Today’s adventure was Petra and Wadi Rum—the main reason for our brief entrance into Jordan. We met our driver (Achmed) around 8 am and loaded up into the car for a long day of driving ahead. On the docket—a 2 hour drive to Petra, 4 ish hours exploring, a 2 hour drive to Wadi Rum, 2 ish hours exploring, and a 1 hour drive back.
Having not really seen much of the area aside from the brief exit for dinner last night, this was our first real chance to see more of the country. While it certainly is very desert, we were both (and continued to be all day) surprised by the number of mountains present in the desert. There were mountains ranging in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and heights, and every turn brought more and more diverse scenery.
The other interesting thing was the driving rules (or lack thereof)—our driver appeared to float in between any and all lanes accessible going whatever speed he so desired. We felt safe the entire time (less the first 10 seconds when a bus almost hit us) but it was interesting watching him navigate the turns and check-points as he knew exactly where he could and couldn’t put the petal to the metal (he knew where every checkpoint was).
We arrived at Petra about 2 hours after leaving and made a friend in line to help split the cost of a private guide (ended up saving us enough money to get water, ice-cream, and lunch so a good deal). After getting everything arranged, the guide gave us the run-down on what we’d expect for the day as well as a heads up that EVERY haggling instance he’d have to ask us if we wanted it (donkey ride, shop, etc.) so the person selling didn’t think he was shielding us from them.
Then began the history part of it (skip ahead to pictures if not interested, I got down what I could). The historic sight of Petra was built by the Novelties and literally means “rock” in Greek. The town was so well surrounded and guarded by mountains that it was one of the safer areas to be and ended up being the chosen treasure of many attempted (and successful) changes of “rule” for the area.
The area that you can go in now is really mostly a viewing area of old tombs that were used and less so much part of the city, although we did get to see some of the old city areas. As we began our way into the “park”, we saw many tombs and actually went up and close to one to see what they were like. These people buried nothing (e.g., treasure) with the body and did not mummify them, so when raiders (and explorers) later found the tombs and went ravaging through, the fragile bones just dissolved.
We came upon the siq—a narrow valley—which is really the entrance into the main area just past the dam. Because of the way the geography is situated, there were many precautions in place to help with flooding. Although some claim that the valley was man made, the guide claimed that it was derived from an earthquake and you could see this from the way that the rocks really came together. The narrowest part of this valley was only 3m wide and the highest part over 100m, but most of it was about 35m or so tall.
We arrived at one of the main sites—the Treasury—and really began to see just how impressive this natural site was. Because it was carved so deep into the mountain, this site is one of the best maintained and preserved in the area. Despite its name, the Treasury was actually a tomb for a very religious and/or wealthy family. We weren’t able to see it but a few nights of the week they have a candle-lit path to the treasury and a show broadcast onto the rock (certainly something we’ll aim for next time).
Post Treasury, we continued our way down the main path really talking about the change in rule of the area from 200 BC to the 1300s. Apparently, the area of Petra was relatively off of the map from the late 1300s until 1812 when a Swiss man learned of the area from a student and made the trek down there. After writing about what he found, it became something that others wanted to see and then was really put on the map again for “modern” times in the 1840s.
We made our way through the city and came upon the amphitheater—big enough to hold 4,000 people—as well as the Roman Market street. The market street only had remnants of stores on one side as the other was part of the flood protection. We then ended our tour and decided to hike up the monastery.
The monastery is one of the must-dos in Petra and we were tight on time so booked it up the mountain. I recognize that it’s been a while since we’ve Orange-theoried but this would’ve been tough in any circumstances with a tight timeline. The friend that we’d made for the tour and us parted ways so we could sprint up and we made it up, down, and had plenty of time for pictures in about 75 minutes and they said it’d take at least 2 hours.
Thankfully the juice was worth the squeeze—the view of the monastery was nothing short of impressive. We were so glad that we decided to hike up there and got some great shots of us before making our way back down the mountain, stopping for ice-cream before we began the 1-hour trip back to the city center.
After making our way out of Petra, we stopped for a quick bite to eat and got in the car for the 2-hour drive to Wadi Rum. We were expecting a central visitor center and the option to pick our jeep guide but what we found was that our driver literally just pulled off of the road and some guy came up and we got in his car—yes, it was as sketchy, if not more, than it sounded.
We stopped at a Bedouin camp to use the restroom and then began our 2-hour extravaganza. The driver didn’t speak much English and didn’t appear to be too friendly but that changed over time. He ended up having some great photo shots of us to take and was a pretty funny guy.
We made a few stops: (1) where the Martian was filmed (might as well have been Mars); (2) a famous mountain with camel inscriptions (and other indiscernible to us) that many used when they make the journey to Petra—a sign to show that they’re going the right way; (3) a mountain that looked like a face, we also found a plant that they use to make natural soap; (4) a great view in between a valley where we took a jumping photo; and (5) a “monument” rock to Lawrence of Arabia and some other prince that were there.
Again, continuously impressed by the mountains, we also had no idea how many movies were filmed in Wadi Rum. From the Martian to Aladdin and so many more, the last spot we were at (Bedouin camp) was talking about how the Rock was here 4 days ago and the entire area was shut down for filming.
The tour around the desert (Wadi Rum) was super cool. Once the sun began to go down and the temperature started to drop, the views (and enjoyment) from the open-air bed were awesome.
Dehydrated and tired, we made our way back to the hotel and didn’t adventure too far. The amount of sand we had over our entire bodies was nothing short of impressive and between the exhaustion and the hotel restaurant being closed on Sunday, we ordered room service and watched a movie before calling it quits rather early.
Today’s adventure (since I’m writing it in the AM)–crossing the border back into Eilat and heading up to the Dead Sea.
Note- for those of you concerned about our security amidst this latest conflict of rockets between Israel and Gaza-we’re obviously aware and are doing our best to monitor. Feel free to check-in on us at your desire, we won’t be upset at your concern on our behalf. The country is on heightened watch with the national holidays ahead and with nearly all of them coming out of the military, we feel that we’re in good hands.