We started our day with a 5:30am breakfast and headed to Little Petra at 6am. Our plan was to trek backwards from Little Petra to the Treasury, a total of 25km to be hiked to cover the entire site. Zuhair promised that Petra was better experienced this way. We’d be hitting up the less popular sites with virtually no one else around.
Little Petra, also known as Siq al-Barid, is thought to have been a post for camel caravans en route to Petra. There are rooms with tables and seating fashioned out from the rock. These are thought to have been dining rooms for the travelers. There is also a Painted House, another enclave in the canyon where there are still faded frescoes of vines and flowers, an example of Nabataean painting. (The Nabataeans were nomadic people from Arabia responsible for building Petra.)
Zuhair led our group with an earphone in one ear. Nathan joked that he was playing an audioguide feed through the earphone and reciting it out to us. Zuhair swore that it was music.
Zuhair: “Hold on guys,” as he reached for his phone in his pocket.
Nathan, miming pressing a button: “Press play.”
He was really pressing pause on his music.
Zuhair: “Okay guys, you already know that The Martian was filmed here in Jordan. So was Lawrence of Arabia. You know what? I have to give you guys a list of movies to watch.”
Zuhair: “Ah, and Ted.”
Us: “Ted was filmed in Jordan?”
Zuhair: “Oh, no. I just really like it.”
We reached the Monastery around 10am and had time for a coffee with cardamon at the cafe across from it.
It’s similar in architecture to the more popular Treasury but, way bigger.
We continued on into Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses) and walked up the hill to check out the Silk Tomb and Urn Tomb, two of the Royal Tombs, each with pink striations in the sandstone. On the way here, we ran into several clearly unfit people who, feeling too lazy to walk, decided to take donkey rides into the valley. On the positive side, I guess it supports the local economy.
We hiked to the top, above the tombs, for a panoramic view of the valley. In the top left is the large Theater that was pretty much all carved into the rock.
And, then, we reached the Treasury, the obvious main attraction. Rumor had it that treasure was hidden inside the urn on the facade. Clearly, someone had believed it because you can see gunshot holes in the urn. In this case, a rumor was indeed just that.
There was a snack stand across from this view where we ate lunch in the shade. One local (who may have been drunk) decided to jump from one rock to another below. Chances of missing the rock and falling to a serious injury below in front of the Treasury were pretty high. Apparently, he’s not the only one to have done this nor will he be the last.
We headed back down the valley after that and opted to take a longer route back to the hotel that involved climbing up 800 steps. Then, we almost got lost. “Hm, this never happened before,” Zuhair said with an awkward laugh. He had a momentary relapse but quickly re-remembered the way. Throughout the hike, we were always trying to calibrate our Fitbit’s and Health App’s and Nathan would always be about 1,000 steps behind. So, at the end, he attempted to run the last few bits. It didn’t even make a slight difference.
“Um, it seems like we only did 24 of the planned 25km!”
“Well, we were driven to the entrance this morning, so that counts.”
“Yeaaaa,” as we all treated ourselves to ice cream at the Movenpick.
We skipped the “Petra by Night” because according to Zuhair, it was a 3 out of 5 star experience that, more often than not, led to tourists’ disappointment. Apparently, they don’t light as many candles around the Treasury as one might expect and, given the cost and effort to get there, it wasn’t all that worthwhile.
Instead, we went right at opening time, 6am, and watched the sunrise fall over the facade.
We ladies attempted to spell out Petra. I look like I’m scratching my head but, I’m really a P.
We made our way to Al Zawaideh Camp out in the desert where we were staying for the night, then hopped on 4×4’s for some sand duning. Ours kept trailing behind the other 2 and I saw that our driver had earphones on and was on Whatsapp most of the time. We suspected that his playlist had changed when he finally started driving faster.
Me, looking hot in the desert. Temperature-wise.
