Petra has been on my bucket list for quite some time now; ever since we moved to the Middle East. Towards the end of last year we had the trip all planned and booked for a long weekend, but unfortunately events took things out of my hands when Petra was hit with flash floods.
We rescheduled and the trip had to be cut short from being a long weekend to now only a normal weekend, which meant it was going to be a crazy one!
With every holiday I like to be in control and my husband will attest to that! There is always a schedule, usually in the form of an excel spread sheet (yes, I am one of those annoying people!) I never like to miss anything, but I do need to curb this obsessive planning and research. Often I have seen most of the attractions online and the Internet does take a part of the “oh wow” factor away when you actually see the places in real life; the impact is diminished slightly. So note to self; stop being a control freak!…….I promise to try!
We decided to stay at a resort near the Dead Sea, so that we were in closer proximity to the airport, which meant that we had a 3.5 hour drive to Petra. On reflection it would have been better to stay one night at the Dead Sea and one night at Petra, and visited Petra first so that we finish closer to the airport. So if you are planning a trip I would definitely recommend doing this. There are a few hotels right on the doorstep of Petra; much to our dismay after the long drive!…… Hignsight is a wonderful thing!
Landing in Jordan in the early evening, we picked up the hire car and decided to just have an early night with room service, as we had planned an early start in the morning. When we planned Petra originally we booked to stay at the Kempinski resort, but seen as we now changed to just 2 nights and it was just a bed to get some rest we changed to the Ramada resort to save a little on the cost of the trip. The rooms were clean and the location was great with a private area on the Dead Sea but the food was just terrible and the evening buffet was like a feeding frenzy; I’ve honestly never seen anything like it! Unfortunately the interior certainly wasn’t anything to write home about, hence no inspiring images there!…..must do better next time!
Beep, Beep, Beep; I open my eyes to a dark room; yep that’s the alarm morning wake up call! 5am time to get up and at em……and I am not a morning person. Eventually I manage to find my way from the bed to the car and we set off at 5.45am on the long drive to Petra.
I highly recommend hiring a car and taking the drive yourself at your own pace, there were so many interesting varying landscapes along the way; I think we must have stopped about 4 times as I kept wanting to take photos!…… Que my husband “can we just get there please!” ….. Owwww someone was a little grouchy this morning; anyone would think that he had only had 6 hours sleep and now had to drive for nearly 4 hours, I mean what’s to be grouchy about!
The drive was an experience in itself and as we started in the Dead Sea, obviously being the lowest point on earth we had to drive up high points to reach Petra and the views were amazing. We passed through local areas with groups of young boys camping; well not camping as we know it, it was more sleeping under stars! I guess that’s just what the locals do on their weekends to relax and have fun. One moment we were in a highly populated area and driving through vast remote desert, then the next thing we knew we were driving though green hills and roads lined with tall trees. At one point we were driving, winding up and around cliffs; while being chased by about 5 barking mad dogs!
We arrived at the Petra visitor centre around 9.30am, paid the entry of 50 JD and decided that we would explore ourselves at our own pace rather than paying to join a tour. We grabbed our map, slapped on some sun lotion, filled our water bottles up and off we went, ready to spend the day seeing one of the 7 wonders of the world. Petra is more than 2000 years old and was built by the Nabataeans in the heart of the Shara mountain, with intricate facades sculpted into the sandstone cliffs. Originally it was part of a major trading route connecting ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Today as a major tourist destination you can see the incredible preserved structure and monuments and explore the ancient history that Petra has to offer.
It was recommended to allow 4 hours to walk the full main trail so that was our aim for the day to try to see as much as possible. Starting at the Stables, we made our way down towards the As Siq and had the camera at the ready to get that iconic shot of the Treasury (Al Khazneh) through the crack of the Siq. It was definitely the first wow moment of the day as the sun was shining so brightly on the treasury, that from inside the Siq it almost had a golden glow, like it had this aura radiating from it.
I turn my back for one minute and my husband has been talked into being taken up to “a special place” to get a photo. I go along with it and follow the teenager as he starts scaling the cliff next to us! I was slightly weary at this point, but the kid seemed to know what he was doing and I was all in for a bit of an adventure…….albeit at the consequence of grazed knees!
We got to the top and my God was it worth it; we managed to get some brilliant photos of the 2 of us and if you can manage a little climb I would definitely recommend it. Mo had now gained our trust, and seeing my hesitance about the climb back down the little opportuist ceased the chance to up sell us and take us further on the promise of steps back down…… Sold!
We carried on the climb right up to the high place of sacrifice stopping at a little hut where a local family prepared us some freshly squeezed orange juice and the little local girl, she must have been about 4 years old was dancing around us, she seemed so excited that we were there. Mo lives in a Bedouin community right within those very mountains and so he knew them like the back of his hand, taking us up places off the beaten track; giving us a truly unique experience, and only cheating death about twice!…..I said it was unique!
After the high place of sacrifice we headed down to the theatre which was just over half way on the main trail, so we still had a long way to go and after spending the last 2 hours literally rock climbing it was time to grab an ice cream and recharge the batteries! It was now afternoon and the temperature was rising, but we were determined to do the whole trail, so I wrapped a scarf around my head practically drowned myself in water and headed to the start the steps up to the Ad Deir Monastery. According to the map recommendation it would take us around 2-3 hours to get to the top climbing the steps, some people hitched a ride on a donkey or a horse, but I kind of saw that as cheating! …… Plus it was hard enough lugging my own weight, so I wasn’t going to put a poor little donkey through that! Every 10 minutes or so you would just hear faint sounds of people shouting in the distance followed quickly by loud rumbling sounds, then shortly after you would be playing chicken with a herd of donkeys and let me tell you; they were not going to divert their route!
We made it to the top to see the Monastery and sat for 20 minutes just resting and taking it all in. Yes, we had done it, we had done the full main trail……then the realisation hit, oh shit we we have to do this all again to get back! We were essentially only half way and had already walked almost 6 miles mostly uphill!
After successfully avoiding being mowed down by donkeys on the way down, we had a second wave of energy and stopped at the Great Temple so we could really tick everything of the list.
We could see the end in sight and a gentlemen approached us to offer a horse ride back to the visitor centre. It was so tempting after walking a total of nearly 13 miles, but at that point we felt it would have been cheating and pushed on to the end.
Settling into the car for the 3.5 hour drive return leg was not appealing, to the point that we actually considered staying the night there and just doing the drive back in the morning; which is what we should have planned in the first place and definitely what I would recommend. After our initial dread the drive back was not as bad as we thought, as when we got to the Dead Sea we got to enjoy the sunset, the perfect end to the day.