The first reason why we decided to travel to Jordan was to visit Petra, one of the seven World Wonders, personally my second one and my first abroad (as the other one is the Colosseum in Rome!). We have been feeding our eyes with pictures from this wonderful archeological site for years so we decided that it was time to take the road to the country, take our own pictures and collect new memories in Petra.
The site itself has a very mysterious story: it is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century bC. Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city in the 4th century AD. The earthquake combined with changes in trade routes, eventually led to the downfall of the city which was ultimately abandoned. By the middle of the 7th century Petra appears to have been largely deserted and it was then lost to all except local Bedouins from the area.
In 1812 a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to ‘rediscover’ Petra; he dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city: since then Petra attracted tourists from all over the world and the site is constantly under development. New monuments are discovered and made accessible to visitors every year and many of them are only “visible” at the moment from some corners of the site.
It is for sure a real city and it was very hard to see it all in one day that’s why we decided a tailored tour with our fantastic guide the night before while eating a Jordanian dinner in Wadi Musa. We met very early the next day to enjoy as much as possible of the city until the sunset when it closes to tourists. We decided to follow the famous siq (around 1,5 km) along the breathtaking canyons where so much of the Nabatean culture and lifestyle was already visible and explained to us by our incredible guide. The reason why we decided to enter Petra from the siq was the emotion of seeing the Treasury, one of Petra most known monuments, from the canyons. I was completely speechless and my heart was beating so fast for the incredible emotion.
Seeing it for real for the first time is a moment and a feeling that I will probably never forget.
Once we managed to control our feelings we started our way through the Street of Facades and the Roman Theatre before starting a pleasant hike to the High Place of Sacrifice. There are a lot of hikes in Petra if you want to see the best places and views: you can do them slowly if you are not super sporty but in case you feel really tired you can do it with the many donkeys that you can find around the site. But please, do it! The best of Petra is from its heights! From the High Place of Sacrifice you can easily see so many monuments that are still hidden from the tourist view that the 45 minutes hike will look like 10 minutes!
We were lucky enough to have a sunny day with a good temperature so it was not so bad to walk a lot but remember to bring water and to stop every now and then in the many Bedouin shops to have some typical sage tea to recover and regain your energies!
There are also good hikes to admire The Treasury from the top of the front rock but we decided to leave it for the end if we had time and in the end we didn’t have time at all for a last hike!
We also visited the wonderful Royal Tombs (Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb and Palace Tomb) with the greatest walls and ceilings where the erosion created amazing motifs, before returning to Colonnaded Street to stop for a frugal lunch (there is a little self-service restaurant before the route to The Monastery or you can bring your own food) and then make the most important hike: around 45 minutes to the famous Al-Deir, The Monastery. I can’t say if I preferred the Monastery or The Treasury (maybe the first one!) but they are both a huge surprise and very emotional when you see them after a long walk (The Treasury) or a long hike (The Monastery). Still we decided to sit there in the bar just in front of it and to admire it in all its beauty while sipping mint tea and just enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime view! As it was already almost the sunset we waited there to watch it from that spectacular position before heading down to the exit before the site closing (around 6.30/7 pm).
At our biggest surprise, the same city changed completely its color at the sunset going from dark yellow/rust to rose-red (they call it the Pink city after all!). Can you see how different the Treasury was in this pinky color?
When we arrived at our hotel we felt super sore and tired but also very happy! We had one of the most incredible days in our lives so we decided to have a pleasant Turkish Bath and relaxing massage at our hotel (the Petra Palace Hotel was very nice and clean and its position was fantastic, less than 400 meters from the entrance of the archeological site!) before having dinner at the Cave Bar, possibly the oldest bar location in the world as it is entombed in a rock carved by Nabateans nearly 2,000 years ago!
Three nights a week you can also enjoy the Petra by night tour: it starts at 8.30 pm and it brings you through the Siq to the Treasury, both enlightened by candles in the night. It must be super nice but we couldn’t do it because it didn’t take place that night.
One last important tip: one of the best investments that you can do when you are in Petra is having a guide. There is so much to see and know that you will never manage to do that yourself and when you do you will probably miss so much. We were lucky enough to have one of the historical tour guides in Petra (he is an official tour guide since 1979) and definitely the best we could ever had! Mahomed Al-Hasanat (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the best person to guide you in Petra or around Jordan (Little Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba) and he is now also a great friend.
As it often happens in Jordan you arrive as a tourist and you leave as a friend.