Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve dreamed of seeing Petra, the Rose City that was lost to the western world until 1812. The ancient city almost seemed mythical, about as real to me as the Lost City of Atlantis.
I honestly never thought I’d get to visit Petra- after all, when would I ever be in Jordan?
Well I was lucky enough to see Petra not once, but twice. Both visits, the first by night, the second by day, were hands-down my favorite experiences in Jordan.
Petra by Night
After a sumptuous dinner of veal in tahini sauce, our guides dropped us off at the front gates.”Be careful. And don’t talk to any gypsies,” they advised.
Uh, thanks? From there we began the mile or so walk to Petra, through the narrow gorges called the Siq.
I’ll admit- the beginning of the walk to Petra wasn’t exactly magical. Hundreds of tourists competed for space as feral cats howled (and I mean HOWLED), creating the least appealing travel soundtrack of all time.
But luckily Amanda and Jessica wanted to stop and take photos, so we let the crowds pass as they set up their tripods. This turned out to be the best thing we did all evening, as soon we were nearly alone.
Once we resumed walking through the Siq, I couldn’t stop staring at the stars above- they were white and dazzling. On the ground, paper lanterns lined the walls of the Siq, illuminating our pathway to Petra.
As we appreciated all of this beauty, still chattering, one of us said, “Let’s not talk.” So we immediately stopped talking and walked the gorge in silence, staring up at the red rocks and the star-dotted sky.
When we arrived at the Treasury the bedouins were singing by candlelight. And the Treasury’s façade, awash in candlelight, was every bit as beautiful as I’d imagined.
I have to admit I was kicking myself for not bringing my tripod, as I wasn’t able to take high-quality night shots without one. (See Jessica’s post for flawless night photography.)
But photos aside, approaching the Treasury with haunting Bedouin music playing was something I’ll never forget.
Visiting Petra by Day
The next morning we were stoked- we were going to Petra again! As we walked through the entrance for the second time, Jessica (very smartly) picked up an Indiana Jones hat.
Also on an Indiana Jones kick, I decided I wanted to ride part of the Siq on a horse. In retrospect, I regretted this decision as who knows how the horses were treated. And honestly I felt nothing like Indy while riding a horse on a lead-line.
This time as we walked through the siq, we observed details we hadn’t seen before.
We also stopped many times to take portraits of one another- the advantage of having friends who are just as obsessed with photography as you are.
I loved catching a sliver of the Treasury before walking in. Even though I was surrounded by fellow tourists, I somehow felt I was discovering the ancient city all on my own.
Once we got to the treasury, the ambiance was less serene than the night before. One particularly memorable tout said, “We pay 50 camels for you and 20 for rest,” pointing to Jessica. And what are the rest of us, chopped liver? Ha.
Something about standing in front of the Treasury, dusty and surrounded by horses and camels really made me feel like Indiana Jones. Sigh.. if only historical knowledge came in handy like it does for Indy.
Not my best work- see this post for way better camel photography. I did like their colorful saddles though!
The ruins past the Treasury were also stunning, and I wished we had enough time to climb the Monastery Route to catch beautiful views of Petra from above.
Next time. And I truly do hope there is a next time.
A one-day pass to Petra costs 50 JD ($70 USD) and a two-day pass is 55 JD ($77 USD). See the website for more ticketing info.
Petra by night tours cost 17 JD ($24 USD) and children under 12 enter free. See more info here.
Bring sunscreen, good walking shoes and possibly a hat- it’s hot!
If you’re a shutterbug, go early- midday is so bright that it’s hard to take good photos. And if you visit at night, bring a tripod.
Have you dreamed of visiting Petra someday?
I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.