Take your time as you wander through it’s famous siq, tombs and riddled tunnels of one of the most intelligent and expansive ancient city built by the pure ingenuity and grit of the Nabataeans.
The ancient city of Petra has always been under Linda’s bucket list. I on the other hand, am curious on how the great Nabataeans crafted superior rock-cut façades, using the pink mountain rocks as their canvas and how they became master traders due to their superior knowledge in water management in the desert. They traded everywhere from the Far East to Western Europe and though they declared themselves nomads, Raqmu (now known as Petra) was their unofficial capital city.
And so we found ourselves at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman ready to begin our next adventure after being charmed by Egypt. We got our visa for JD40 each and headed to get a prepaid airport taxi straight to our destination -Wadi Musa, at a hefty price of JD85 for a 2 hour ride.
Where to get? Queen Alia International Airport Immigration Counters
Cost: JD40 (as of April 2018) Payable in local cash (Jordanian Dinars) only. There is a Bureau de Change right opposite the immigration counters for you to exchange your currencies. No credit cards payments or US Dollars are accepted for payment of visa.
How long does it last? 30 days
- USD 1 = JD 0.7 (2018 rates)
Make mental calculation of all purchases. Some things are not as cheap after you convert the money back to USD or your home currency
- If you have time to spare, stay overnight at Amman and get a minibus early next morning to Wadi Musa for only JD5 (3.5 hour ride)
- Money changers in Amman will give you better rates than the airport
- Get the Jordan Pass package. Cheapest one costs JD70 and gives you access to 1 day visit to Petra (JDS0), Jordan Visa (JD40) and free entry to over 40 attractions in Jordan. Unfortunately, we only found out about the Jordan Pass when we landed. This pass is only applicable if you purchase it before arrival in Jordan. *Minimum stay of 3 nights required*
- Getting from the Airport to Amman: Staying in Amman is a cheaper option for accommodation. Take the local bus which costs 2.25 Jordanian Dinars to the city
Instead of Amman, we stayed in the town of Wadi Musa – to be as near as possible and within walking distance to Petra. Accommodation cost in Wadi Musa ranges from medium to high-end as compared to those in Amman. But if time is of a priority for you, then stay in Wadi Musa (plus it’s a perfect base for those going for the magical ‘Petra At Night’ show. A MUST SEE.
Highly Recommended: Sunset Hotel (S$87/night) – It is only a 5-mins walk to the Petra Visitor Centre.
Update: Sunset Hotel has completed its 8-month renovation upgrade. So the rooms are pretty much brand new.
We ended the first day in Jordan strolling near the Petra Visitor Centre as the rest of Wadi Musa was pretty much a quiet town. We were accompanied by the pleasant climate in the evenings, walking under the moonlit stars.
- There is not really a car with a taxi sign in Wadi Musa. However, there are many drivers in 4×4 vehicles going to and fro Wadi Musa and Petra Visitor Centre. They’ll horn to signal you for a shared ride. Fares range from JDl to JD3 depending on supply and demand.
- If you’ve been to Amman or other Middle Eastern countries, the food in Wadi Musa pales significantly in comparison but is much more expensive
Day 2: Petra
The second day was the climax of the trip – PETRA. We started off early at 6am to see the natural, rich hues of Arabian light hit the remarkable rose-red façade. So far we felt pretty tight on the wallet ever since we landed in Jordan and was wondering if it was worth it. The moment we saw the entrance to Petra, particularly the tall but narrow gorge of the Siq spanding about 1km, our worries just melted away.
The wavering echoes, shadows crafted by angled sunlight and horses plying the route was like a crop out of an ancient movie in 4k technicolour. What awaited us at the end of the Siq amplified the grandeur of Petra even more: Al-Khazneh, directly translated as The Treasury, the icon of Petra.
The central plaza in front of the Al- Khazneh was bustling with so much activities. Tourists with tour groups, horses pulling carriages to and fro, and most importantly the Bedouins who were carbon copies of Jack Sparrow from Pirates of The Caribbean. The Bedouins are nomads who live in the desert creating homes out of caves and other forms of crevices nature provides, much like what the Nabateans did.
The rest of the day went by quickly with us exploring the vast landscape of Petra. The site was enormous where every angle and elevation provides unique vantage points – A photographer’s playground.
Getting Around Petra
On foot, carriages or mounted on a camel, one should leave the modern village of Wadi Musa and enter the Siq, a narrow, curving canyon, that hundreds of traders, explorers and travelers have been walking down.
