Petra is really old, really famous, and really big. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site today, but in its prime, Petra was the home of the Nabataeans (before I went to Petra, I had no idea who they were). The Nebataens were a group of nomadic people primarily in the Levant who lived contemporaneously with the Assyrians, Ancient Greece, and Babylonians. Petra (known in Nabatean as Raqmu) is a series of monumental architecture carved into rock of which the Nabateans are famous.
We came to Petra after spending the night under the stars in Wadi Rum. Wadi (valley in Arabic) Rum is a totally dry, red desert. Lawrence of Arabia, Transformers 2, The Martian, Prometheus, and a ton of other movies were filmed in Wadi Rum because of its awe-inspiring landscape. With only a day in Wadi Rum before heading to Petra, I slept under the stars in the desert. Since the Wadi desert is out in the middle of nowhere, there is essentially no light pollution, which allows you to see the stars and planets. When it’s dark at night, it’s almost like the sky and the land are one.
Getting to Petra from Wadi Rum is quite the drive. After around 3 hours of sitting in a stuffy bus, we made it to our hotel. Now I won’t get into detail about how straight up awful the hotel was, but if you want to stay the night in Petra do not stay in the Venus Hotel. Honestly, the Movenpick, Holiday Inn, or literally any other hotel is a better place to stay.
On our first day in Petra (the actual city in Jordan, not the ruins), we ventured out from our hotel into the the site. It costs 50 JD/70 USD to get into Petra, unless you are a Jordanian citizen in which case you get into Petra for the low price of 1 JD/1.41 USD.
When I entered Petra, I was struck by the vast size of the site. It’s honestly huge. The entrance to the site, is full of people selling donkey, horse, and camel rides. I didn’t ride any of the animals, but from the smiles from the people riding the animals, it must have been fun. After I got past the whole tourist thing, I got to the little canyon walls that make up the beginning of the site. They’re really huge and I believe used to be home to a Nabatean water system.
Following the long walk through the canyon wherein more guys on their hustle sold animal rides to the larger architecture in Petra, I arrived at the Treasury. Like everything in Petra, the Treasury is huge. I was struck by the artistry and level of difficulty in carving this edifice into the cliff side . It was hard to get really good pictures of the Treasury because there are a ton of people selling camel and donkey rides directly in front, so I wasn’t able to get too many super amazing photos.
After, I finished looking at the Treasury, I continued down more canyons until I reached this big open area. This area is home to tombs, a theatre, and other sites. Also, it’s
super extra hot during the summer.
This wide open area leads to the Monastery…or rather the steps to get there. The walk is about 45 minutes depending on how fast you walk. It took me a bit longer than 45 minutes because it was hot…and I stopped and had tea…and stopped and contemplated what in the world I was doing and what possessed me to go on a hike…and I stopped again, just because.
But beware on trips to Petra for the sheer forcefulness of those selling their wares whether they be animal rides or crafts. Many will try guilt you into buying things by saying that you “promised” you would look at their stall or that they have waited there for you. In these situations, walk away and don’t look back.
The Monastery is a lot less crowded than the Treasury because it’s off the beaten path (and most people are put off by walking that long). The walk to the Monastery is really scenic and beautiful. The cliff walls are a wonderful shade of red and the lushness in the area is something to behold. Walking from the Monastery back to the entrance during sunset is a chance to see the setting sun bring out the jewel hues of the stone.
Petra is a beautiful site. If you can visit Jordan, add it on your list of must-see places.