I’ve been looking forward to our Petra visit as much an anything we’re visiting this entire trip. We scheduled a private tour to ensure we’d get everywhere we wanted in the short time we have. It took a few minutes for our driver to show up, and I was beginning to get anxious. Never fear! We were quickly rolling out of the port for our day of adventure. Our driver, Ramd, is Bedouin, born in Petra, but living in Aqaba. He has six kids, with the oldest 20 years old. Ramd said he himself had 7 brothers and 4 sisters.
The drive is two and ½ hours. The first section is a major freeway that climbs up from the port. It’s very reminiscent of Tijeras Canyon coming out of Albq., only a lot longer. It’s the main road to Amman. We hit a more gradually climbing section, with occasional small villages on the roadside, as well as several small groups of wandering camels. We finally turned off the main road and began a serious drive up a two-lane road to Petra. Near the top of the drive, we took a rest stop at a gift shop, bartering with sales staff, etc.
We arrived at the Petra Visitors Center around 10:30am, where our driver bought our tickets. He then walked us to the Petra Guides office, where we were introduced to our English-speaking guide. He’s responsible for a two-hour walking tour downhill into Petra. It’s somewhat over a mile going in, then, obviously, an uphill climb coming out. Our walk in was leisurely, with numerous stops to discuss the history of the development of the area, first by the Nabbateans, and later the Romans. The first segment was a gravel, rock-filled road. The entrance to the Sig, the narrow canyon that hid the site for thousands of year was dramatic. The road through the Siq was mostly limestone pavers, brought in by the Romans. It wasn’t too hard to negotiate, but Judy and I both are nervous about sprained ankles, etc.
For us, one of the most interesting notes of the ancient city was the handling of the clay pipes on one side of the path for the water for humans, and open irrigation canals carved into the walls on the other side for animals and more basic needs.
Water Channels carved into the side walls.
When we finally arrived at “The Treasury”, the iconic façade of Petra, it was especially dramatic, bathed in sunlight as we came out of the shade. We wandered around the area with lots of other tourists and hawkers selling camel rides, etc. Then we continued to walk down to the main city section and “The Theater”.
After admiring the carvings and buildings, we began the long ascent out of Petra. It took us about 50 minutes to make the walk, with a few short breaks. It’s beautiful going in, and equally beautiful coming out. Back at the top, we met our driver, who took us to eat at a Jordanian buffet, with a nice variety of foods common to the area. After a relaxed lunch, we began the drive to Wadi Rum, a national reserve area a few kilometers off the road back to Aqaba.
About 70 kilometers out of Aqaba, we turned off the main road, headed to Wadi Rum. I didn’t know much about the area except that it was where much of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. We also were told that more recently “The Martian” was filmed in the area.
Words or photos can’t describe the beauty or vastness of the area. It’s gorgeous, and empty. There were so many wide-open areas with huge mountains of rock jutting out of the ground. No words……….?
We had a driver hired for two hours to take us out into the area to discover some of the more picturesque views. We effectively had only a little over an hour before darkness, but we made the most of it. There weren’t really any roads. Our driver just took off across the desert headed to our next destination. I regret that we didn’t have more time to spend here. We were told the area is home to the world championships of rock climbing. Not hard to believe.
At dusk, we left Wadi Rum, heading back to Aqaba port. As we neared the city, I asked a question about the nearness of Saudi Arabia, I should have looked closer at a map. Israel is 3 kilometers away. What I thought was more of Aqaba across the harbor was really the Israeli City of Aiyalat. Further south on the east the coast became Saudi Arabia, and about 20 kilometers south, the coast on the west turned into Egypt. There are a lot of borders around here. Aqaba is Jordan’s only port.
We made it back to the ship around 7:00pm. We were both dead! I was so tired, I couldn’t get the energy to go eat. I went down for some ice cream for both of us, bringing it back to the room. I tried to stay awake for a little longer (not sure why), but gave up fighting it around 8:30, and the snoring began. We were barely out of the harbor before I was out of it.