I’m skipping over Cairo for now because I already had this typed up.
From Cairo I flew to the capital city of Jordan, Amman, but I didn’t stick around, instead taking a taxi to the southern bus terminal where I was able to catch a minibus to Wadi Musa, the city right outside of Petra. There’s really not much to the city, but it’s got some good views over looking the rock formations that Petra is carved out of. There’s also a little bit of sticker shock involved after being in Turkey and Egypt for so long! Jordan is quite a bit more expensive than those countries. I used to be able to eat on the street for a $1 or 2, now it would minimum $7 or $8 and $15 for any meat dish in a restaurant. Same with shisha, that went from costing $1 or $2 to ~ $8. And the beer! In Wadi Musa I paid $9 for a draft beer, my god!
The next morning I woke nice and early to get to Petra before all the crowds. It’s shocking how few people are around! First you walk 15 minutes down a gravel path which leads to the entrance of the Siq, which is the grand walkway through the rock canyon. It reminded me a lot of the caverns in Zion national park known as the narrows! 20 minutes later and you reach can see a sliver of the Treasury, peaking through a slit in the canyon walls. The Treasury is the photo that everyone has seen of Petra, the ornate columns carved into the rose colored rock. And it’s gorgeous! Like most of these famous historical monuments, I’m usually thinking something like “wow that’s pretty cool” but I’m never like completely blown away or anything like that. It is a very impressive feat of architecture though, and extremely well preserved. Also, what most people don’t realize is that the site of Petra is huge and the Treasury is only a small part of it. There’s lots of other things to see and hikes abound!
I hiked a steep uphill trail that gives you good views of everything around, and the whole time I had the place almost all to myself. On the way down there are all sorts of various tombs cut into the rock, which are kind of eery. There’s not really anything in them though. I should mention that the site of Petra was home to a group of people called the Nabateans who thrived as spice traders until they eventually were taken over by the Romans in 100 AD, who incorporated it into their empire. The city declined in power quickly under Roman rule and mostly abandoned a few hundred years later. It was mostly forgotten about by the west and was ‘rediscovered’ in 1812 by Jean Louis Burkhardt, a Swiss traveler and archaeologist. How cool would that be?! It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the site was properly excavated.
So after a full morning of hiking I was pretty tired and looped around back to the Treasury around 10am, where at this time it was a complete zoo, tour groups everywhere with their little flags, Bedouins selling souvenirs and camel rides; time for me to go! I took my afternoon siesta and returned to Petra for the sunset where I wanted to do one of the hikes to get a nice view of Petra from above. One of the Bedouins was trying to talk to me/sell me stuff and I basically just completely ignored him (which is obviously rude but it’s the easiest way to avoid dealing with these people) then where the steps to the trail started he jumped in front me and said I couldn’t go up without a guide. This was of course complete BS. I told him to move or I’d get the tourist police, but that didn’t phase him. Eventually someone, who I think worked there, came over to intervene in our standoff. He was saying that I’d offended the dude and it would be best for everyone if I did the hike another time. I rolled my eyes at this, but acquiesced. Better than getting pushed off a cliff by angry Bedouins I guess. Although I don’t have that much time in Petra! It’s ridiculous to me that I can’t do a hike because some snowflake Bedouin can’t handle a tourist giving him the cold shoulder! But there you have it. I still got some nice photos anyhow.
The next day I took the morning bus to a place called Wadi Rum, which is an expansive desert area in the far south of Jordan. The mini-bus takes you to the village on the edge of the desert and from there you can book a desert camp and organize a jeep tour. I booked one night in a popular camp online and I just figured I’d get to the desert camp first and organize a tour with people that were already there. But I was told the jeep tour had to start in the village (this was a complete lie, ha!) The guy tried to get me to go on a solo tour, which was very very expensive, and I asked if there were any group tours I could just join in, and he said there weren’t, just private tours. The place is not set up very well for solo travellers! Although he was being deliberately misleading about how difficult it was to group up with other travellers. I ended up waiting around in the office and eventually found an American guy and Chinese girl to do the trip with. Easy!
The Wadi Rum desert is spectacular! It has the look of a normal desert but with these massive sandstone rock formations that jut out from the sand. It’s very photogenic. They filmed the Martian here as well a few other Sci-Fi flicks. Unfortunately on the jeep tour we joined in what was basically a caravan of other jeep tours seeing all the tourist attractions, which just aren’t very impressive. So you’ve got this whole massive desert to drive around and you end up stuck in this horde. Lame! At the end you find a secluded spot for sunset at least, which was marvelous. Then they take you into the desert camp. The camps are fun, it’s a very social atmosphere, and they make a big buffet dinner and have some guys sing some Bedouin songs. Then you can sleep in your tent (it’s more like a bungalow) or take out a sleeping pad and sleep under the stars, which is what I did. Then in the morning if you wake up early you’ve got time for a little walk around near the camp, breakfast, and it’s back to the village. So it was a nice little excursion, despite some of the unsavory sales tactics.
I headed back to Wadi Musa and had one more afternoon to explore Petra. I hiked up to another rock carved edifice called the monastery and later on went up to a another viewpoint overlooking the Treasury. It’s a pretty popular spot as it’s the best place to get those perfect Instagram selfies. It was mildy entertaining watching a cute Turkish girl take photos of herself for a good 20 minutes straight. Meanwhile two Chinese girls in nice dresses were waiting and applying some make-up. After the Turkish girl finally moved one walked to the ledge and hopped over the cliff face! Unbeknownst to be me there was a tiny little ledge where you just had enough room to sit, feet dangling over the ledge, making for a nice photo. The Turkish girl, seeing the photo opportunity she had missed, got over her fears and climbed down to the spot as well. Anything for that killer Instragram shot!
The next day I was off to Amman, the capital of Jordan. It’s not known to be anything particularly exciting for tourists, but as far middle eastern cities are concerned its pretty nice looking, clean, orderly, fairly liberal and open minded. There is also a popular citadel on top of the hill overlooking the sandy colored buildings of Amman, but Google had led me astray, saying that it closed at 6pm. It turns out they kick you out at 6pm, but the gates actually close at 5:30. I got there at 5:35. Weak! Although I’d seen enough similar things in Turkey and Egypt that I wasn’t really that disappointed, as some of the others who arrived at the same time as me were. After non-stop moving around the last week the travel burnout had arrived! But no stopping yet, I would be off to cross the Israeli border to Jerusalem tomorrow!