Ticking off my Bucket List – Petra and Wadi Rum
The Bucket list, that famous bucket list. I love when I get the chance to tick some destinations off my list. This time it was Petra in Jordan and Wadi Rum. Before me telling you about my experience in Jordan, let me tell you a little something about Petra.
Petra, originally known to the Nabataeans as Raqmu, is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. The city is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved.
Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan's most-visited tourist attraction. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who took advantage of Petra's proximity to regional trade routes to establish it as a major trading hub. The Nabataeans are also known for their great ability in constructing efficient water-collecting methods in the barren deserts and their talent in carving structures into solid rocks. Petra lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage".
When you visit Petra, make sure you wear very comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk long sandy distances. You will firstly find a 2km track that is rocky and sandy. The only way apart from walking that long way, is taking a horse, a camel or a carriage. Quite an adventure.
We preferred walking it, so we get the chance to explore and stop whenever we wanted to take pictures and admire the mountains around us that looked like a painting. Clearly this is the place for lots of pictures. But you will see.
After walking this path for around 2km you reach the interesting part which is called the Siq ("the shaft"), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks and serving as a waterway flowing into Wadi Musa. At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra's most elaborate ruin, the Treasury (known as " Al Khazneh’ in arabic ), hewn into the sandstone cliff.
Walking that Siq is quite impressive, you admire the accurate and long water collecting methods and waterways that were carved into the sandstone, that use to collect the water from the mountains and transport it for kilometers along the Siq.
After a good walk, you are so busy with admiring the rose colored Siq walls and its varying colour palettes, that you forget where you heading to. Almost at the end, while still between the narrow walls, you find a small preview of the Treasury. The first glimpse of Petra's Treasury upon exiting the Siq.
So excited to finally have reached, you walk a little faster and there it is. The Treasury.
It takes a moment to realize the dimensions of this building carved into the rock, that you are literally overwhelmed. In addition to getting a grasp of your impressions, you have to deal with the masses of other tourists that are all over the place. Some astonished and on a mission to capture its beauty on a picture, others riding camels in circles in front of the monument.
Al-Khazne "The Treasury", is one of the most elaborate temples in the ancient Arab Nabatean Kingdom city of Petra. As with most of the other buildings in this ancient town, including the Monastery ‘Ad Deir’, this structure was carved out of a sandstone rock face. The treasury was built by the Arab Nabateans, coinciding with the time of the Hellenistic and Roman Empires and so has classical Greek-influenced architecture. If you are patient and can wait till the masses are gone, you might be able to take a picture where its only you and the Tresury.
A little further from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, positioned so as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheater has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-colored mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.
The second highlight of Petra is the Monastery, which takes an real effort to get to.
"The Monastery", also knows as Ad Deir is a monumental building also carved out of rock. It measures 50 metres (160 ft) wide by approximately 45 metres (148 ft) high, architecturally the Monastery is an example of the Nabatean Classical style. It is the second most visited building in Petra after the Tresury.
After you have seen and explored Petra during the day, you should definitely not miss the chance to see Petra by Night. 3 times a week they host Petra by Night. Basically, all lights are off and the 2km walkway to the Treasury is illuminated only by candles placed on the floor by the walls all along the Siq. Once you reach the treasury you will be mesmerized by the scenery. These candles are placed in straight lines, symmetrically and you are being asked to sit on the floor in lines. The only thing you see are candles. Once the show begins you will hear a flute player playing ancient Jordanian songs. A Bedouin welcomes you to Petra and gives you a brief of the monument itself and explains the tradition of coffee and coffee roasting. In the meanwhile, we were served red sweet tea, which was great since it was very cold.
After some explanations and some jokes to entertain the crowds, he will count a countdown and suddenly the spot lights shining at the Tresury go on. Suddenly you see the Tresury illuminated in all colours. Truly and amazing sight.
Over all is Petra an experience not to be misses. It takes good walking shoes, lots of water and some fitness to explore that area in all details. But overall so happy to have seen it and finally ticked it off my Bucket list.
Since you are already in Petra, you can’t miss out on a visit to Wadi Rum. Getting to Wadi Rum is a very bumpy affair. We were picked up in a 4x4 and were taken straight into the desert where we were welcomed by our tour leaders who already had prepared the camp for us to stay over night.
The mountains in Wadi Rum look so artificially perfect, that they look like a painting and you immediately feel like in Star Wars.
In order to see the sunset in its full beauty, I climbed up a mountain hill and set there gazing at the orange sunset.
Once the sun is set, dinner is served. Dinner in the desert is usually called Zerb. A hole is dug into the sand a charcoal is being placed into it. A metal barrel is being placed into it on top of the hot charcoal and a metal structure is being places into it. The tray with 3 shelfs is loaded with raw Onions, Potatoes and either Lamb or Chicken, marinated the Jordanian way. The last shelf carries a pot that has rice in it and will cook along with the rest. The whole thing is places into the barrel and closed up with a metal lid and then sand shuffled on it so that it disappears in the sand.
After around 1.5 hours the food should be ready and the barrel ready to be taken out of its hole. For the opening, we all gathered around it and watched carefully what the tea was doing. Its quite impressive that all this yummy food can be prepared in the sand alone. Needless to say it was super yummy.
If you are interested in visiting Petra and Wadi Rum, we are more than happy to arrange that for you. You can always combine Petra, Dubai and Oman. Truly an amazing Roundtrip.