We then drove to a Bedouin tent which was in a shaded area alongside a rock wall full of 2,000 yr old animal drawings. (They’re all the way to the left in this photo, somewhere underneath the white stripes.) Apparently, these were drawn to communicate to other travelers the direction they were going or to warn of nighttime predators (e.g. hyenas).
Nathan: “Zuhair, did you call up your friends to draw this before we arrived?”
Kasia then ran off to do her usual climbing of something.
The first of 2 arches on our visit. At one point, I walked out a bit, sat on the ground and felt the vacuum of silence. Not even a wisp of wind. It was so silent that I felt like my ears were getting sucked into my head. Then, someone laughed in the distance.
The 16 of us on arch #2, with Zuhair as our photographer.
We drove past some camels on the way to our sunset spot. Suddenly, we veered off path and were no longer trailing behind the other 2 pickup’s. We were, at first, unsure of what to do but then decided to just go along with it and WHOO! The driver ended up taking us to another set of camels where he proceeded to get out of the truck and tie their legs together so that they wouldn’t stray too far. Then, he jumped back in and sped up to catch up to the others. We were thrilled with the speed.
The sunset was incredible. Notice the face protruding out of the rock on the left?
Back at the camp, we had an amazing meal that was cooked in a zarb, an underground oven covered in sand, very similar to the Maori’s hangi in New Zealand. The meat fell off the bone so smoothly and was quickly devoured and washed down with ice cold Amstel’s.
Later, Zuhair took some of us on a night walk to see the moon and stars. We found tire markers along the path, pulled one out and proceeded to play human bowling. Darragh had to periodically flash his ultra-powerful torch to do a scorpion check for us. We finally settled down on safe ground, with drinks in hand, and asked Zuhair to clarify something for us.
Us: “So, what does ‘habibi’ mean? I thought it was something you call a significant other. But, we hear you saying them to your guy friends.”
Zuhair: “Well, first, if you’re referring to a guy, it’s ‘habibi’ and if you’re referring to a girl, it’s ‘habibti.’ It’s something you call a person who’s close to you. Whether it’s a friend or a lover, it all depends on the way you say it. There’s a difference between ‘habibi’ and ‘habibi.'”
As he said the version in italics, his eyelids suddenly drooped and his voice became sultry.
Ah, got it.
One of the optional activities was a boat ride on the Red Sea, including 2 snorkeling stops and a BBQ lunch on board. Um, HELL YEA!
We passed by loads of pretty but, ominous-looking jellyfish. They luckily weren’t the stinging kind. We could see Israel and Saudi Arabia from our boat as well but, what really interested us was the view underwater. The water was warm and clear. In other words, perfect.
(Photo credit for the Red Sea: H)
On departure day, Zuhair found out that Wadi Mujib was finally open. Water levels had gone down enough, although it was still at 1m (about 3x higher than normal). So, he was able to arrange a roundtrip from Amman for the 11 of us who weren’t yet flying out.
We did the Siq Trail (about 1-2 hr) and as we started out, there were a group of guys in front of us who clearly seemed scared shitless. They were of the nicely gelled hair kind. But, the deeper we went in, the higher the water level and the more aggressive it became. The trail ended at an awesome waterfall and on the way back, we all had to either jump from a rock and dive to the safe end or, let the rapids take us further down and have someone grab us. I took the latter approach and almost face-planted into a rock wall. Then, we reached another part of the obstacle course where we followed a line attached to the wall, our bodies partially emerged in the water. I somehow lost my grip and the current rammed me into a barricade of lines (similar to the second photo below) while the guide shouted at me to grab his hand. He was actually angry. “Why did you do that?!” “I didn’t do it on purpose!”
Finally, we were back to where we started. The water eventually trickled off into a dam, the other side of which a guy was hanging out, collecting items that people lost in the rapids. Were parts of it a little scary? Yea. But, it was so damn worth it.
(Photo credit for Wadi Mujib: Felicia)