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13 Miles of Petra

Our hotel in Wadi Musa was perfect for what we needed and wanted. It may not have been as fancy as the Marriott hotels where we have been staying, but it nailed almost everything we wanted for this location. The staff, like every single person we have met or seen in Jordan, was extremely friendly and did everything they could to meet our needs and wants. What was it we needed? We needed an early breakfast so we could get into Petra before the crowds. There are approximately zero restaurants between the hotel and the entrance to Petra, definitely none that would be open as early as we would be leaving, so we really needed to eat breakfast at the hotel. They had breakfast ready just after 6 am. And that’s not all, they also packed us each a to-go “breakfast” to eat for lunch inside Petra. They really shined. We only stayed the night at the hotel, checking out before heading off to Petra in the morning. We needed a safe place to park the car with all our luggage in it, and they told us we could leave it parked in the closest parking spot to their front door all day. It really was perfect.

Early Birds

We were not the first people in Petra today. After eating breakfast and walking over to the entrance to get tickets, a few other people had gone in. But for the most part, the place was still empty. We could stand and take pictures in front of The Treasury without anyone else in our shots. But it was still pretty dark. The sun didn’t come up for at least 30 minutes after we were passing the Treasury. Our phones could still sake “night mode” pictures, but we knew we would want to hit this famous landmark again on our way out.

This is the low season for tourism in Jordan. Getting up early during the low season means we were actually wandering around before most of the Bedouin merchants. I was shocked to see how many more merchant stands are in Petra today. It must be more than 10x what it used to be. It is sad to see it this way. The merchant stalls are everywhere except in front of the really big attractions. There are no merchants blocking photos of The Treasury or The Monastery, but all the royal tombs and most of the rest of everything has merchants in front of it. You cannot take pictures of those spots anymore because of them. And the merchants seem to be extremely aggressive now. I only remember donkey-ride merchants being pushy and getting in your face previously, but now it’s everyone. It wont’ surprise me if it causes fewer people to come to Petra, or for trips to Petra to get scheduled shorter, so you can just hit the bigs and then leave. It’s sad.

No Secrets

One group of Bedouins who beat us to The Treasury were the ones offering to take you to a “secret” location where you can get a picture looking down on The Treasury. We didn’t think there was really any secret, but we decided to pay one of them just so we could find the right path sooner. Our time, especially our time before the throngs of tourist busses arrived, was more important. The path was not difficult and we scaled it quickly, getting some good shots of the group with The Treasury behind us. The sun wasn’t up yet, but it was getting light enough for good pictures.

It has been raining and snowing a lot the past few days in Jordan, so when we saw plastic-lined ponds filled with rainwater inside Pera, we didn’t think too much of it. From the Royal Tomb area we could see an overturned truck in one of the plastic-lined ponds. It wasn’t clear how the truck had gotten itself in there, but we didn’t worry about it. We made our way down from the Royal tombs and over to the ruins of The Byzantine Church that overlooks Roman made Great Temple.

Alone at The Monastery

When we were in Petra the first time, it was a day trip from Eilat. We only had a couple hours and we never made it to The Monastery. It’s been on Charmaine’s list ever since. Today we made it to The Monastery, which turned out to be a bit further away and a bit more of a climb than we expected. But we had the place completely to ourselves for quite a while. It was surreal. Of course, like everywhere else in Petra these days, the entire road climbing from the wash up to The Monastery was lined with merchant carts and pushy salespeople. It looks like it should be a natural beauty, but there is no way to appreciate it due to all the trinkets being sold.

After coming back down to the heart of Petra from The Monastery, we headed to the other side of Petra to see the Great Temple and slowly make our way back to The Treasury and then head out. The Great Temple turned out to be really cool. Some of the plastered walls still have the original colors on them. One of the most amazing things about it is that it was completely buried and unknown until a team from Brown University discovered and excavated it in 1993. How does something so big remain undiscovered for centuries in a place that has so much attention? It’s crazy. They did a really nice job with it. Some things have been left as they were, while a few columns and other pieces have been put back together to help give you a sense of what it was like. We really enjoyed exploring it.

The Nosebleed Section

Heading back up toward The Treasury and The Siq on our way out, we decided to walk up directly from the Great Temple without going all the way back down to the road. We found several trails through the hills and Brett figured we may be able to find a way into or above The Theater. He was right. We popped up at the top of one side of the theater. From there we could look down into the plastic-lined ponds, including the one with the overturned truck. There was a lot of commotion around that truck. We watched in awe as they pulled a body from it and covered it completely on the stretcher. Wow. Should we have said something to someone when we noticed the trucker several hours ago? Surely it was already too late to save that person. When we saw all the police at the base of The Theater, it convinced us that we shouldn’t just bounce down the seats and climb over the fence in front of them. Eventually we realized there were way too many police and especially ambulances and search and rescue people for a normal day. They were clearly there to do training. Later on we came across the mannequin (or his twin) that had been pulled from the pond. Phew.

High Place of Sacrifice

We didn’t want to go all the way back to the Great Temple, so we decided to go up and around. We would try to find a way to connect us to the hiking path up to the High Place of Sacrifice. The vast majority of people who visit Petra are not interested in seeing it, and the vast majority of those who do go up from the other side. We wound up finding a way up there and it was pretty cool. There were two giant obelisks carved out of stone, a big rectangle swimming pool that was full from the recent rains, etc. The main piece is a circular rock carved in such a way as to let the blood of the animal being sacrificed run out of it. It wasn’t the easiest hike, but it wasn’t too bad. It’s easy to climb up the sticky sandstone surfaces. After taking a few pictures up top, we climbed back down the regular path, which has stairs carved into the rock and is easy to follow.

There were a lot more people in front of The Treasury when we got back, but we were still able to take a few more shots before walking back up The Siq, out the front gate, and back to our hotel to pick up our car and make the drive to Wadi Musa. By the time all was said and done, we had walked at least 13 miles door to door, and that included some good elevation too. We decided to stop and eat at Falafel Time (not far from Time Out) on our way out of town. I love good falafel and shawarma. And we couldn’t help ourselves – we had to order some more kunafa. Mmm.

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