From Jerash in the north of Jordan, we made our down all the way down south to Petra. Petra is the most visited attraction in Jordan is the main reason why people want to go to Petra in the first place. The first time I saw it was when I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a kid, and at the time, I didn’t even think about it too much – I didn’t even know it was called Petra until years later.
I always thought that Petra was just a single structure – the same one that gets shown everywhere, but that structure is just The Treasury that’s a part of an entire city built in the rocks.
From the entrance, we walked 30 minutes through a winding gorge formed by a fault line that tectonic forces split apart until we reached The Treasury. Stray dogs followed us every step of the way hoping for scraps of food. Leaving at 6:00 didn’t help because the only people that the dogs could beg from was us.
We arrived so early we were practically the only people there. We admired Petra on our own without the large crowds of tourists everywhere. We took our time walking up to it, all around it, up the slope to get a better view (nobody is allowed inside it though). We did all of this before the crowds showed up.
Petra was the capital of a kingdom of the Nabataean, a group of nomadic Arabs who established the city as a major trading hub. The Nabataeans constructed massive structures by carving it all out of the sandstone. Although it’s called The Treasury, the building is believed to have been the mausoleum of the Nabataean King Aretas IV.
The area around Petra is also home to the Bedouin people, a group of nomadic Arab people who inhabit the desert regions in northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In the modern times, many have abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and many Bedouin around Petra work as tour guides, offer camel rides, among other things. One of the Bedouin people there is actually the descendent of a woman from New Zealand who married a Bedouin man and wrote a book about it!
The area is over 250 square kilometers, something I totally didn’t expect (because I totally did not do my research before I went). I’m not too big on hiking and I was totally not prepared for a hike that day – I would have totally brought more water, and more food along with me that day. Despite that, I hiked up the 900 or so steps to the monastery anyway, while getting hassled by vendors trying to sell me their junk. Temperature-wise, the temperature shot up to a whopping 20 degrees Celsius from the 0 degrees Celsius just two days before. My body did not like that.
We spent about 8 hours in Petra, walking along the rock faces, seeing the ancient ruins, hiking up the hill, but if I had more energy I totally would have hiked up the other trials for even better views of the area.
For dinner we had mansaf, probably the national dish of Jordan. It’s a delicious dish made with lamb and rice dish mixed with a yogurt sauce! This tasted even better than the chicken rice dish we had the day before. I had no idea that lamb and yogurt was such a great combination. It was a great meal to refuel after such a long day.