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.
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.
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.
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.