I first went to Petra, Jordan back in 1998 on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. If you know the lay of the land, that may sound impossible. Well, not if you take a flight from Sharm-el-Sheikh to Aqaba, Jordan and then hop on a bus. That’s exactly what I did. I did not have the luxury of time so it was an either do it on a day trip or not do it. Since I could not predict the future, I had to go for it to be sure I got to see Petra in case I didn’t get to come back.
Return to Petra
Fast forward 15 years and I return to this necropolis-turned-town-turned-movie-setting-turned-massive-tourist-site. I was thrilled at the opportunity to return and explore it on more depth. You see, in my first visit, I decided to walk my way in which is great in many ways but it eats away precious time for someone on a day trip there from Sharm-el-Sheikh. The second time, while I did walk in, I walked faster knowing time was precious and I rented a donkey to take me up to save time. That was a great idea except that the donkey preferred the edge of the path on the way up rather than risk hitting itself against the rocks at the other side of the path, making this rider a little bit worried about the way down!
Petra is amazing due to how it has evolved over time but it was the Nabateans who deserve the credit (after God, of course) for this place. Certainly, the landscape and topography are thanks to the Maker but what happened after that really starts with the Nabateans who carved a necropolis out of these beautiful rocks. Others, like the Romans, continued to develop the site to what we know now.
More than the Treasury
You can see evidence of amazing early engineering when you see the channels that were carved into the rock to capture the rare rainfall that rolled down canyon walls and take it into a natural “holding tank.”
Also impressive are the facades of the tombs built into the rocks such as the Royal Tombs and other areas like the Monastery and the very famous Treasury, which many think to be what the Indiana Jones movie showed. In reality the Treasury is more of a facade. Be sure to get a guide who explains to you what you are looking at as the Treasury, for example, shows evidence of how it was carved out of the stone. And be sure to go all over!
My advice if you are visiting Petra and don’t have but a day or two is to use a donkey for some of the climbs (unless you want or need the exercise) and then walk and explore – this way, you will maximize what you will see from this one-of-a-kind place and there is PLENTY to see and admire about this unique site.
During my second visit to Petra, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board. That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else. As they always are!