There can be little doubt that the success and popularity of the Indiana Jones franchise back in the 80s has contributed to Petra's sore in visitors these last 30+ years. These days it is possible for 3000 visitors a day to reach this remarkable place - or so I was told by the guy at the ticket desk. These days though, with what is happening in the world and indeed, the Middle East, figures are not consistent and can be as low as a few hundred. That's a shocking drop in numbers for such a spectacular area.
Speaking of which, be assured that Petra is much greater than the single iconic image synonymous to millions across the World. That image you are envisaging is known locally as "Al Khazneh" or for those outside of the Arabic language, 'The Treasury'. It was interesting to learn that the well-known treasury is just one of the many wonders that make up this vast expanse of land identified as 'Petra' - a wondrous city of the ancient world and most certainly not exclusively the treasury! That said, it's still beautiful which Instagram viewers will have seen already and as you'll soon see yourself in this post.
Petra then, was once an ancient city; a city that was hidden in the mountains of Jordan for thousands of years until a Swiss explorer rediscovered it just 200 hundred years ago! Move back from 200 to 2000 years and then suddenly we're taken back to an ancient civilisation known as the Nabataeans; the ingenuous civilisation responsible for Petra's countless temples, tombs, and other buildings each amazingly carved into the abundant sandstone rock. The majority of these rocks and mountains have a red-like colouring giving Petra the nickname of "The red rose city".
In fact, Petra is so vast that you will often hear from folk that to see (relatively) all of Petra, you'll actually need between 3 and 5 days! Fear not though as unless you are a super-keen historian or avid trekker, you can easily accomplish a supremely satisfying insight (and trek) into Petra in just one day and you won't feel short-changed. Well, unless you come unprepared and require buying merchandise or even water from a tourism stall.
Blake and I did exactly that today having reached the visitor centre and entrance for 9am. Including lunch and dinner breaks, we honestly arrived back to our hotel at 21:00. We put in a solid eight hours trekking racking up no more than 15 kilometres for the day in nearly 30 degree heat. Not for the faint-hearted but still, enough people were out and about but granted, most will have left between 4 and 5 as we saw next to nobody at 6pm when we walked out of the official visitor centre ready to enjoy some supper.
Anyhow, without further ado, let's show you a tiny fraction of the UNESCO protected area we know as Petra:
So those images above were of course, the iconic treasury! It was a great feeling to think that Harrison Ford along with countless other people will have walked these same steps. Let alone the ancient civilisation that created it! Actually thinking back, 'Indiana' and his father arrived although the Siq not by foot but by horse! I cannot wait to watch the movie again, that's for sure. Perhaps unsurprisingly them, animals are offered as a way of getting about and I'm sorry in advance if a picture of a fat man on a donkey upsets you.
During your exploration, you will encounter some native Bedouin people. These cave dwellers continue to live in these caves with only the most basic of modern day equipment to assist them. Even if you don't want to buy any merchandise, you can support them by stopping and drinking tea with them. Often they will offer without a fee but it's accepted to pass over 1 JD and we do so willingly numerous times. I mean look at this little face, what an Angel.
So as you'll have seen above and as you'll see below, the visual wonders just keep on coming. Really look hard at this next image as it should blow your mind of the work that went into this and then think, this is just one part of acres upon acres of land and rock that have been carved so intricately and well preserved for 2000 years ago!
Petra by night
We actually did this on the first night pf the first day that we arrived - therefore before our major exploration of Petra by day. Our thinking of course was to fully embrace this experience and capture that initial wow factor at night first. Clearly we were not alone in this thought as there were at least 100 - 150 people joining us.
Petra by night is an additional offering to the already-expensive ticket you'll pay for entry to the old city. It will cost you 50 JD (£50 GBP) for the day pass which is probably the single most expensive tourist ticket I've ever paid on my travels? Petra by night is currently a further 17 JD (£17 GBP). It's been so long since I've not had to think of a conversion formula to work out cost in my local currency.
Whilst the allure of the limited by numbers night time viewing of candle-lit road is hard to ignore, the reality, I can report, is actually very different and so it gives me great pleasure in writing a few paragraphs to hopefully put you off going! Can you believe I'm actually saying that?
Firstly, know this is a privately run event and so the profit (or certainly the vast majority of the profit) will not go to the government but instead to an individual or group. Now, that's not necessarily the worst thing in the world but when they put on a 'show' which falls well below standard, that cause to rebel against, no?
The walk from the entrance to the treasury is approximately 30 minutes. At night, you should really quite enjoy the walk as it's both cool (temperature wise) and largely free of tourists. Also, the piece de resistance is that the entire path is candle lit and that, combined with looking up to the stars. is pretty magical. Sadly though, that's where the magic ends. Actually that's not true as upon initially seeing the treasury, well you can't help but be wowed whether it's day or night! The candle lit area in front of the ancient ruin was a great spectacle but this time for sure, that's as magical as it gets.
The first fifteen minutes you hear a guy playing the flute. I repeat, fifteen minutes with nothing else going on around. The next fifteen minutes another guy plays an instrument and sings in Arabic. After this half an hour of not seeing pretty much anything at all (although we did get a tiny cup of tea), another guy then speaks for around five minutes about absolutely nothing I found interesting. When he was done, a machine is turned on that rotates colours and beams them on to the treasury. Cool, I thought whilst I was getting ready for the main show, whatever that would entail. You should have seen the look of disbelief on my face as Blake says: 'No mate, it's finished. That's it'.
I honestly did not believe him but he was not kidding, that was indeed the end of the 'show'.
So there you have it folks, unless by the time you come to visit there is a drastic re-design of the entire event, please do not waste your money on Petra by night.
You know what? I'll even throw in some illuminated images of the treasury just so you can appreciate how nice it looked for 10 minutes or so when that dire 'show' finished.
In total I'll have been in the Petra area for three full days but I've not hiked each of these days. The next time you hear from me the journey south continues as does my joint travel adventure with Blake and so together we'll head in the southerly direction of the Jordanian desert. There's a chance I'm going to be out of my comfort zone for the next couple of days and so I'll report back on the weekend as to how that goes. Although usually optimistic, I'm thinking there's not going to be any Wifi in the desert camp. Yes, you read that correctly, 'desert camp'!
Oh, goodness me. Curse you Blake for roping me into this, curse you :--)