When I decided to start my own travel blog, I didn’t have any trouble at all deciding where in the world to begin my writing. I wanted to welcome you to my blog by inviting you to a land where hospitality and generosity are deep rooted in the culture of the people, so much so that these traditions continue in their society today as much they have done for centuries, welcoming Pilgrims, Historians, Archaeologists, Traders, Travelers and Refugees.
In a world currently shaky and plagued by turmoil, I want to take you to a country that has political stability, a peaceful nation and a place where Muslims and Christians live, work and stand side by side. You may therefore be surprised to discover that I am taking you on a journey into the heart of the Middle East: Jordan. One of the best educated, safest and most liberal countries in the Middle East, here is an oasis of peace.
The welcome you will receive is simple, no flower garlands or curtsy, yet so genuine and consistent from each and every person you will meet. Whether they are now living a modern city life, or still following ancient, Bedouin traditions in natural surroundings, you will always be greeted with a big friendly smile, telling you “welcome to Jordan, you are very welcome” their Arabian eyes twinkling with kindness, appreciation and pride.
Most people visit Jordan to see Petra: one of the 7 new wonders of the world; a UNESCO World Heritage Site and on the bucket list of all intrepid travelers.
A city carved by hand out of the rose-red mountains by the ancient Arab people the Nabataeans. They occupied this land at the end of the Roman Empire and their dominion stretched from Damascus to the Red Sea and from Sinai to the Arabian Desert.
Petra was hidden for over 600 years by it’s natural walls; unknown to the West since the Crusades, but known to local Bedouin tribes, who were reluctant to reveal its existence, fearing treasure hunters.
I can assure you a visit to Petra will take your breath away, not only that first spine tingling glimpse of the Treasury, but each and every part of this vast fascinating ancient city.
I would recommend that you hire one of the experienced local licensed Guides, who will not only point out to you tombs, altars, carvings and inscriptions that you may not have noticed or been able to decipher, but they can also bring the history of Petra to life with ancient mythological stories; tales of the Nabataean trade of Frankincense, Myrrh, Amber and Gold; the ingenious ancient water system that brought fresh water into the city via channels cut into the rock; and of course the Guides are experts on the geology and archaeology of Petra.
You will gaze in awe at the tall natural sandstone walls of ‘The Siq’, which was originally the grand caravan entrance into Petra, but this is just the beginning, at the end of the Siq emerges as if by your own imagination the famous façade of the Treasury.
The best time of day to see this is early morning, when the stone is lit up a beautiful pink color by the sunlight. The moment you see the Treasury you will feel as though time has stood still, everything and everyone around you will fade into the background. The hairs on your arms will stand up, your heart will race faster, you will have a lump in your throat and tears may well up in your eyes. Nothing except your camera lens will come between you and this most mesmerizing monument of the Middle East. You should look closely at each and every part of the facade to notice the intricate carvings which you have never noticed before in the many pictures you have seen of the Treasury in books and magazines or in documentaries and movies.
You would be forgiven to think that once reaching the Treasury you have now seen and done everything that Petra has to offer, but no, after some time your Guide will have to interrupt your alone time with the Treasury to show you all the other majestic monuments still to see. There is the open air Theater which provided seating for 600 people, The Royal Tombs, The Colonnaded Street, The Great Temple and the Byzantine Church with a mosaic floor.
If you’re still feeling energetic after all of that, or better still if you have more than one day in Petra, I would definitely recommend you to make the climb of more than 850 steps cut into the rocks to see The Monastery. It was built by the Nabataeans in AD.100, as a Royal Tomb. The façade is the largest in Petra and there is a huge 10 meter high urn at the top. During the Byzantine age it was converted into a Christian Chapel.
Opposite the Monastery is a coffee shop, where you can enjoy a freshly squeezed fruit juice, a strong Turkish coffee or a fresh mint tea whilst admiring the façade of the Monastery.
As if this humbling monument isn’t enough reason to make the climb, there is another highlight up there. Just a little further on from the Monastery is a viewpoint where on a clear day you have wonderful views across Wadi Araba.
You cannot appreciate until you are there the sheer enormity of the site of Petra, so be sure to discover further, deeper and higher. Step off the main trail and meander along the dazzling cliffs that run through the site. For this moment in time, in this mystical magical setting you will transcend into another world, another being, perhaps as Indiana Jones or Lara Croft!
There are so many breathtaking viewpoints of the site of Petra and across the valley.
Take the stairs going up by the Theatre for an invigorating hike up to the High Place of Sacrifice, where the Nabataeans used to perform sacrificial rituals. From here you have a wonderful view of the Street of Facades.
You can also climb to a plateau from opposite and above the Treasury, where you will have a bird’s eye view of the façade and the bustling plaza in front of it.
The People of Petra
To really get to the heart of Petra make sure you take the time to get to know her people. Al B’doul, descendants of the Nabataeans, are a Bedouin tribe who for over 170 years lived in the tombs and caves of Petra. When Petra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980s, the B’doul had to leave their semi-nomadic life for the purpose-built village of Umm Sayhoun. The B’doul still return to Petra everyday to work as Tour Guides, provide camel and donkey rides, run the coffee shops, sell their handicrafts and as an added extra ‘in the price of your ticket’ entertain the tourists. Many also return every night to work as voluntary watchmen, happy to protect the land of their ancestors. In my opinion the B’doul are the icing on the cake of this already delectable city. Join them for a mint tea, take a ride with them on a donkey or camel and you are sure to be blown away by their wisdom and interesting tales that are passed down from the elders to the young.
There is no other place in this world that I enjoy more to spend a day in than Petra.
More of Jordan
There is however, so much more to see in Jordan than ‘just’ Petra. Follow me next month when I shall be travelling through this Magic Kingdom from the bustling capital city Amman, down to the lowest point on earth at the healing waters of the Dead Sea and onto the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Along the way I will be visiting Roman Ruins, Crusader Castles and the lunar-like landscape of Wadi Rum, sharing with you all the sights, smiles, tastes and tales along the way.