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Revision as of 14:31, 23 January 2009
The Treasury (al-Khazneh
Petra, the fabled "rose red city, half as old as time", is a well known ancient Nabataean city in the south of Jordan. Due to its breathtaking grandeur and fabulous ruins, Petra was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
Petra was the impressive capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC. The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans continued to expand the city. An important center for trade and commerce, Petra continued to flourish until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled vital water management systems around AD 663. After Saladin's conquest of the Middle East in 1189, Petra was abandoned and the memory of it was lost to the West.
The ruins remained hidden to most of the world until the Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin-occupied city in 1812. Burckhardt's accounts of his travels inspired other Western explorers and historians to discover the ancient city further. The most famous of these was David Roberts, a Scottish artist who created a number of accurate and detailed illustrations of the city in 1839.
The first real excavations of the site were in 1929 after the forming of Trans-Jordan. Since that time, Petra has become by far Jordan's largest tourist attraction, partially due to the exposure by the Steven Spielberg movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in 1989. Due to the fantastic engineering accomplishments and well-preserved dimension of Petra, the archaeological site was chosen in July 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
JETT buses, both ordinary and all-inclusive guided tour, connect to Amman and Aqaba. Other tourists come with organized groups, including daily trips from Eilat. Tours to Petra from Taba, Sinai and Sharm el Sheikh are also gaining popularity with charter tourism.
The minibus from Wadi Rum costs 3 Jordanian Dinars (JD) each. It takes 1.5 hours to get to Petra. Have the Rum Guesthouse or your tour operator call the bus owner the day before to arrange an exact time for pick up. The bus usually leaves from Wadi Rum at 8:30 in the morning, but may be delayed due to weather or tour groups coming the other way.
There are also minibuses from Amman departing from the Wadabat bus station - these leave when full, and tourists are almost always charged 3 JD to get on. DO NOT allow the drivers to charge you for your luggage, as they might sometimes try to do, considering you're already paying more than the locals (who pay 2-2.5JD).
Taxi is also a viable option. For 75 JD or less (depending on how much you haggle) you may be able to get a private taxi from Amman to Petra and back, including the driver waiting around for 6 hours. It would cost 24 JD for the two to travel by JETT bus, and allow you to see almost the entire site in an (exhausting) day trip.
The urn atop the Treasury
The Monastery is one of Petra's most impressive structures
Petra is an archaeological park, so the entrance fees are considered fairly steep compared to other Jordanian attractions. Visitors can purchase tickets at the Visitor's Center for 21 JD for a single entry and 26 and 30 JD for a 2 or 3 day pass respectively. A 3 day pass will get you a 4th day for free. A valid student ID card used to allow entrance for 11.5 JD, however this offer has been discontinued, it is not sure if it will become available again. Do not attempt to purchase tickets from dubious scalpers around town! Time permitting, the two-day pass is recommended, as there is much to see and do in Petra.
Guides can be hired from about 10 JD and up (depending on what you want to see) at the Visitors Center. You may want to take advantage of the knowledge of the Bedouins who work in Petra. Many of them were born and raised in Petra, and will gladly share their knowledge with you for the price of a camel or donkey ride. Alternatively, major hotels can rent you a portable Easyguide  audio guide (JD 10/day) for commentary in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Easyguide is also available as a mobile phone service on all Jordanian mobile phone networks, a map  is needed to use this service.
- The entrance to Petra is a long, winding sandstone canyon known as the Siq. There are minor carvings spotted here and there throughout the Siq, but the most impressive sights are the colorful and unusual sandstone patterns in the rock walls. There are also remains of terracotta pipes built into the sides of the canyon that were used in Roman times to carry water.
- Upon exiting the Siq, visitors can view the jaw-dropping grandeur of the Treasury (al-Khazneh in Arabic). Be sure to note the urn atop the Treasury structure. It has been rumored that the urn contained a Pharoah's hidden treasure, and the urn bears the bullet pock marks where Bedouin travellers throughout the years have tested the theory. Get there when the park opens at 6AM or 6:30AM (depending on the season) and you may have the Treasury all to yourself or with less than 5-10 people around.
