This just in - the lost city of Petra is awesome!
Officially a member of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the ancient rose-red city of Petra is undeniably one of the coolest places we've ever visited. The colourful and creative city was literally carved into sandstone cliffs by the Nabataeans in the 3rd century BC, making it nearly 2,300 years old.
Petra is Jordan's tourism gem and caught the attention of the Western world when it made an appearance in an old Indiana Jones flick. It was awarded the distinction of New Seven Wonders of the World in July 2007, a process that involved over 100 million votes. Since then, tourism in Jordan has exploded with Petra leading the way.
A long year ago it was all a dream. We sat in our apartment and fantasized about all the faraway places that we would visit on our World Tour. We came up with a list of 'must see' places. They all seemed so exotic and unattainable. We were further inspired to explore Jordan when our favourite travel show "Departures" did an episode on the Wadi Rum, Petra and Aqaba. It seemed like such a foreign and distant land; a place we had to experience.
Fast forward 10 months. Visiting Petra rounded out our own personal 'Seven Wonders of the World', joining Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, the Great Pyramids of Giza and Easter Island.
We couldn't believe that our list was complete - where did the time go?
Our anticipation and excitement grew as our driver dropped us in front of a two-star hotel in the village of Wadi Musa. We chose the Sunset Hotel because it was clean and reasonably priced, but more importantly because it was a short two minute walk to the entrance of Petra. We quickly showered and changed out of our smoky, campfire-smelling clothes. We didn't have the best sleep the night before in the Wadi Rum Bedouin camp; it was surprisingly cold and the roosters and dogs howled at the full moon all night long.
We were running low on energy but it was only midday and we were within striking distance of fulfilling a life goal. After a sunny patio lunch we purchased a two-day pass to the enormous park and started down the legendary 1.2 kilometer Siq (a deep colourful canyon passageway). We knew that at its end would be the most impressive and recognizable site in Petra, the Treasury.
The long, narrow pathway has huge walls on both sides that block out the sun. The Siq descends downhill gradually and appeared to never end. Each turn had our excitement building… when would we be face to face with one of the world's most spectacular archeological sites?!
After a lengthy 30-minute hike we saw an enthusiastic group of people ahead. Their cameras were getting a good workout so we knew that we had arrived. It's hard to describe the feeling we got when the mysterious Treasury finally came into view from behind the towering stone walls. It was similar to the feeling we got when we climbed over the Sun Gate on the Inca Trail and saw Machu Picchu for the very first time.
It was an unforgettable moment that gave us goose bumps!
We continued on. To our amazement, Petra kept getting better and better. There's something incredible about Petra; it's more then just archeological sites. It's the whole package - the environment, the history, the hiking trails, the freedom to explore and the spectacular panoramic landscapes.
Petra is a hikers dream with hundreds of trails that pass through some of the most incredible scenery on earth. We passed the Streets of Facades (the Necropolis) and the Royal Tombs before standing in front of the 7,000 seat Theatre. We then decided too hike up the backside of the Royal Tombs to an outstanding viewpoint, giving us a bird's eye view of the historical trade city.
Unbelievable, amazing, incomparable, spectacular, one-of-a-kind, unusual, magnificent, extraordinary, fantastic - take your pick! All of the above are needed to describe Petra.
After five hours we called it a day, knowing that the next morning we would hike to the distant Monastery. The Monastery, locally known as Al-Dier, is equally as impressive as the Treasury but requires a solid four hour hike including a 45-minute walk straight up a rock-cut staircase with approx 900 stairs. It was challenging but very doable.
We had a similar feeling when we finally reached the top of the mountain trail and turned to the right - there it was, and it was so big! It was a truly rewarding experience standing in front of the massive Monastery, knowing that we had to work for it. Many people choose not to make the trek because it consumes a good portion of the day and can be quite strenuous with the hot desert sun at full strength.
We climbed further, to the opposite viewpoint, and were greeted with yet another surprise - an unobstructed view of Palestine.
I could go on and on about our time in Petra but I'll leave it at that. Put it on your list; it totally lives up to its title as one of the world's greatest wonders!
We caught an evening bus north to Amman, an easy 3-hour trip that had us arrive at 7:30 pm. We met a Hungarian traveler named Miki on the bus. Our trio split a taxi and settled on the Sydney Hotel as our downtown Amman accommodations. We had a mellow night out on the town that consisted of mingling with locals at a nearby café drinking tea and smoking shisha, followed by late night chicken shawarma at a small fast food joint.
The next morning we would be standing on the lowest point on earth!
November 6th, 2009