We left the Dead Sea in the morning, and an exciting drive ensued…
Along the Dead Sea, we stopped to see the salt build up, which was really beautiful!
We drove through some spectacular mountains and rock formations that reminded several people of the southwestern US – places like Sedona. At one point, we detoured around what used to be the road until a year ago when it collapsed!
We experienced a Jordanian rest stop in the middle of the mountains…
And took in some spectacular panoramic views…
At one point in our drive, the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see 2 feet in front of the car! Our driver was a rockstar, and thankfully, we had the bravest front seat passenger that day. All smiles despite the risk of falling off the cliff!
In the end, we made it to Petra in one piece! More hotel security – this time at the Mövenpick Resort Petra. The location was PERFECT – right across the street from the entrance to the Visitors Centre! We checked into our rooms and had some lunch before heading out for our first afternoon in Petra.
For those who need a brief history lesson about Petra (I definitely did), here’s what I learned from Lonely Planet & a few others while we were in Jordan:
- Neolithic villages dating from around 7,000 B.C. can be traced to the surrounding area. (This is around the same time that the city of Jericho was founded.)
- The Nabateans were a nomadic tribe from western Arabia, and they settled in the area around the 6th century B.C.
- The Nabateans were traders specializing in frankincense. We heard from one local that they speculate the wise men could have purchased their frankincense here on their way to worship the baby Jesus
- Between 8 B.C. and 40 A.D., around 30,000 people were living in Petra
- The Nabateans created a cursive script that was the forerunner of Arabic, and they were expert hydraulic engineers, building dams, cisterns, and water channels
- The Romans assumed control of Petra around 106 A.D., which is why we can see some of their style in the ruins
- Earthquakes in 363 and 551 A.D. ruined a lot of the city, and it became a lost city known only by the local Bedouin
- In 1812, a Swiss explorer named Jean Louis Burckhardt discovered Petra disguised as a Muslim holy man. After that, Westerners became obsessed – archaeologists, tourists (that’s us!), and artists wanted to experience it
- One archaeological source stated that he believes only 15% of the ancient city has been uncovered
- It is believed that people lived in tents, which is why the ruins in Petra are predominantly tombs and temples
I read and heard from others that we would get more out of the Petra experience by having a guide. There is an “official guide” office at both Jerash and Petra. Our guide in Jerash was pretty good, so I expected the same from Petra. Unfortunately, Jethro was a huge letdown. The man in charge claimed he was the second best guide in Jordan. When I asked who was the first, he told me it was the king, of course. [Insert fake laughter.] It was a REALLY cold day, and we were so anxious to see the Treasury (think, Indiana Jones). Unfortunately, Jethro’s idea of experiencing Petra is to take as long as humanly possible to make your way through the Siq.
The Siq is 0.75 mile. It is SO beautiful – a canyon that winds toward the Treasury and the city of Petra. Around every turn is another stunning rock formation or carving or unique rock color. It’s amazing. But even so, I would not spend upwards of two hours (or maybe more…we all loss track after a while) making my way through it. Jethro wanted to stop every couple of feet to tell a story. Some of them were true and impressive…information about the way the Nabateans pumped water or insight into a carving or a tomb. But other stories were clearly made up…like when he told us about one rock formation that resembled a fish – or two elephants, if you looked at it from a different angle. He then told a story about the “papa elephant” that lived several minutes’ walk away. I didn’t get it. We lost interest in his stories along the way – particularly because the slower we moved, the colder we became! Here is some of the beauty we experienced in the Siq…
[These “cubes,” or Djinn Blocks, can be found throughout Petra. Not a lot is known about them…some say they are thought to represent the various gods the people worshiped, while others think they could have been tombs.]
[One of many grand tombs…the four carvings above the doorway may indicate how many people were buried in this tomb]
[There were so many horses pulling carts up and down the Siq. We walked it, but there were a lot men pushing us to consider riding a donkey, a camel, or a horse-drawn cart instead.]
[Do you see the legs?! This was a former carving of a man leading a couple of camels. Pretty cool!]
And FINALLY!!! The moment we were waiting for…
The Treasury! It has this name, because of a story that an Egyptian pharaoh hid his treasure here while pursuing the Israelites. Locals believed it, because the facade (especially the large urn) has a number of bullet holes. Apparently, they thought if they could break it open, the treasure would pour out!
[Indiana, are you in there? Don’t forget – the name of God starts with an “I” in Latin!]
[More tombs have been found beneath the Treasury!]
Shortly after the Treasury, we parted ways with tour guide Jethro. Don’t worry; no tears were shed. I think that prior to this trip, every single one of us thought that Petra was synonymous with the Treasury. We were shocked to find out how big the city was over the course of the next day!
[Street of facades and the Theatre]
Our first night in Petra ended with drinks at the Cave Bar followed by an interesting pizza dinner. I describe it as interesting for a couple of reasons:
- The restaurant was FREEZING
- We sat by the door, which screeched terribly against the floor when opened. Most people left it open, which didn’t help the temperature to improve.
- The chicken wings the guys ordered may or may not have been cooked through
- So many flies! One landed on the piece I was about to bite, which resulted in a shriek and me accidentally throwing my piece of pizza across the table at my friends.
- One friend ordered a pasta dish that came out with pizza toppings and cheese baked on top
You might wander why we even bothered eating pizza in Jordan. It was because Pizza Hut was advertised in the map we were given at the entrance to Petra. The Americans who miss breadsticks and wings got VERY excited. We were completely deflated when we found out there isn’t a Pizza Hut. Mystic Pizza seemed to be the next best thing.
We used a very competitive game of UNO to get over our pizza trauma. I’ve never seen a game of UNO last so long! We should have timed ourselves. We probably set some kind of record!
On Day 2, we made our way into Petra anticipating a big hike. In total, we probably hiked about 8 miles – the whole time marveling about how big the city was!
On our way up to the High Place of Sacrifice…
Then making our way down the other side of the mountain the ancient City Centre…
Arriving in the ancient City Centre meant lunch! There was only one restaurant to choose from, and it boasted a buffet that is prepared by the Crowne Plaza – one of the hotels in the modern city of Petra.
After lunch, we were ready to take on the 800 steps to the Monastery! It is a similar design to the Treasury, but it is much bigger! It was built in the third century as a Nabatean tomb.
And just when I thought I couldn’t possibly climb one more step without falling over, I saw these signs…
They weren’t kidding! Check out the view…
It was so good – everyone wanted to capture it!
Obviously, we needed to try a sage tea to celebrate making it all the way to the top!
Once we caught our breath and enjoyed our tea, it was time to make it back through the ancient City Centre to the Royal Tombs to watch the sunset.
A low-key night was in order after such a full day, but I told everyone the next morning that I am including Day 2 in Petra as one of my “Top 10 Life Days.” It was truly unforgettable!