- Past the next bend is the outer Siq or Street of Facades, a large canyon lined with the facades of various tombs.
- At the end of the Street of Facades is the 7000-seat Roman Theater. The theater was created by the Nabateans but later enlarged by the Romans. It is still used for occasional performances.
- On the side of the valley opposite the Roman Theater and a short walk up the hill, are the Royal Tombs. The name was given because they are quite grand in scale compared to the others in the area, but it is unclear for whom the tombs were originally constructed.
- The Monastery (ad-Deir), the largest carved monument in Petra, dates back to the 1st century AD. The interior, like that of the Treasury, is puny in comparison to the facade. The more than 800 steps up to the Monastery can take over an hour; many visitors choose to ride donkeys up to the top.
- Princess Alia Clinic, Brooke Hospital for Animals  located just inside the entrance to the park. As you can witness inside Petra, not all donkeys, horses and camels are treated right. A few are overworked, carrying overweight tourist or being excessively whipped. The Brooke charity educates owners about the treatment of equestrian working animals and treats the animals for free. The clinic is happy to tell you about conditions for working animals in Jordan. You can give a donation to the clinic.
For the terminally energetic, there are a number of popular hikes around Petra:
- The High Place of Sacrifice is a popular destination in Petra. The site at the top of the mountain contains elaborate rock altars used for sacrifices. From the High Place, one can view much of Petra from above. The trek down the back side of the mountain reveals many interesting tombs and carvings that might be missed by average tourist. The round trip generally takes 1.5-2.5 hours.
- The Mountain of Aaron (Jabal Haroun) is the highest peak in the area. At the top you will find a small church and the tomb of Aaron, brother of Moses. The route to the top and back will take you past the Monastery and will take 4-8 hours depending on your chosen path.
Ancient coin, mister?
The Bedouin tradesmen around the area will display artificial "ancient" Roman or Nabatean coins which are rather large in size. If pressed further, they will generally have a hidden stash of small, authentic coins from various periods. However buying these coins encourages the illegal looting of archaeological sites. To supply you with a souvenir the local inhabitants destroy graves, tombs and buildings in searches for coins and other antiquities. The Antiquities Law of 1988 states that individuals who engage in illicit excavations and/or trading in antiquities are criminals.
Throughout Petra, vendors will offer bottles of decorative sand art. While they may appear similar to other such souvenirs found in other Jordanian locations, these are unique in that the sand used to create the art is naturally colored sand scraped from the rock walls of various Petra canyons and not artificially colored.
Eat & Drink
- Wrangler Bar, (at Petra Palace Hotel). cosy bar with alcoholic drinks and oldies but goodies music JD 4 for ber wine.
There is only one restaurant in all Petra at the far end of the Roman Highway, which does a roaring trade despite steep pricing. It also has the valley's monopoly on beer.
For drinks hot and cold, there are a number of stalls and vendors scattered throughout the area.
Shade is sparse in Petra, and on a hot summer day you can expect to go through at least 4 litres of water (and more if you can afford to carry it). The need for water in the winter months is much less essential.
In Wadi Musa, there are many more eating options.
Of particular note, is Al-Wadi Restaurant on Shaheed roundabout in the center of town. Reasonably priced, and the servers are extremely friendly. Also great food that you will be unlikely to finish. Expect to pay JD2-JD4 for a main dish.
There is a bevy of accommodation in Wadi Musa, ranging from cheap backpacker guesthouses to five-star hotels. It is possible to get a night for 5-10 JD at a decent backpacker guesthouse.
Be aware : if you get a servees - bus - from Amman (or elsewhere), many bus drivers have deals with the local hotel owners and will phone ahead with numbers and details of any prospective guests. Don't feel pressured into taking these people up on their offers. Also note; many hotels offer 'cheap' rooms and harass residents (some more subtly than others) into taking 'their' tours and eating in their hotels. Unless you feel a strong affinity or trust hoteliers, book tours through another point and eat outside of your hotel as the food is often cheaper and of better quality.
A note of caution - all visitors are strongly advised to avoid the Valentine Inn. The owners are unfriendly and the prices are misleading. Additionally, there is a curfew at 11pm when they lock the doors. There are many other places which offer a better atmosphere and time for travellers.
