If you missed Part 1, click here.
After three hours in the desert it’s time for us to leave for Petra. After arriving in the Petra’s visitor centre and museum I am headed towards the entrance. There are two types of tickets. If you are staying in Jordan at least one night the ticket will cost you 50 JOD (around $70) or if you are here just for one day 95 JOD ($135). There is a lot of walking here, so better be prepared for a challenge. You have the option to ride a horse from the entry point to the Siq, but I decided to walk, since I wanted to see everything on my way there.
The giant red mountains and vast mausoleums have nothing in common with modern civilization, and ask nothing of it except to be appreciated at their true value, as one of the greatest wonders ever made in collaboration between the nature and men. Although, after reading so much about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place. It has to be seen to be believed.
Petra, the world wonder, is without a doubt Jordan’s most valuable treasury and greatest tourist attraction. It’s a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2000 years ago, turning it into an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes.
Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80m high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience by itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling.
As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (The Treasury). A massive façade, 30m wide and 43m high, carved out of the sheer, pink rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. The feeling can’t be described. You are standing in front of this massive structure that you only read about. You are standing in front of one of the Wonders of the world!
It was carved in the early 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of this ancient people.
The Treasury is merely the first of the many wonders that make up Petra. You will need at least five to six hours to explore everything here. As you enter the Petra valley you will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of this place and its outstanding architectural achievements. There are hundreds of elaborate rock cut tombs with carvings. Unlike the houses, which were destroyed mostly by earthquakes, the tombs were carved to last throughout the afterlife and 500 have survived.
There is also a massive Nabataean Roman style amphitheatre, which could seat 3,000 people. Continue your way and soon after the amphitheatre you’ll spot The Royal Tombs. There are four magnificent facades adjacent to each other on the right side at the end of the main path through the middle of the city. Sit on the rocks in front of them and just enjoy the view.
You want to try the best coffee in the Middle East? Only in Petra… Recommended by the Australians!
The Great Temple complex represents one of the major archaeological and architectural monuments of central Petra.
After 4km uphill I arrived to Ad Deir – The Monastery. It’s one of the largest monuments in Petra measuring 47m wide by 48m high. Sadly though, The Monastery, the so called ultimate goal for any Petra visitor was a big let-down. It looks like the neglected clone of the ugly step sister that tried too hard to imitate her pretty sibling. Thankfully though, the surrounding scenery, about 10 minute walk up the rocks from the Monastery are compensating. On one side you get dramatic views over the desert and on the other mountain after mountain, rock after rock, of incredible scenery. If you feel tired, like I was, sit down and enjoy in the café just opposite the Monastery and watch how the sun slides down the façade with a cup of tea in your hand.
And here ends my Petra story. Time to go back to the front entrance of Petra, which is 6km away. The more lazy tend to cave in and hire a camel or donkey, but I seized the opportunity to walk back through a much more deserted Petra, without tourists, rampant photographers, without selfie sticks, and the best off all, no donkey ride tours.
After this we went in a traditional Jordanian restaurant. I tried Mensaf (Jordan’s national dish made with lamb and jameed (dried, fermented yogurt)), Hummus, Falafel, Labneh Pie and my personal favourite Kanafeh (Jordanian dessert). The food in Jordan is great. Mostly made with local ingredients, it’s always fresh, healthy and tasty.
I am rushing towards my last destination for this trip, the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea. Here my accommodation is the Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea.
Without a doubt the world’s most amazing place, the Jordan Rift Valley is a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at Dead Sea, is over 400m below the sea level. The lowest point on earth, this vast stretch of water received a number of incoming rivers, including the River Jordan. Once the water reach the Dead Sea they are landlocked and have nowhere to go, so they evaporate, leaving behind rich, dense cocktail of salts and minerals that supply industry, agriculture and medicine with some of the finest products. The Dead Sea is flanked by mountains to the east and the rolling hills of Jerusalem to the west.
The leading attraction at the Dead Sea is the warm, soothing, super salty water itself, some ten times saltier than seawater, and rich in magnesium, sodium, potassium, bromine and several others. The unusually warm, incredibly buoyant and mineral rich waters have attracted visitors since ancient times, including the beautiful Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra. All of whom have luxuriated in the Dead Sea’s rich, black, stimulating mud and floated effortlessly on their backs while soaking up the water’s healthy minerals along with the gently diffused rays of the Jordanian sun.
On my way to the airport I passed by to see the one of the most important Christian holy sites in Jordan, Mount Nebo. Here is the place where Moses viewed the holy land. There is a church built to mark the site from where you can enjoy the vast views of Jordan Valley. The late Pope John Paul II was here during his visit to the Holy Land and planted a tree in the yard. You can see amazing detailed mosaics and monuments.
My last stop (I promise) is the city of mosaics, Madaba. Just 30km from Amman is one of the most memorable places in the Holy Land. It’s best known for its spectacular mosaics, Madaba is home of the famous Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vivid colored local stone, it depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns… The Madaba Mosaic Map covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.
I heard that close by, there is a mosaic workshop that is making the best mosaics in Jordan. They were not lying. This pictures were detailed, colorful and precise. It takes two to four months to make one masterpiece, depending on the size.
I am here at the airport, it’s time to go back. Till next time…