walked, just admiring the high walls and glorious colours and slowly slowly the siq opens up to one of the most famous views in the world; the Treasury building. We’d seen it last night but nothing really prepares you for the scale and beauty of this ancient site. We wandered and I took so many photos and we explored some more before continuing on beyond the Treasury. You turn a corner and discover more palaces, more buildings, homes, shops, caves, an amphitheatre, roads, water systems. On and on and on you walk, there is so much to see!

We stopped after a few hours for a cold drink. You can have freshly squeezed lemon with mint. Oh my word it’s refreshingly delicious! As we rested we watched a very pretty young lady trot by on a donkey followed by the Bedouin owner. We heard her ask the donkey’s name. We heard him reply Shakira. But at that moment something must have caught Shakira’s attention as she shot off and the poor young woman bounced along, hanging on for dear life as the young Bedouin ran along after screaming Shakira Shakira after the donkey. We shouldn’t laugh because I’m sure it was quite terrifying for that young woman but it unravelled like a scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie and sadly we did laugh until tears ran down our faces.

Once refreshed and we’d stopped laughing we returned to our sight seeing. We had decided that today we would walk down to the section where you can head off to the entrance from Little Petra and then return. Tomorrow we’d visit the Place of High Sacrifice and the day after hike from the other direction, starting at Little Petra. And so we returned. Again we walked and it took well over hour. I can’t stress how enormous this site is. It’s just stunning!

Finally we made it back to Tourism Street and we stopped for a very late lunch and a rest. We found a seat in the back of the restaurant and ordered a few fabulous local dishes and a pot of tea… we’ve developed a taste for the sweet Arab tea! And once we were rested and full we headed back up the hill to our Bed and Breakfast… oh my we’ll sleep very well tonight!

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