The Sudden Flash Flood
We noticed that the sun was suddenly dimming about 4pm and dark thunderclouds looming across the horizon. We were not expecting sundown until close to 6pm and of course being one of the driest areas on Earth, we were not expecting rain. That being said, our instincts told us to get back to at least the main plaza at the Al-Khazneh.
The moment we reached Al-Khazneh, it started to drizzle. We could see the persistent Bedouins ignoring their trade and becoming very playful with one another, dancing in the rain. They were really embracing every rain drop. It was a beautiful moment to see. As we walked through The Siq to get back to the visitor centre, the rain started to get heavier, heavy enough to leave our clothes fully soaked. Not wanting to risk catching a cold, we decided to rest in a nearby crevice along the gorge which provided shelter.
Most people saw us squatting atop the crevice and decided to join us, awaiting for the rain to stop while enjoying the happy expressions of the dancing Bedouins. And then it happened, the whole floor of the Siq started to get covered with muddy water from overflowed banks of the gorge. Everyone was happy to see such a rare sight and were happily snapping pictures. It was after all one of the driest places on earth and experiencing rain like this was like finding gold.
And then it happened. The side banks burst and now the whole Siq was flooded. The Bedouins realized this and stopped dancing wiping their happy smiles off. They worked hand-in-hand with the police and military staff immediately to get the remaining tourists up our crevice cramming it further, endangering their lives by standing in the strong current now up their hip level.
Thank God the rain died down. If it were to continue for another 30 mins or so, we would have been engulfed by the muddy waters and pushed downstream by the raging current. Rescue jeeps came at a rapid pace to drive us out of the Petra compound. We were extremely impressed at how the Jordanians displayed instantaneous teamwork when the time calls for it. If not for them, people would definitely be severely injured and lives possibly even lost.
The Must-See Monuments in Petra
The Treasury (Al-Khazneh)
The Royal Palace Tombs
The Great Temple
- Wear comfortable clothes and footwear for long-distance walking
- Bring plenty of water and snacks
- The sun can get very intense (it’s surrounded by the desert after all). Bring high SPF lotion and good sunglasses
- Don’t get scammed of buying ‘ancient’ coins
- Do not be fooled by the donkey, horse or camel riders telling you your entrance ticket gives you 1 free ride. It does not!
- Petra At Night is an event that is only available on certain days. The experience is unique. We got a full refund because ours was cancelled due to the flash flood
- If you love trekking, you might consider getting the multi-day tickets or better still, the Jordan pass (applicable only if you’re staying for at least 3 nights)
1 day-JD50 | 2 days-JD55 | 3 days-JD60
We ended our day with a nice dinner and had an early night thankful that we survived the ordeal.
Day 3 and 4: Amman, The Dead Sea and Mount Nebo
We woke up early the next day at 0430hr to catch the minibus back to Amman for only JD5. Once at the Amman Bus Interchange called Tababour, it was another JD3 by cab to our hotel, Zaman Ya Zaman Boutique Hotel, located opposite the Roman Theatre.
After checking our baggage, we engaged a driver via the hotel to bring us for a day tour mainly to see Mount Nebo and of course, The Dead Sea. Total cost was about JD40. Mount Nebo was a magnificent hill overlooking Palestine (Jordanians do not recognize the State of Israel). This place has a lot of references in both the Quranic and Biblical texts namely the floods of Noah. We highly recommend this as a stopover en route to the Dead Sea. Entrance fee: JD2.
The drive down to the Dead Sea was a grueling winding road. It gets more humid and warmer as we drove down. You could literally feel how ‘heavy’ and ‘wet’ the air felt. It was a very unpleasant sensation and we couldn’t wait to dive into the only place in the world where it was impossible to drown.
Swimming on the lowest point on Earth was not entirely pleasant especially if you accidentally rub your eyes with the water (which I accidentally did). It stings so bad and you’ll be practically blinded for the next few minutes. Other than that, the feeling of floating easily no matter how hard you try to sink was just to surreal to be described in words. To summarise, it is an experience you definitely must try, but once you try it I doubt you’ll want to do it again.
Driving back to Amman was picturesque with the nice desert landscapes flanked by the setting sun. We stopped by random coffee stalls along the way and ate cheap but delicious food at random cafes (courtesy of our driver). Reminiscing our adventures on our last night in Jordan, we would say that the potential for the country to be a great economic and touristic hub could be exponentially amplified if not because of its neighbours being burdened by wars (which used to supply cheap utilities and oil). Be mentally prepared for higher expenses in Jordan compared to other parts of the touristic Middle East. Nevertheless, you’ll get to create memories at one of the best preserved evidence of a rich intelligent ancient city.