Like two excited children on Christmas Day both myself and Dad woke up at 5.45am eager to explore Petra.
The hotel restaurant ran breakfast (buffet style obvs) from 6.30am – we were the first down and the hotel were just switching on all the lights in the breakfast room! Whilst we had previously discussed how we would have a leisurely start to the day, the excitement over took and wanting to beat the tourist buses we quickly ate and walked over to the visitors centre. A horse ride is apparently included in the price of your ticket from the visitors centre to the entrance to the Siq (I’m still doubtful that it’s “included”). As we were so early we weren’t hassled by the owners of the horses and we carried on with the 20 minute walk to the entrance of the Siq instead. There are a few things to see along the way but we were so excited that we were the only people about we left looking at them till on the way back. Walking through the Siq is beyond words really. The cut through the rocks, the water channels, the vast height of the rocks …. cue me constantly singing the Indiana Jones theme tune! You see the pictures in the book of how you turn a corner and then through the gap of the Siq you catch your first glimpse of The Treasury. Before turning round every corner I kept preparing myself for the sight – there are quite a few! But nothing can prepare you for your first sight of The Treasury. As we got arrived there so early we were rewarded with being able to marvel at the sights with only one other couple in the vacinity. The other couple headed off and we were treated with having the whole sight to ourselves, until we heard these sounds of “oooooooooOOooOooOOOooo” “ooooOOOOooooOOOOooo”. Bless. Two others had arrived and were a bit more vocal about what we could see. What is so amazing about the whole complex is that these buildings and tombs have been CARVED out of the rock. I still can’t comprehend how but this is what makes it one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Everything is much quieter when you’re in there before the tour buses. Local Bedouin women are setting up the souvenir stalls, donkeys and mules are still sleeping before they have to start a full day of transporting people around, it’s pleasantly quiet, something we didn’t fully appreciate until we arrived back in the same spot seven hours later and were surrounded by so much activity.
Petra has over 800 registered sights which includes an estimated 500 tombs. Once again the travel books, wikipedia etc are great sources of the historical side of Petra, I would hate to try and educate you with the wrong facts! After taking pictures of The Treasury from every possible angle, including one step more to the left, a little inch back to the right, we headed off on our first hike. This is a quick summary of our sightseeing day:
- The Treasury.
- High Place of Sacrifice via the Obelisks.
- Once you find the start of the trail – start the descend through Wadi Farasa.
- Notably we passed the Lion Monument, Garden Tomb, Roman Soldier’s Tomb and the Garden Triclinium.
- The trail leads you down to Colonnaded Street.
- At this point we decided to hike up the 800 steps to The Monastery – declining offers to hire ‘an air conditioned Mercedes’ or ‘Ferrari’ – those being the local mules which carry people up the hill. I have mild arthritis in both hips and had been worried about the climb all morning. Chewing paracetamol every four hours, the sure will of wanting to be able to achieve the climb and my Dad’s encouragement managed to get me up there. It is suggested it takes about 45 minutes to climb the 800 steps, 50 minutes and we reached the top. The Monastery is similar design to the The Treasury but is much larger, less busier and well worth the climb, this was definitely the highlight of Petra for me. Dad did the further climb to ‘The Best View in the World’. Turns out there were two of these advantage points with the local Bedouin people shouting over to the people on the opposite trail saying they had the best view. There’s a great seating area opposite The Monastery which enabled us to recover, take in the view, reload with caffeine, picnic food and watch the playful kittens before we started the descend back down.
- On the route up to The Monastery there are many places to stop to take a breather, take a look at souvenirs and we were invited to stop for tea. It would seem the popular response to invites are ‘we’ll take a look on the way down’. Which of course on the way back down we were then told to stop as we promised too on our way back down. Lol.
- We wandered through Colonnaded Street and Petra’s ‘City Centre’. From here the camel rides operate taking weary walkers through the old City Centre. There is plenty to see and it’s a bit of a sensory overload with all the wonderful Nabatean tombs to take in but at the same time trying to avoid the somewhat incessant calls for “Happy Hour” and “postcards only $1”.
- The Royal Tombs are placed up on a higher level offering wonderful vista views across the old city centre but decided to take a closer look at these tomorrow when we weren’t so worn out.
- Whilst slowly meandering back towards The Siq, we passed the Theatre, stopped at The Treasury again to take plenty more photos as it was now a ‘different light’ and stopped at all the little sights that we didn’t see on our eager way in.
After all the walking we had done we had kind of forgotten how long it would take to wander back to the visitors centre but still declined the horse ride back. Luckily at the end of the path just before the visitor centre is the Cave Bar. The bar is set in a 2,000 yr old Nabatean tomb which makes it one of the oldest bars in the world and possibly served one of the most expensive beers I have ever drunk (there is a 26% tax and service charge added to the bill) but believe me it was well worth every dinar!
The day ended with a slow hobble back to our hotel, freshen up and another wonderful meal at the Red Cave Restaurant. As my mother would say ‘after all that fresh air today you’ll sleep well’. We certainly did but we didn’t expect such an early morning wake up call on day five…….