Joke I heard in Jordan “ Two Arabs are speaking. The first one says, “I love living in Washington DC, I can say anything I want about President Obama.” “ It is the same in Damascus,” said his friend. “We can also say anything we want about President Obama.”
Petra was not on my bucket list and it should have been. It is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the 3rd century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery.
Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It is one of the more amazing places I will see in my lifetime. To the American press, Jordan is a country surrounded by evil, but there is no State Department warning at this time about traveling to Jordan, so I decided to go.
There are different ways to get to Petra. It is a four-hour drive from Amman airport or a two-hour drive from Aquaba airport. I crossed at the Eilat Arava crossing from Israel. Petra is about two hours away by bus or taxi.
if you plan to cross into Jordan at the Aqaba/Eilat border crossing, you have two options as of January first 2016. You either need to have a pre-arranged Jordan visa (at least two weeks in advance) from a consulate or embassy elsewhere, or you can travel with a qualified tour company on a tour. In this case the tour company can vouch for you at the border. I decided to do it at the last-minute so my only option was to join a tour.
I traveled with Tourist Israel. https://www.touristisrael.com/. I googled tours to Petra and contacted a few but they were the best fit for me. The agents were professional online and answered my many, many questions promptly. You have a choice of different tours – one or more days. All the Israeli tour companies work with Jordanian tour companies on the Jordan side. The drivers in both countries were excellent. The border crossing is smooth on both sides. The people on the tour were interesting and from all over the world so that was fun.The tour guide was informative and funny. My only caution would be in the store where the money goes to the Women’s Development Project (hopefully, because I saw no women and assumed that was cultural). I was given prices in dollars but charged the same number they gave me in dinars (which is a lot more) and I didn’t catch it so be aware of that.
Remember that It is a border crossing in the Middle East and information can change at any time so check right before you go.There are visa fees and border crossing fees. You actually walk across the border here. There is a few minutes of no man’s land between the countries and it is little surreal.
The Jordanian guards seem bored and relaxed. The Israelis are serious and vigilant. The border closes at 8PM ( we got there at 745). Borders are serious business. Follow the rules. Answer the questions and no joking around.
The best time to visit Petra is in the spring or fall because it is very hot. I was there in October but there was a heat wave so it was summer hot.
Petra stretches over a massive 60 square kilometer area and you’ll end up doing a lot of walking with very little shade. Dress appropriately for the heat but also remember you are in a Muslim country. Always be respectful of local culture. if it gets too much there’s a choice of camels, donkeys and horses to do the hard work for you. It involves.negotiating with kohl eyed Berber men on a price.
The city was built in a canyon for protection.
The Siq is the main entrance to the lost city of Petra.
In my opinion, the Siq is one of the greatest attractions of Petra. The gorge stands between 91-182 meters high and is no more than 3 meters wide for the 2km it takes to reach the city.
The Treasury will be the very first thing that you see when you reach the end of the Siq. You can’t miss it. As you walk through a passageway big enough for one camel , someone will be playing the music from Indiana Jones. As with all World Wonders, it feels very touristy.
The Street of Facades is a walkway with various cutouts that have been weathered by the elements and time. Stroll along this walkway imaging what it would have been like to arrive into this great city at the height of its power.
The theater is small by Roman standards, but still worth checking out as it is carved out of the pink stone, right into the wall. You are not allowed to enter the theater, but you can climb up to a viewing platform to get an unobstructed view and some decent photos.
The royal tombs are coolest place you can visit in the lost city of Petra. Be sure to make the climb up to the top for a fantastic view of the city. Take your time to look at the market stalls along the way for some interesting souvenirs. The view inside the tombs is stunning as well.
I did not get to the Colonnade Street or the Monastery. It was very hot and our tour guide was discouraging the donkey and camel rides. I think he was worried about the time and getting us back.
Petra is a huge site. There are many day tours but I think one day is simply not enough time to explore this massive, beautiful ruins.
You need two days at a minimum. Two full days would give you the perfect amount of time to see all the sites at a pace conducive to photography and enjoyment. Stay over night in Wadi Musa ( he nearby town) or under the stars in the Wadi Rum. The Wadi Rum is the desert of the Bedouins and Lawrence of Arabia and I definitely should have stayed there. It looked amazing.
We were driving back through the Wadi Rum at sunset. It is “vast, echoing and godlike”said TE Lawrence ( of Arabia).