Three days in Jordan
On a recent trip to Israel, I decided to do a side trip and do three days in Jordan, My destination was the UNESCO site of Petra and Wadi Rum.
LITTLE PETRA – also known as Al Beidha
Little Petra is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was declared in 1985 and is situated 5km from the City of Petra. Little Petra is hidden away in the centre of a sandstone mountain. The only entrance and exit to Little Petra are via 400-metre long small Siq, (crack in the sandstone rock). Archaeologists believe that Little Petra once served as a trading post and agricultural centre. They believe it was established by camel caravans and other travellers, who stopped and rested on their way to, and from Petra.
When leaving the Siq, a set of narrow, carved stone stairs leads up to an exposed area with views into a small box canyon. Its a very secluded, almost hidden place, making it once a great hideaway.
Little Petra is much smaller than the City of Petra, but it is no less impressive with its sandstone wall carvings.
I walked back through the Siq, stopping to photograph the amazing Nabataean monument which had been carved into the sandstone wall. It’s very high up and carved into the rock face. The upper part was used as a formal dining room and the lower caves served as a kitchen and accommodation.
The Siq itself is the narrow winding 1 km walk leading to Petra. Part of the Siq is naturally occurring, rose-coloured rock. Into this rock is sculpted tombs and gods, carved by the Nabateans. The height the rock walls are up to 80 metres and range from 3- 12 metres wide. The floor is paved with stone slabs and sand.
After a very pleasant and amazing walk along the Siq, the magnificent Treasury (Al Khazneh) emerges into view. It is Petra’s most magnificent façade. At almost 40 meters high and approx. 30 metres wide, this intricately sculpted façade is truly a sight to behold.
Petra is known as The ‘Lost City”, and is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. It is a Neolithic city, full of monumental tombs, facades, and sacred structures. These were carved into the walls of the pink sandstone rock by the Nabataeans in 3rdCentury BC.
Due largely to the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie, which was filmed there, Petra became very popular causing it to figure high on tourist destinations. Visitors stand in amazement at this incredible site. Built around the 1stcentury BC. the original function of the Treasury is still a mystery. But archaeologists believe it was used to store and hide, money and treasures hence the name.
After spending time absorbing the beauty of the Treasury, surrounded by crowds of tourists, I continued walking through the rose-coloured city. Visitors are bombarded by hustlers trying to sell rides on their camels, horses, and donkeys or to purchase their trinkets. You are also accosted by children selling rocks, postcards and other small items. While it is a bit annoying they are all very friendly, and not at all upset when their offers are declined.
Along the way are many carvings into the sandstone walls, at one stage I came to a magnificent outdoor amphitheatre carved into the stone. Once seating 8500 people, it was built by the Romans in 1stcentury AD.
Reaching The Monastary
At the end of the city walk, one had to make a big decision. Should I walk up over 850 steep carved stone steps to the Monastery (Al-Deir) or not. There are offers of donkey rides up and down. However, after seeing the cruelty to the donkeys whipped by their guides, this turns off many of the people, and like me, they choose to take the 45 – 90-minute walk up the steps instead. The steps are not very wide and are shared with the donkeys. This adds another level of difficulty for the walkers, as donkeys have the right of way. This then forces the walkers to walk at the edge of the cliff, which at times was very scary.
My 45 min hike up the stairs, laden with my heavy camera equipment was difficult but definitely worth it once I got to the top. Seeing the Monastery, was the second most momentous experience of my day in Petra. It was built in 1stcentury AD as a mausoleum for the Nabataean King Aretas. It is approx. 48 metres high and 67 metres wide with a façade, and is carved into the rose-coloured rock. Once again there are many pushy stallholders all along the way up the steps, but they are very friendly and inspired the walkers to keep going.
Once at the top there is a comfortable lounge inside one of the caves and a café selling fresh juices and snacks. I chose to sit there, for a welcome respite, and recover before attempting the walk back down. It should be noted, there are no toilets at the top at the Monastery.
Essentials For Your Day
During a very full day in Petra, I walked 15.5 km, and certainly felt it the next day! It is possible to see everything in one full day there, even though it can be difficult at times with all the tourists. Everyone is very friendly and the flow of walking around the city went very smoothly.
Good walking shoes are essential, as are, water, sunscreen and sun hat, and for women modest clothing as a sign of respect for the local people. There are toilets all along the way, and they are kept immaculately clean.
During my three days in Jordan, I stayed in Wadi Musa, the town directly next to Petra, where there hotels and guest houses within walking distance to Petra. A truly memorable experience, unlike any other, and one I would highly recommend.
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