- Al-Anbat 1, ☎ +962 (06) 215 6888 ([email protected], fax: +962 (03) 215 6888), . Clean rooms with satellite TV (including BBC & CNN). All upstairs rooms have baths and the occasional balcony. Poorly located some 4 km from Wadi Musa, but breakfast and transport to Petra is included in the price. Internet cafe, restaurant and Turkish bath. From 14JD..
- Al-Anbat 2, ☎ +962 (06) 215 6888. All rooms have air-con and satellite TV. Single 5JD; double 10JD.
- Cleopetra Hotel, ☎ +962 (03) 215 7090. Basic hostel with common area with TV and couches. Some rooms have bathroom included. Located up the hill (near the bus station) but free transport is provided to and from Petra. Great reception with lots of advice and can organise trips to Wadi Rum. Mosleh will take care of you - he seems to know everyone in town. Breakfast is also included in the price which makes this hotel great value! Single: 12JD; Double: 16JD.
- Petra Gate Hotel, ☎ +962 (03)215 6908 ([email protected]). Warm welcoming and friendly atmosphere, offers free transportation to the site, free luggage storage, international telephone call service, laundry as well as half price internet services. Also has satellite TV and movies! English speaking, super friendly and helpful staff is there to answer all your questions, and to help you during your stay. Clean and quite cheap, breakfast included. Double 14 JD.
- Valley stars Inn, ☎ ''+962'' 3 2155733 ([email protected]), . Clean and friendly. They can arrange transportation from any point in Jordan for a good price and they also arrange tours in Jordan. Wireless internet, homey feeling, arrangements for Petra by night trip, and free shuttle to main gate. JD 35 for double, Half board for JD10 extra includes good dinner.
Traditional Bedouin Style
There is another way of visiting Petra, and that is searching for accomodation in one of the Bedouin tents that stand permanently around the area. The price is a bit more expensive that the budget hotels, but they offer a taste of the ancient Bedouin lifestyle and meals.
- Nawaf Bedouin Camp, ☎ +962 795 537 109 ([email protected]), . Very good way of getting to know the real Bedouin lifestyle. Nawaf is a warm and respectful person, and the way he manages his camp has very little to do with a hotel - he likes to work with small groups of tourist, so he can use all his energies to make you feel confortable and share some talking with you around the campfire. At night, in the magic atmosphere of the bedouin tent, he will prepare on the fire (just in front of you) a very tasty dinner, following the old bedouin traditions. The price also includes transportation to and from the Bedouin village next to Petra. 40 JD/night, including dinner and breakfast.
- Grand View Resort, Queen Rania Street (Beside the Marriott overlooking Wadi Musa), ☎ +962 (3) 215 68 71 ([email protected]), . One of the top 5 hotels in Wadi Musa, the Grand View Resort offers excellent service with a fantastic view of Jabal Haroun (the Mountain of Aaron) and the surrounding area. Single: 75JD; Twin: 100JD; Studio: 150JD; Junior Suite: 250JD; Executive Suite: 450JD.
- Taybet Zaman Hotel and Resort, ☎ +962 (06) 215 0111. Located in a renovated 19th-century village, this is quite possibly the best hotel and almost certainly the most stylish one in Petra, if not in all of Jordan. The 105 guest rooms are all located in individual houses decorated in Bedouin style. The inevitable handicraft shops are attractively camouflaged in a "souq", and there are good restaurants and even a Turkish bath on hand. The resort is a fair distance from Petra, but a courtesy shuttle bus is provided once a day: 9:30AM to Petra and 2:30PM for the return. This doesn't give enough time for exploration of Petra. If you have your own transportation, this is doable. If not, you end up paying 6JD each way for a taxi. Six percent of all profits go to the local community. Rooms start at $110.
The most cold and rainy months to visit Petra are December and January. In this time it is warm during the day and very cold in the evenings and at nights. That's why it is necessary to take coats, hats and gloves. And it could warm up your visit there if you take a thermos with hot tea with you.
- Wadi Rum, a stunning desert valley in southern Jordan, lies about an hour south of Petra.