Petra: Of Amazing Sights, Surprises and Bbq'ing in a Cave...


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Middle East » Jordan » South » Petra
October 8th 2013
Published: November 3rd 2013
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October 8th, 2013



After a couple of days of getting oriented in Amman it was time to head out and start exploring the rest of the country, first stop Petra...As mentioned this has been a must-see for K and I was really looking forward to it...so we hopped an early bus and arrived in Wadi Musa (the town where Petra is) and made our way to the hotel, the 7 Wonders hotel in the town centre (hotels nearer the entrance to Petra are fancier and more expensive). We were greeted by the manager Abdullah, and had a great chat with him while we waited for our room to be ready...as we were about to set off for the day to explore Petra, Abdul asked us if we had any plans that night, and as we had just arrived the answer was obviously "no" so he then asked if we would be interested in going to see a cool/beautiful sight? He would not explain further, wanting to leave it as a surprise, and although mysterious we decided "meah, why not?" so agreed to meet him in the lobby at 6pm...more on that later...

For now it was off to check out Petra for the first time; we decided to walk to the gates as it was all downhill from the hotel, took about 20 minutes...after paying the fairly steep fee of 55 JD's for a two day entrance we were off and hiking...one of the highlights for me is the entrance to Petra, a 1 km walk through what is called the Siq; a narrow, twisty path that winds its way between massive rock/cliff walls, absolutely stunning...takes a good 15 minutes or so to navigate the siq, a bit more the first time you stroll through it as every twist and turn reveals magnificent sights...this coupled with dodging the donkeys pulling tourists in carts and the odd horse and camel make it a pretty unique setting...

The money shot then occurs when you emerge from the siq and catch your first glimpse of the Treasury, probably the most iconic part of the Petra site...and it didn't disappoint, absolutely beautiful fa├žade carved out of the rock, great seeing it both that afternoon and early the following morning, the different lights of day gave it some different perspective..

After spending a bit of time soaking up the Treasury,
Wadi MusaWadi MusaWadi Musa

...as seen from the rooftop of 7 Wonders Hotel...
we made our way down through the rest of the site; passing the Theatre, Royal Tombs, Stairs to the High Place of Sacrifice and slowly making our way to the town centre...Petra was built by the Nabataeans in the 5 or 6 centuries before Christ, then the Romans assumed control of the city around the 1st century AD, and the city centre reflects their influence with a Colonnade, bath houses and distinctive columns...the site as a whole is quite large, and after a couple of hours getting our bearings we decided to call it a day knowing we would be back in the morning to explore it further...

So back to 7 Wonders we went, and after a quick rinse we met Abdul in the lobby as scheduled and we were off in his vehicle to be shown this cool sight...in the end, it was fantastic, but that is all I will say as Adbul has sworn us to secrecy...with good reason, he takes many guests to see this sight and the surprise only makes it more special...so again, if you make it to Petra and stay at the 7 Wonders (which I highly recommend; the pics of the hotel don't do it justice, rooms are clean and comfortable, nice pool and lounge area on the roof, the staff are really friendly and the breakfast is plentiful) and the manager offers to take you somewhere in the evening, GO!

The following morning we were up and having a big breaky at the hotel where again we started chatting with Abdul (seems he works 24 hours a day!) and as a joke I asked "So, what's the special thing for today?"...he paused, and then asked us if we would like to go for a barbeque in a cave for dinner...buh! There are caves scattered all around Wadi Musa, and this is something the locals enjoy doing so we eagerly took him up on his offer, couldn't believe it...again agreed to meet him in the lobby at 6pm and off we went to continue exploring Petra...

Managed to get in before the bus tours this day, so the site was relatively quiet (it never really was all that busy, with all the troubles going on with Jordan's neighbours tourism is down significantly...if at any time you ever wanted to see Jordan now is the time in my opinion, felt like we had Petra to ourselves at certain moments...). Plan was to go back over the sights we had seen the previous day and then hike up to the Monastery at the far end of the site, something we hadn't done already...managed to pick up a Jordanian shmagh, the red and white head scarf they wear, and after a quick lesson on tying it up properly I was in full Lawrence mode, ready to take on the day! Haha...

The path to the Monastery consists of some 800 steps, so allow a good couple of hours if you want to check it out...to be honest, it was my favourite part of the site; the path and steps themselves offer some beautiful sights and vistas, but the payoff comes at the end when you turn the corner and come face to face with the Monastery itself, absolutely stunning...my lack of knowledge of the site turned out to be a positive in my opinion, I didn't really know what I was hiking to so to finally see the Monastery really took my breath away...it is similar to the Treasury in shape and carving, but much larger...used to be a tomb I
MonasteryMonasteryMonastery

...stunning...
believe, and it is easier to get further away from it than the Treasury giving you a better appreciation for the size and splendor of it...Some great lookouts as well there, took some cool pics and settled down on the rows of seats set up to just observe and soak in the magnificence of the Monastery...

Spent the morning and early afternoon at the site before making our way back to civilization...had lunch at the Petra Hotel, and we were hoping to have a drink in the Cave Bar (an actual thousands-of-years-old cave) but unfortunately it wasn't opening until that evening...then it was back to 7 Wonders to clean up and ready ourselves for the evening's adventures!

Right on schedule we met Abdul in the lobby and it was off in his vehicle...the deal was we would cover the cost of the food and he would bring the wine (again a rarity outside the touristy hotels), and after a quick pit stop to pick up some supplies we were off and running...it was really cool getting out of town and seeing other people enjoying the caves as we were about to do, this is something the locals do
Wadi Musa IVWadi Musa IVWadi Musa IV

...on the way to Petra...(KC)
all the time so again a real treat for us out-of-towners...the first cave we were aiming for was already occupied, so we were off to find Plan B...love the first come, first served bit about finding your own cave!

The second one we came to was empty so parked and began unloading the gear and supplies...Abdul had a small hibachi style barbeque with coals, skewers and grills to cook up whatever he had brought...hooked up a light and spread a mat inside the cave so we could chill out without getting dirty and then the barbeque was lit as the sun went down...amazing doesn't describe it! The stars had come out by now, the three of us just hanging out in the cave sipping wine and chatting, what an experience...then out came the food, holy moly I have never eaten that much in my life...haha...first was four marinated chicken breasts, followed by half a dozen skewers of beef and the same amount of kebabs...and this was for just K and I, Abdul had already eaten apparently! Add on skewers of tomatoes and onions and the word feast just doesn't do it justice...we managed to eat it all, absolutely delicious...and then we just relaxed and chatted and got to know each other a bit, it was a beautiful evening on many levels...these are the experiences that make a trip; something that isn't described in a travel book, or booked through a tour agency, just something spontaneous that gives you a brief but real insight into a culture...this evening would turn out to be one of my top highlights of the entire trip...

Sadly, we had to leave the next morning, onward to Wadi Rum and the desert...I can't say enough about our stay at 7 Wonders and especially the hospitality and experiences provided by Abdullah, they were appreciated more than words can convey and really made our travels that much more special...



(Some photos copyright of Karen C., denoted by (KC)...used with kind permission)


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TreasuryTreasury
Treasury

...first time seeing it as we emerged from the Siq...
PetraPetra
Petra

...High Place of Sacrifice...I think...


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