The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

guard at treasury petra jordan
The Treasury at Petra, Jordan. I love the guard in traditional dress, dagger and all.

Like a lot of other people, the first I ever knew a place like Petra, Jordan existed was because of the Indiana Jones movie. And even then, I wasn't sure it hadn't been reconstructed on a back lot somewhere. But no, it's real. And it's a lot bigger than just the treasury building. (The so-called Treasury is actually a tomb, btw. I think the people who built Petra probably kept most of their money under the mattress, probably after a bank collapse brought on by excessive speculation in silk and spice derivatives.)

In fact, if you want to see Petra, you better bring really good walking shoes and be willing to spend somewhere around five hours gaping. The site is huge. You have to walk from the visitors' center about a 1.6 km (a mile) just to get to the Treasury, and then the rest of the way to the end of the city is another 3 or so kilometers. According to my Fitbit, we walked a total of about 15 km that day, which is just short of 10 miles.

When in Jordan, be sure to visit the ancient city of Jerash, which can be reached on an easy day trip from Amman.

Of course, if you want, the Bedouins who actually live in Petra will gladly sell you a ride on a camel, donkey, or even a horse-drawn cart, all or part of the way. There are signs though, that ask to you consider your own weight when you hire a donkey.

The picture illustrating said admonition is a silhouette of a huge tourist on a tiny donkey. I maintained this silhouette depicted an American whose primary source of nutrition was McDonalds, but Kris wouldn't go along with my assessment. “Other people are fat, too,” she argued. I then asked her if she'd seen a fat Arab yet.


I recommend you visit Petra in January, like we did. For two reasons: it wasn't too hot to spend five hours under desert sun; and, there are relatively few tourists.

And, because there are only scores, instead of thousands, of tourists, you can actually get a photo of the signature “Treasury” building with only the costumed guard in front of it, instead of a dozen camels and 200 people with selfie sticks.

Of course, if you want that picture, you can get it too. At least the camels part. And maybe a couple of donkeys. And some tourists.

tourists camels treasury petra jordan
The camels are always there in front of the Petra Treasury for the riding.
desert sunset petra jordan
Sunset over Petra. The desert, wherever you are, makes the best sunsets.

We just got back to our hotel in the village of Petra, Jordan when Kris wandered out onto our balcony. “Oh my God, Tom, you've got to get out here and look at this.” We'd actually walked out of the Petra ruins a little earlier than we'd planned because the sky had completely clouded over and it was getting a bit chilly as the sun sank below the surrounding mountains–which just added to the general grayness of the setting. But, as you can see, the clouds broke up just as the sun got behind them. And in the desert, you are rewarded for a monochromatic day with a vision like this.

A desert sunset never disappoints.

Here are some other desert sunset photos you might like. One at Keys View, at Joshua Tree National Park, and another at another Joshua Tree campground.

Petra is a Unesco World Heritage site. Click the link to see a list of all the Unesco World Heritage sites in Jordan, with links to posts about the ones we've visited.

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10 thoughts on “The Treasury, Petra, Jordan”

  1. great photo and wonderful writing
    I was there in Nov 2013 and I was blown away but its vastness– and so worth the visit. Did you come from Israel? I went to Eilat and then took a cab to the Jordan border and walked into Jordan where I got a taxi to Petra– I think that may be the only time in my life I walked across an international border—- its a rather spooky experience in this case

    • Thanks, Larry. We did exactly the same thing (walk across the border from Eilat to Aqaba) except we’d arranged for a guide to meet us on the Jordan side. She took us to Petra, arranged a cheap but nice hotel and dinner in the town, and then took us on a jeep tour of Wadi Rum the next day. All in all, two nice days. We’re going to go back and sleep in a Bedouin tent in Wadi Rum probably in a week or so. We’ve walked across a few borders in our day. Belize and Guatemala come to mind. I think I walked from California into Mexico once when I was a kid, too. As for this one, I’d have to say the Jordanians are lot more friendly than the Israelis.

  2. Hi Tom,

    What a magical place, and I enjoyed your practical tips, too. I’m glad you were there on the off season in order to get that great pic of the guard in front of the amazing carved-in-stone sight. I like that the donkey owners had the guts to have that illustration of a fat person. Shows they care about their animals! — and that overweight Americans are not welcome to partake in everything.
    Wishing you happy and safe travels,

    • It is a great place, Josie, and my other tip would be to buy a multi-day admission pass. One day, especially if you take it slow and really look, isn’t enough. As for the donkeys, I think it was the Jordan Tourism Authority that was looking out for them. The Bedouins probably had never seen fat people until Petra became a favorite tourist site.

    • Yup, right out of the movie set, no doubt. That knife is scary, though. And the bandoliers. He had a big pistol, too. So I guess he was a real guard. Or an extra waiting for Steven Spielberg to show up.


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