The thing with Petra is that you only ever see the one picture of it (Al-Khazneh a.k.a. the Treasury) so I just thought that that was the culmination of a short-ish walk through a siq. However it actually takes one about 30 minutes (not that it was a problem) to walk from the visitors centre and after that there is a vast area of tombs, stairways, theatres, sandstone mountains and high cliffs waiting to be explored which could take you days to explore.
Thanks to a huge online poll in 2007 Petra is now recognised as one of the new seven wonders of the world and the authorities have certainly taken advantage of this as the entry fee is now more than double that quoted in most guidebooks. I went to Petra from Amman with a Japanese girl called Midori who was in the same hostel. She was of low pre-intermediate level English but was travelling alone which is very brave and almost completely unknown for Japanese girls. After checking in to Valentines Hostel (only 3JD per night for a dorm bed) we set off to see the wonder early afternoon where we purchased a 2-day pass for 55JD (its 50JD for a day pass). On entry we were met by touts saying a horse ride to the siq was included in our ticket. Complete b*llocks of course as you have to pay the rider (or whatever he’s called) a tip or something. To be honest its probably not such a bad thing to do but we were in no rush. There’s no shade at all but the views are still great but not to the extent of what was to come.
The winding siq (above) is amazing in itself and when I finally caught a glimpse of the Treasury it was very exciting and not just because it featured in ‘Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade’ in 1989. It was really beautiful and in some ways I was less impressed when I actually emerged from the siq to see the Treasury in its full glory as I’ve seen it so many times in the media. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it and naturally I spent ages snapping away on my new camera. We walked on to the theatre and a host of tombs before deciding to call it a day and head back leaving something in reserve for a much longer and more challenging trek the following day.
Day two began at the visitors centre around 8.30am and we briskly walked to where we finished the previous day. From there our goal was to reach Ad-Deir (Monastery) fairly quickly and then work our way back slowly taking many breaks. It took us about 90 minutes to get from the Treasury to the Monastery which was well ahead of the three hours that many people had said it would take. They both look quite similar but I was more impressed by the latter; perhaps because of the effort taken in getting there (lots of steps compared to the relatively flat ground in the 1st half of Petra) and the lack of anyone else around not that the former was too busy either. Of course theres always the temptation to continue hiking on for a bit more but one final climb to the ‘last view of Petra’ was our final port of call. This part also included the cave featured at the end of ‘An Idiot Abroad’ Petra episode where Karl Pilkington said that it was better to be living in the sh*thole looking at the beautiful building rather than the other way round.
After lunch (provided by the hostel and including some very melted chocolate!) we headed back slowly and had tea with some old Bedouin women. I climbed up on a rock to see what they were cooking and was very shocked to see that it was blo*dy spaghetti! Not what I was expecting! When we got back to the theatre we decided to head off course a bit and went round the back of the tombs and climbed up to the very top of some high rocks hoping to be able to find a view looking down on the Treasury which often features in films and TV programmes about Petra. We saw some breathtaking views but sadly failed to locate the view we were looking for. Still, it was a nice detour and we didn’t see a single person during that whole time.
Back at the Treasury (ground-level) we actually spent some time just taking it in rather than clicking away on the camera as we’d done for the majority of our previous visits.
Near the visitors centre we went to see ‘The Cave’ which is the oldest bar in the world set in a 2000 year old Nabateab rock as well the Indiana Jones Souvenir Shop which naturally sold nothing whatsoever to do with the movie franchise.