Petra, one of the major attractions in Jordan. It would be safe to say that all the travelers who visit Jordan have Petra on their list. And I was no different. To be honest, when I thought of going to Jordan I knew of only 2 places of interest - Petra and The Dead Sea. Petra is more than two thousand years old, crowned as UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Archeologists haven't been able to track down when it was built, but, it is known that Petra began to prosper from 1st century BC. The earthquake of 363 AD destroyed most of the city, further changes in the trade route led to a downfall of Petra. What was once a bustling city ruled by the Nabateans was soon abandoned around the 7th century. Later on, local Bedouins found solace in the lost city of Petra. Only in 1812, Johannes Burkhardt, a Swiss explorer rediscovered this ancient city in a rather interesting way. He dressed as an Arab and convinced a Bedouin to take him there, soon enough The Lost City was a rage among the western world. Tourists flocked in from all corners of the world to witness this marvelous ancient city and they continue to do so. As most of us know the entire city was carved out of the mountains. The inhabitants had carved out Temples, a Theatre, Tombs, Churches and a Treasury. A number of these structures are well preserved till date, Petra puts forward amalgamation of great culture, geographical, archaeological and natural features. The ancient city has a lot to offer and is best done in 3 days while many do it in 2 days.
The Treasury (al-Khazna)
Off the beaten path experience in Petra: Ibrahim and I entered from a backdoor entrance which is strictly only for bedouins and rangers working in Petra. After a little talk, the guards finally let me in with Ibrahim. Wow, that first sight was mind blowing specially because there was literally nobody except both of us in this whole site. Tourists enter Petra from the front entrance and they always go for the "Al Khazneh" (aka Treasure) first and then make their way to the famous monastery We took the opposite path and hence, the whole walk towards the monastery was just excellent.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
For nature lovers, Jordan is a delightfully unspoiled paradise. Dana Biosphere (Central Western Jordan), which is just 24 kilometers away from Shobak is Jordan’s largest nature reserve. It is both biologically and historically rich, with traces of Neolithic villages, ancient copper mines, Roman aqueducts and Byzantine churches found among its wilderness. It is highly diverse and the geology ranges from limestone to sandstone to granite mountains, lush hilly slopes, oak and juniper forests to scraggly scrublands and arid sandy deserts. It has some excellent campsites and guesthouses including the award winning Feynan Ecolodge. Several hiking trails are open and apart from a dizzying variety of birds (eagles, falcons, cuckoos, vultures etc) Dana is teeming with jackals, hyenas, wildcats, porcupines, hares, bats, hedgehogs, lizards, snakes, wolves, ibex, chameleons and fresh water crabs. More than 700 plant species have been recorded at Dana and recently 3 newly discovered plants have been found there.
I used an eco- toilet where they recycled the phosphorus (something to remind me that I still have a PhD to finish on this back in Amsterdam :P) and I happily used it and took a selfie with it too????. I also changed my shirt here just to look different in my other pictures from here. Yes, I am a bit crazy and I love it????. So, I went more up from the monastery with Ibrahim because his brother had a shop on the highest point of Petra. The views were stunning and not many people who make it to the monastery actually go here. I urge you to climb a bit more and you won't regret it. After having tea at the highest point, I decided to head back to the monastery and climb down.I found myself a victim of all those hawkers on the way wanting to sell me stuff and it can get very very annoying at some point. Anyways, it was around 4:30 pm already and most of the visitors were leaving and hence I had to be quick. Even though I was fully equipped for the dawn as I had heard that Petra gets really dark in the night, I decided to slowly head back to the main entrance and leave Petra by 7 pm. You are very safe in Petra as rangers do rounds, but if you are in one of the caves with a bedouin (not uncommon), nobody can actually trace you. So, be careful if you are traveling by yourself. Try to leave the site just after the sunset.
Wadi Rum Protected Area
Wadi means Valley, and it is the largest valley of Jordan. It’s a desert red sand desert with high barren rock formations. The last habitation here is the Rum village, after that it’s all desert. The desert safari, camping and star gazing is one of the highlights here on a clear night (though nothing can be compared to Nubra Valley, Ladakh) are major activities here.
Do you remember Indiana Jones and the last Crusade? Remember how the caravans traveled between the big rock formations? Well, that is called the "Siq" and here I was entering the Siq. The Siq leads to the treasury from the main entrance gate. Because I did the other way round, I walked in the Siq while exiting Petra. Nevertheless, it was just way too amazing feeling. The mammoth rocks and their intriguing colors definitely made me feel like it was all worth this whole hassle of coming to Jordan! I loved it.
The hike was easy, was very long. I had enough food and water on me to keep my energy levels high. We kept walking on this beautiful rock formations, met hers of sheep and goats and also explored some natural rock arch formations. Then we arrived at the Byzantine Church and Ibrahim told me about the incredible history behind it. Read more about it here. Ibrahim was also a trained and professional guide in Petra and hence he knew everything about the place. He also had many friends in the site who offered us free Jordanian tea and food and declining food offers are considered very impolite in Jordan and hence I would always end up having free meals????.
Day 3 : Taking the Kings’ Highway, an ancient caravan and pilgrimage route, we traveled to Mt Nebo where God permitted Moses a glimpse of the Promised Land before died. Moses is believed to be buried nearby however his tomb has never been identified. Just 10 minutes down the Highway is Madaba, famous for the mosaic map of the Holy Lands, discovered in the 6th Century St George Church during renovations. Heading south towards Petra, we passed through magnificent Wadi Mujib canyon. The canyon cuts through the mountains down to the Dead Sea and is a popular location for hikers. Continue through Kerak, passing Dana Nature Reserve to reach the ruins of Shobak Castle. The Crusader Castle was built by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem and it is here that Richard the Lion Heart was defeated by Saladin. Further down the Highway we reached Petra also known as wadi musa . The street near the main attraction has lot of hotels and restaurants . You can choose any according to your budget. I suggest living near to the attraction so as to start early in the morning . As there is lot of walking involved while exploring the beautiful treasury.Day 4 : Be ready to explore the new seven wonder of world as early as possible in the morning . The attraction opens up at 6 in the morning. The entrance fee to the attraction is 50Jd each and it is good if you hire a guide because then only you can be familiarized with the beautiful architecture built by the Nabetians . There is walk of around 2 km to the breathtakingly beautiful treasury. Continue along the Street of Facades, past the Roman Theater to the Royal Tombs. See the Byzantine Church, Blue Church, colonnaded street, Great Temple, Temple of the Winged Lions, Qasr al-Bint and museum. The guided tour are up to this point only . But there are still many more things to be explored . Many of them involve lot of climbing through the uneven stairs . We choose to climb the 800+ steps to the Monastery . The other rolls Ds which can be explored are the High Place of Sacrifice. Please wear comfortable shoes as you will easily walk around 10 km and also carry water with you .Although there are many shops inside the main building but they are insanely priced. As it gets really hot by 11 . We left at around 7:30 and we were to hotel by 4. We wanted to try other things like Petra by Kitchen or the Petra by night but we were way too tired to try anything . We just decided to go for a Turkish bath , a very different experience it costed around 15JD and was worth it . Made us feel fresh and light .