A Visit to a World Wonder and the Red Planet

Two of the most iconic places in Jordan are Petra and the Wadi Rum desert.

Petra

Petra is one of the most prominent symbols of Jordan. The name Petra is derived from the Greek word “petros” for “rocks”. The rock in the region is rose in colour, giving it the name “Rose City”.

The capital city of the Nabataeans, one of the nomadic Bedouin tribes around the 4th century BC, Petra is considered to be an archaeological wonder. The city is a masterpiece in rainwater harvesting and stone carving – the smart Nabataeans turning the mountainous barren terrain to their advantage by converting it into an oasis. They used dams and canals to control flash floods and stored water for the dry season.

It entered the list of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 – we ticked off our second Wonder of the trip, having covered the Egyptian Pyramids just a few days back (blog coming soon). Petra has appeared in many movies, the most remembered one being Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This has, in fact, become a strong tourist hook for the ancient city, with Indiana Jones hats being a popular item in the souvenir shops at the entrance!

We arrived at Petra on the evening of Day 3 of our trip (read the itinerary and trip guide here). After checking into our hotel, we headed out to the town of Wadi Musa (meaning “Valley of Moses”) – this is where you will typically stay when you are visiting Petra. We entered a restaurant that looked local enough (too many touristy ones all over the place) and had a couple of shawarmas. You cannot go wrong with shawarmas in Jordan and this one was no exception – it was amazing! Tummies full and happy with the shawarmas, we headed out to explore the town. The night was starting to get cold and as we suddenly felt a warm gush of air smelling of baked goodies. Like Jerry floating towards a block of cheese, we walked straight into the bakery and ordered Kunafas (or Kanafehs) – the most heavenly dessert of the Middle East! They assembled the cheese and semolina in a pan and heated it over coal. As the cheese melted, we also stole some warmth from the hot coals. The dish was then topped off with pistachios and sugar syrup. Words can’t describe the awesomeness of this plate of dessert – writing about it makes me want to go back just to eat it!

Before you turn in for the night, make sure you pick up some energy bars, biscuits and snacks for the next day.

It was Day 4 of the trip, we woke up early morning and walked to the entrance gate of Petra. The gates opened at 7am and we made our way to Al-Khazneh (the Treasury). We soon entered a gorge (called the Siq). It is the narrow entrance to Petra which runs for almost 1.2 kms – the rocks on both sides have been smoothened by flowing water.

You can also see canals carved into them to channel water. The reveal of the treasury was something out of a movie with the gorge getting narrower and allowing only peeks of the structure.

We exited the Siq and finally got a full view of the magnificent Treasury. The rising sun’s rays had just started falling onto it revealing the intricate designs – it is said that the best view of the Treasury is in the early morning light.

As soon as you get here, a bunch of locals (most of them look like Captain Jack Sparrow for some reason) will offer to take you up to the cliff for a downward looking view. As we had time on hand, we decided to go for it – take a look at the views!

We would not recommend this if you are afraid of heights as the climb is quite steep and the cliff is, well, a cliff!

Moving on, we saw plenty of caves, some tombs, a theatre, temples and a path leading further up towards the end of the trail.

The climb gets steeper and tougher from here but at the end is the Monastery – a gigantic structure (similar to the Treasury).

You can rest here and eat those snacks you’ve been carrying while enjoying the view. On the way back, we got to see a different version of the Treasury – the sun was high in the sky now and gave the entire place a rosy glow (no wonder it’s called the Rose City).

It was also a lot more crowded now as we could see tour groups gathering. We had avoided them all by coming in first thing in the morning. Phew!

We stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants outside the gate. We ordered a plate of mansaf. Mansaf is a traditional dish of lamb cooked in a yogurt sauce served with rice – this is the national dish of Jordan. It was amazing! So simple and yet delicious! Tummies full and happy (I guess this was a constant state throughout our trip), we drove along the King’s Highway  , the Desert Highway and towards the Wadi Rum desert.

Wadi Rum

We reached our desert camp by evening. The tents were nestled in between a tall sand dune and some tall rocks. After a Bedouin-style BBQ dinner, we spent some time attempting to star-gaze, but clouds played spoilsport.

The next morning, we were taken on a desert safari. As we entered deeper into the desert, the landscape changed dramatically. It felt like we were on some other planet – thanks to the Red colour, we assumed this was what Mars would look like. In fact, movies like The Martian, Red Planet, Transformers were actually shot here! It is said that the movie Lawrence of Arabia, with scenes shot here, gave the first major boost to the Jordan tourism industry.

There were gigantic boulders strewn all over and we were told that many of them contained inscriptions from over 10000 years ago. In fact, this led to Wadi Rum being classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There were camels wandering about in the distance.

We were taken to a tent where we had tea (part of the package) and returned to our camp for checkout.

Our last stop of the trip was the Dead Sea. Read all about it here.

You can read all about our Jordan trip here:

The Jordan Itinerary

A Guide to Amman and some Amazing Jordanian Food

A Historical Melting Pot and a Sea Where You Cannot Drown

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