I had no idea - I was amazed actually - that not only was it the Treasury and all the other carved out of rock with all the decorations and trimmings 'buildings' and mausoleums that I had seen a pictures of and therefore expected - but that the rock that whatever was to be seen that made Petra such a famed and prestigious off the beaten track must see and Unesco was itself so amazing to see!
The colours to behold! Amazing colours streaking through the rocks along the pathways we walked, in under rocky overhangs, or peering into the rooms cut into the rocks marvelling at the patterns and colours to be seen on the ceilings and walls inside.
Vivid reds and bluey purples, blacks and white, and even pastelly yellows and oranges and pinks.....beautiful really!
I found a sign that showed me to apparently the only surviving art from amongst the residences of the Nabateans around Petra - to me this was highly exciting!
Up in what was a 3rd floor living area are the remains of Nabatean art on the ceilings and wall from about the 1st century.
A little bit hair raising getting up there to it and even a little more hair raising getting back down again but it was great zooming in on the colour and designs and grabbing these shots!
On the top of Umm Al-Biyara, towards the edge facing the Royal Tombs there are two ancient wells surrounded by channels to collect water. It is very interesting to see such construction so high and there is an amazing place to enjoy the view just a little bit down from the wells.
Climbing to Umm Al-Biyara starts down after the Pharaun Column with breathtaking views all the way to the top.
Most of the people leave Petra around 5:00 pm either because they are tired or because they think the place closes. Although selling of tickets stops around 6:00 pm, the site itself (at least for April) does not close until sunset or 8:00 pm. So if you have some rest during the hot noon hours or if you have a lot of energy you can stay a bit later and enjoy the site almost alone! I was amazed last week that around 7:00 pm there seemed to be only 4-5 people in Petra! It was a great feeling to walk inside this amazing place alone being able to enjoy the monuments and the nature without any people around. Late afternoon is also a very good time for photos for many monuments (e.g. Royal Tombs) but unfortunately not for the Treasury, with best time being early in the morning.
Our guide, Mohammed - give him a ring, when you need a good guide: 0795121808, give him the regards of mr. Lelie - , was kind enough to take us to an archelogical site, a fairly recent excavation (by German and Dutch archeologists) of a stone age village. The drive, about 30 minutes, is already worth the trip, through the rocky desert - now and then irrigated. Here and there were tents and cattle. We passed some beautiful flowering trees with small yellow flowers, which we call Mimosa.
The remains are not on the top of a hill, but rather more 'off the road', perhaps to stay unnoticed. The houses, graves, very small streets and features, like doors, walls, grounding stones are very clear. Some items found here are in the Petra Museum. It is also clear that this is part of a much larger site, to be excavated.
Three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays & thursdays one can experience Petra at night by the light of 1800 candles. A walk through the Siq to the Khazneh following a candle-lit path & enjoy the haunting music of the Bedouin at the Treasury.
for a mere 12 JD, as if the charge to get into Petra is not enough, you can do the Petra By Night tour. With candles lit the entire way, the tour goes from the gate to the Treasury and not beyond that. You are served tea at the Treasury and an English speaking guide gives a brief talk there. The tour begins at 8:30 and you will be back at the gate at 10:30.
Personally, I thought for the price it was not really worth it - even with the supposed 1,500 candles lighting my way.But it's the only legal way to get into Petra at night since it is a UNESCO protected sight now and people are no longer allowed to spend the night.
In the opposite direction to Little Petra is the village of Taybet (approximately 10-12 kms). Drive past some of the modern hotel monstrosities and head out of town. The drive is spectacular with stunning vistas. At the end is the charming little town of Taybeh. In Taybeh there's the extraordinary Taybet Zaman - a village 'saved' and converted into a luxury hotel. It's a fabulous place - wander through the alleyways that now house suites, beauty parlours etc, shop in the local souk etc (at western, 5 star hotel prices :)). But the restaurant here is fantastic - the best meal we had in Jordan by a very very long way.
A few kms from Wadi Musa is the Petra satellite suburb of Siq al-Berid, known as Little Petra. Ideally this should be visited before the main Petra site - it is essentially one Siq with a number of carved facades, but which not suprisingly pale into insignificance compared to the main site! If it is visited first, it provides a gentle introduction. But it's worth a visit in its own right. At 350 metres long, it's hardly taxing and there are several places you can explore (it's most likely this is an example of where people lived - it's narrow confines must of made it quite a noisy place - bit like a tenement!).
A km or so out of the town of Wadi Musa on the way to Little Petra, the road sweeps across the top of an open plateau. Below you is a superb view of the valley floor and part of the city of Petra. Up here are the remains of the Crusader Fort of Wu'yara- not much left of it, sadly. It's location is extraordinary though - built on a rocky precipice. (You can get to the Fort from Petra below but it's apparently a very hard slog and you can easily get lost among the strnge dome-like rocks and sheer drops)
If you want an off the beaten path activity for Petra, this is a pretty good one. If you hike through this area, you will see no one most likely. But be warned that there is a possibility of danger. If there happened to be a flash flood while you are hiking through, you're in trouble. Thankfully though that is a once every 5 or 10 year occurence! :-) So go for it. It can get pretty tight though, so be prepared to jump down a few feet when needed. It's worth it to see the rock formations winding around.
The "entrance" to this area is right before Al-Siq. When you see the little bridge where the shop is after you walk the path from the gate into Petra, you are there.
A turkish bath after a full day journey around Petra is a good way of relaxing and removing some back-ache or feet-ache that you might have after walking around for 10 hours. We took a bath at Silk Road's Hotel, which is 100 metres up the Mövenpick hotel, in the same street. The bath wasn't the best I've ever been to, but still was quite ok. Some steam, some exfoliant soap, a massage and a tea. There are different areas for men and women. The price: 15 dinars.
Jebel Haroun is on the horizon for most of your time in Petra. Sometimes, usually in the mornings, the sun glints on the little mosque on the top of the mountain. This is supposed to be the tomb of the Prophet Aaron, the brother of Moses. It is a holy place for the Moslems and many of them go there in pilgrimage on certain days in the year.
You can go there on excursion from Petra on a donkey or a camel or - more expensively - with a jeep. You can't get up to the top with any of them, but you can get pretty close. Count on the whole day for the trip and take plenty of water with you.
If you want to hike it, then you must have a guide with you. You can find camel, donkey, jeep and a trekking guide by asking around down in Petra.
You won't be going to visit the shrine, which is a holy place and in any case not very interesting, but to look at the view, which on a good day shows you the Red Sea to the south and the Dead Sea in the north!
When you finish your visit to Al-Beid, on your right there is a path that go to the village of Al-Beidha. The ruins are 9000 years old and together with Jerico it's one of the most ancient archeological site of all the Middle East.
At the end of the Siq there is a Nabataean stairs. If you want to climb over you pay attention because it isn't so easy as appear in a first moment. By the way at the end of the stairs there is a fantastic panorama over the mountains.
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