Today we left Amman after breakfast and drove south to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra, the Rose Red City. The drive took us about 3.5 hours and was reasonable especially once away from the traffic of Amman and its suburbs.
There are two routes from Amman to Petra: The Desert Highway and the King’s Highway. We took the shorter Desert Highway because we intend to take the other on our return. The Desert Highway is no where near as scenic as the King’s Highway, a trucker route really, mostly across scrubby rock/sand desert and through ugly desert villages and small towns. But …… we got there quicker.
Arrived in Petra around 1230 and checked into our hotel, the three star La Maison. I chose it because it is very close to the gates of the archaeological park and I remember from last year that even a few yards makes a big difference when you stagger out after a long day of walking. The rooms are pretty standard, comfortable, clean, good bathrooms. Parking is available free in their carpark.
It was cold with patchy sun – about 6C, maybe rising to 8 or 9 at times. We wrapped up in layers. I am fighting off a bad cold and am self dosing with Day Nurse. Nothing more sinister than a head cold, I hasten to add.
We used our Jordan Pass for entry and we came through the gate at about 130. It’s a long walk from the gate to the point where the buildings really begin ie at the Treasury. A good 45 minute walk down through a very narrow canyon called the Siq. The walls tower above you and the way ahead opens and closes as the path bends. The rocks are all sandstone and the colours change constantly with the light, banded with seams of gold, ochre, red, yellow…. It really is stunning. There are alternatives to walking but not particularly attractive, especially going in, possibly more so coming out. You can ride a horse or donkey but the locals sell the journey in segments and it’s pretty expensive. You can also go in a horse driven little buggy but that always looks terrifying as they come hurtling down the Siq. Better to walk if you can. It’s all downhill as you enter but of course that means it’s all uphill when you leave…….
Petra was very, very quiet today. So different from when we came a year ago on a trip from a cruise. We felt privileged to see it today, often we were alone in our “bit” of the Siq, and we had no trouble getting unobstructed photos, even of the Treasury. It was Lucy’s first visit and she fell in love with it, as we knew she would.
When you emerge from the Siq, the Treasury is right in front of you. Instantly recognisable from the many photos and of course, Raiders of the Lost Ark. A beautiful example of Nabutaean carving and design. We continued on down to Petra’s main area of house facades, the theatre, shops and tombs. This was about as far as we got last year, but today with such light crowds we got much further. We walked on to the Great Temple, a huge precinct that contained not only the temple proper but also a small odeon and other civic amenities. We also saw the oldest temple in Petra, just beyond the Great Temple and the gatehouse.
Above us on a ridge we could see the line of facades marking the Royal Tombs. We plan to visit them tomorrow and also make the climb up over 800 steps to The Monastery.
We walked back, all in all about 8 miles walked today. Got back to the hotel at 5pm. Had a rest and then decided on dinner in the hotel. It was a buffet and it must be said, it was absolutely revolting. I have seldom had a worse meal, we all agreed. Hideous. Will not be back. It was only tiredness and an unwillingness to walk outside that made us stay.
Tomorrow is Bob’s birthday and I can’t think of a more evocative place to celebrate it. We will be visiting Petra twice. Once in the daytime as described, and then back in the evening for Petra by Night. This is a special event where they light the Siq and the Treasury area with hundreds of candle lanterns and there is some music. Can’t wait for that. Hopefully numbers will be low as per today. Come back tomorrow to hear about it.