One of our main reasons for visiting Jordan – really, everyone’s main reason for visiting Jordan – was to go to Petra. Petra is an ancient city carved into red-rose rock. It was established sometime around 6 B.C. by the Nabatean people. Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Visiting Petra, like much of Jordan, was totally Sean’s thing and not mine, but it turned out to be pretty cool.
The most famous building, and the first one you see upon entrance, is the Treasury. You may remember the Treasury from the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; it is the building holding the Holy Grail at the end of the movie. (Which we know is a fiction, because we saw the Holy Grail in the Cathedral in Valencia!)
Before you get to see the Treasury, you first have to walk about a mile back into the city flanked on either side by towering red rock formations. We caught our first sight of the Treasury by candlelight. On our first night, we joined a couple hundred people in the tour back to the Treasury. The candlelight gave enough light only to give a sense of the towering rocks surrounding us.
The next morning, we woke up early and ventured in again. This time, we could see just how large the rocks lining the path are.
You walk, and walk, and walk, and finally, through a crack in the rocks, you get the big reveal. In between the rock formations, you see a hint of the Treasury peeking through.
It isn’t until you get all the way through the rock formation path, however, that you truly can take stock of the Treasury and all of its grandeur. It is a huge building, as you can tell from this picture of me standing in front of it. It is carved into the rock with such detail that you can hardly believe that humans could have done this, by hand.
Besides the Treasury, there are other buildings and things carved into the stones, such as the amphitheatre and tombs. Sean convinced me to engage in one of my least favorite activities – walking up steps. Over 800 steps, to be more precise. You could hire hand-led donkeys to take you up the narrow steep pathway, but if I was going to fall off this mountain, I was going to do it on my own accord.
The destination was Petra’s second grandest building, the Monastery, which was located at the top of a steep hillside. As I trudged up the hill, soaked with sweat, with the morning sun now beating down without relief, I was reminded of my failure to “summit” a similar hillside in the heat in Morocco. This time, I was determined to make it to the top. We kept seeing the same two elderly women chugging along. Although I felt pathetic to use their progress as a benchmark, I was pleased that at the very least, we beat them to the top, where the Monastery stands just as tall and grand as the Treasury.
Although the buildings are what earned Petra its acclaim, the rocks themselves fascinated me just as much. Their red-rosy glow earned Petra the nickname of the Red Rose City. In certain areas, the rosey rocks swirl into beautiful blues and purples. It is gorgeous.
If you go: We stayed at the Sun Set Hotel, a no-frills budget hotel with wifi in the lobby within walking distance to restaurants and Petra. It was nice not to have to rely on transport to get to Petra, and it allowed us to get up early to see Petra before it got too crowded and before the sun got too hot. We spent 2 nights in Wadi Musa, and thought 6 or 7 hours was enough to see everything we wanted to see. If you are interested in seeing everything in Petra, you will want to allot at least two days. When they say that you will do a lot of walking, they are not lying – you will do A LOT of walking. And it will be hot. Water is readily available to replenish your supply in Petra, even at the top of the mountain with the Monastery. You will need it. Be prepared for the sticker shock of Petra’s price. It is now 33 Jordanian dinars – about $46 USD. In November, it is going up to a shocking 50 JD – about $70.60 USD. Not too long ago, it was only 15 JD/21 USD. Petra is definitely a special place that deserves to be visited, and I am sure that there are continuing research and archaeological costs, but paying $70 to get in seems extreme. What is extra frustrating about the price increases is that it does not seem like any of the money is going back in to improve the attraction for the tourists that support it. Most of the few bathrooms inside are basically porta-potties, and many of the paths are not in good repair. I don’t expect Petra to be in perfect condition, considering it is an ancient city, but I expect some basic improvements if I am paying $50 or $70 for something that formerly cost $21.