After our attempt to explore Jordan was interrupted by a small accident, we were back to the country exactly after a year in April and were determined to complete what we had started.
After reaching Amman airport at around 2 am in the morning, we had couple of options to get to Wadi Musa, the city outside Petra. One option was to take a cab to Amman city and then the 6:30 am JETT bus to Petra or to take a direct cab to Petra. Although the cost of the bus route is about two thirds of the direct cab route, we decided to take the direct cab. The cab office provided us with a receipt for the journey and we were saved from any haggling with the driver.
After exploring the Petra website, we had agreed that we needed at least 2 full days to explore the ancient city. On our first day, we decided to rest after our sleepless flight and drive to Wadi Musa. It turned out that it was a Wednesday, one of the three days when the wonderful Petra by night event is organised in the evening.
We walked the 1.5 kms distance to the Petra Visitor’s Centre and after buying our tickets we joined numerous other people waiting to experience this spectacular event. The path towards the Treasury was illuminated by few of the 1500 candles that are lit on each of the event days.
On reaching the Treasury, we were invited to take our seats. The next hour was spent among Bedouin music, stories of Petra with wonderful local tea. The event ends with a multi coloured light show where visitors are encouraged to click the photos and selfies.
The city of Wadi Musa seems to have been created just to cater to the archaeological site of Petra. What might come as a shock to visitors is that there are almost no local women visible in Wadi Musa, although a lot of tourist shops in Petra are run by local women.
As visitor’s start their walk past the visitor’s centre, there are men who offer horse rides till the entry of the Siq and claim that the rides are “free” and “already included in your ticket”. Although we did not take the rides, it seemed very weird to us that a resource intensive thing such as a horse ride would be “free”.
There are eight trails in Petra, four of which are mostly accessible by visitors. The main trail starts from the Petra visitor’s centre and ends in Qasr Al Bint which is a normal pathway easy to walk. From Qasr Al Bint, another trail leads to the Ad Deir monastery which is a tougher one as it goes uphill constantly and is quite exhausting.
As the Ad Deir monastery is the farthest of the sites, we decided to visit it first and then try the other ones. The trail is tough and is made even tougher by the scorching heat.
It was a real pity to watch donkeys carrying heavy and obese tourists up this path. The stupidity of some of these tourists added to the plight of the animals when they couldn’t even stay seated on their back and were almost on the verge of falling off.
After visiting the monastery, we made our way back towards Qasr Al Bint to explore the sites there.
We had beautiful views of the tombs in the distance and also visited the Great Temple. The scale and beauty of the structures left us speechless. It was truly enchanting to imagine the occasions and events that used to happen in these structures in the ancient times.
The Nabateans were ancient people who inhabited these regions and created the city of Petra. Initially, they acted as brokers in the incense trade between the suppliers (traders from Yemen) and the consumers (ancient civilisations such as Egyptians and Romans).
Over time, the Nabateans became the direct suppliers of the products which maximised their profits and made them rich.
The Nabateans had mastered architecture and engineering skills which are very evident from the structures of Petra. They had also implemented sophisticated techniques of water supply even in the deeper uninhabited parts of the desert which enabled them to flee there and survive for days in the event of an enemy attack.
Beautifully decorated camels are used by locals to offer rides to tourists from the Treasury to Qasr Al Bint and also to the start of the uphill walking trail to Ad Deir.
The heat and the sun had already exhausted us to the extent that we could not continue any more. As we were making our way back to the visitor’s centre, the setting sun worked it’s magic on the red city.
The Siq is one of the most photographed places in Petra. My suggestion would be to do it in the morning or in the evening when the sun is not shining directly on top. The colour and patterns of the stones are truly at their best at these times.
After reaching the visitor’s centre, we hung around for some more time waiting for a Bedouin music programme hosted by the Petra management.
After a nice dinner, it was time to call it a day.
Everything in Petra is quite expensive, so if possible, it is advised to get your food and drinks from outside the Petra premises.
It was our final day in Petra and we still had two more trails to explore. The first trail was the “place of high sacrifice” trail. To access this trail, we had to make our way to a place a few hundred metres before the theatre on the main trail.
There are no markers to mention it as the beginning of the trail. We saw people taking the trail upwards and started our walk after confirming it with some of the returning visitors.
The trail is uphill all the way and is definitely exhausting. Not many people are interested in these trails. Most visitors make their way to Qasr Al Bint and the more active ones make it till Ad Deir monastery. As lot of visitors visit Petra as day trips from other cities, they usually don’t have time to explore the other trails.
These trails are embarked upon by the explorers and adventurers a lot of whom give up half way after asking returning visitors about “if its worth it to make it till the end”.
For the brave few who make it to the end, they are rewarded with vast and endless views of the Al Farasa desert and top views of the main trail.
It was already mid day and we were at the tombs. The tombs are some of the most visited places in the entire trail.
After visiting the tombs, it was now time to complete the last trail in our plan, the Al Kubtha trail. This trail is famous for providing the famous top view of the Treasury. However, visitors need to earn that opportunity by taking a very exhausting walk uphill along hundreds of stairs, stones and rocks.
At this point, Ankita declared that she was exhausted and would not be able make the trail. So she remained chatting with the shop owners near the tomb while started on the trail. The sun was on it’s setting path and dark clouds were rising from the horizon. I wasted no time and kept going ahead.
The high place of sacrifice trail
Most of the trail provided beautiful views of the main trail and the theatre. After a certain point, the view became obscured. It was just shrubs, rocks and sand. The markers and sign posts were almost non existent and I had to rely on the track that was created by visitors before me.
It occurred to me a number of times that I was on the wrong path but took my chances and kept moving.
When I was really exhausted, some makeshift tents could be seen in the distance. I was hopeful that it was the end of the trail but I couldn’t be sure still. As I kept walking, I was now sure that it was my destination as a sign read “best view of Petra”.
A shop owner there was the only person. He greeted and invited me to get into his tent and enjoy the view that I had worked so hard for. After clicking my snaps, I was on my way back to complete our Petra experience.
Being one of the seven wonders of the world, the magnificence of Petra does not need to be described. This is a world completely different from what I have ever seen before, a world of ancient dwellers, a world of extraordinary structures, a world of natural beauty and a world of rich history.
To the travellers planning to visit, a day trip is definitely not enough. Make sure to spend a few days here and enjoy all that this wonder city has to offer.