Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Travel Tip: Amman-Petra-Dead Sea-Amman is too much for one day.

A friend of ours from our time in Chennai came for a visit.  She's currently serving in a UT and takes breaks as often as she is allowed, and I don't blame her.  Places to be outside, walk around, Jordan has them.  The one thing she said she really wanted to do was Petra, and for good measure we encouraged her to stay overnight at the Dead Sea as well.  Two birds and all that.  What I don't suggest is trying to do it all in one day.

I do encourage a visit to Petra in the winter/spring, during a week day, before noon and after 3 p.m.  There were times we were the only people visible and audible in the Siq.

It's fabulous for more than absorbing the vastness of the Siq and Petra in general, because without people shuffling along in front of and behind you, pushing you along to take a quick snap here and there trying to get an angle without folks traipsing through... you see some very cool stuff.

And every time you go, the sun is a little brighter or perhaps hazed over, the time of day is an hour off from your last visit, the sky is a little bluer or a little yellower, the rays cast new shadow angles.  You walk down the trail in the middle this time, or maybe the side.  Any way and time you go, it's a place that can be visited and revisited time and again without boredom.

And Petra has really cute, friendly cats.  This little girl was very thirsty so we shared a drink during our break in front of the Treasury.

Further into the Nabatean city (fewer tombs, more paved road and excavated buildings), take the stairs on the left up to the Brown University excavation of a temple.  Next time perhaps we'll take the path on the right up to the Byzantine church, but this was the temple's turn.  A little lady was very persistent in wanting to sell her trinkets and ancient coins.  A little too persistent as she followed us around a bit, then after retreating back to her mat spent more time just yelling her requests to come see her items.  Kelly explored a little further in the temple while I took the time to sit and soak in the sights, and rest my weary feet.

I wore the wrong shoes and my feet did not let me forget it for a moment.  Multiple trips and near ankle twists and for several hours I simply gritted my teeth and pushed on.  It's not like there's a Timberland outlet cave stall.

The challenge of Petra, for those who dare, is the Monastery.  Before our first visit we assumed that Petra was the Treasury (no, we didn't really read up, however we were not alone in that mistake). Yes, the Siq is gorgeous and the Treasury is a work of art.  But there's so much more beyond.  It takes a couple hours of slow and steady walking to reach as far as the restaurant at the "end."  There's no fast walking, not with the uneven ground, the stones, the sand, the old road... a slow and steady plod gets you there, with stops for photos of course.  But at the "end" you have the decision whether to continue on to the Monastery or to turn around for the 2+ hours back.  Remember all that sand on the way down is still there for the way back.  And the entire return trip, all several kilometers, is uphill.  It's tiring.

But, well, you can keep going anyway, knowing you'll add a significant chunk of time to your visit with another kilometer or two and roughly 800 steps upward.  The Monastery is worth it, just take your time.  There was no crowd to fight against, so we didn't worry about taking 5 steps and taking a break, then another 4 and taking a break.  Do watch out for the donkeys. As sure footed as they are, the most you can hope for is not careening off the side into a canyon.  They still slip and jostle and miss steps as they bound up and down the hillside. Some portions have average steps, other portions are so worn that it's more slide-like than stair-like and takes full attention both up and down.

Go ahead and tell me it's not awesomely impressive.  It's cut in one piece from a single rock face.  We made it, and sank into a couch at the Monastery cafe.  Kelly was so kind and bought both of us a drink and a sandwich.  Considering we left Amman with coffee and tea in hand at 8:45 a.m., stopped for a few minutes in front of the Treasury for a water/oranges/crackers snack, and reached the Monastery at 3:30 p.m., we were due for some sustenance and rest.

We took a couple of silly photos to prove
we were both there.

The climb and descent offer amazing views.  The grandeur is there.  Not the Grand Canyon sort of grandeur, I haven't seen anything yet that matches the Grand Canyon, but the beauty of Wadi Mousa in general and Petra in particular is inarguable. The skies are often a shocking blue, the rocks vary from deep red to gold and white, and even streaks of blue can be found.  There's no doubting that when you look at these hills and valleys you see history far deeper than carvings and etchings.  With upheavals from earthquakes and weathering from wind and water, sliding a hand along the gentle curves of the Siq connect you directly to history a million years old.  A rock casually kicked aside (or tripped over in my case) has strata formed by millions of tons of pressure.  A little rubbing with a touch of oil (happened to have some sunscreen on my hands) and the rock practically glows.

Man made is awesome.  Nature made is spectacular.  I honestly am looking forward to going back and seeing what else we can "discover."

But next time with the proper shoes.


  1. Amazing Photos . . . what an adventure you are having!

  2. WE LOVE PETRA! Went in early January and entered shortly after the opening time. The walk is AMAZING and we could take our time and have the whole thing almost all to ourselves! Plus the morning light on the Treasury is breathtaking! Would love to find a way to get back there and explore more, but a full day of walking and we were ready to head back by early afternoon, swimming upstream through the packs of tourists just entering which definitely brought the feel of the activity of camel caravans from earlier times.