Petra, the hidden rock carved city!

Petra, in the country of Jordan is a place you will come away from humbled and in awe. It was rightly picked as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, and I have never experienced anything like it before. Petra is an ancient city carved out of the canyons of Jordan. If your an Indiana Jones, fan and remember the temple of doom, that was filmed in Ancient Petra!

 

 

I rode a bus from Jordan’s coast up into the mountain to get to the Canyons. Driving through the desolate Jordan country side was an experience all in its self and I wish we could have stopped along the way to take better pictures, instead of trying to capture images through the buses windows.

As we drove up to higher and higher elevation, I was able to catch some pretty interesting images. I saw a lot of things I didn’t expect to see in Jordan, and one of the firsts was snow!




Snow and Palm Trees just do not go together!

Snow and Palm Trees just do not go together!

 

This wasn't just a dusting either, it was a lot of snow

This wasn’t just a dusting either, it was a lot of snow

As we got closer and closer to Petra, you could see the Canyon approaching in the distance. When it first came into view, I instantly had mental flash backs to my trip in the Grand Canyon. If I didn’t know I wasn’t in the country of Jordan, I almost would have thought we were approaching the Grand Canyon.

Petra, the Grand Canyon of Jordan

Petra, the Grand Canyon of Jordan

When we finally ended up at Petra, you start off at a place with a bunch of souvenir  stores and snack shops. The local store owners, swarm you trying to sell all sorts of trinkets. If you can manage hold off, you can find cheaper things later on if your willing to walk. I was excited to see an Indiana Jones! I really really wanted a sweet Indian Jones hat.

Indian Jones Super Market

Indian Jones Super Market

Random side note about me, I really really love funny signs. As I left the market and began to walk towards the ancient city of Petra, I saw an awesome sign that is clearly making fun of fat Americans. It may be poking fun, but I am sure its a real issue they have run into at Petra:

No fat people allowed on the Animals!

No fat people allowed on the Animals!

AS you walk toward the main entrance to Petra, you come up to a road for horses. I wanted to call it a horse track, but its not a circle its a path that leads straight to the entrance to the canyon. If you don’t feel like walking you can hop on a horse and ride down. Feel free to haggle for a price, they will take pretty much any currency, but I will comment more on this later. Walking into Petra, I had no issues walking and taking my time to take pictures.

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As you walk down farther and farther, you begin to see the first hints that an ancient civilization used to live here, and it starts to build you excitement as you walk down further and further.

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petra

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As you come up to the bridge in the last picture you are about to approach the entrance to Petra. At the entrance you will see two guys dressed as ancient roman soldiers.

Ancient soldiers guarding the distance to Petra

Ancient soldiers guarding the distance to Petra

As you walk down to the heart of Petra you will walk through this thin canyon. In the above picture you can see a cut out on the left side of the canyon. This cut out is an ancient aqueduct that would carry water down the entire length of the canyon to the heart of Petra. I have to say it was pretty impressive to see this engineering in this ancient city, but that was only the beginning. The entire way down this canyon are carvings and small structures from the ancient people of Petra.

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Ancient Aqueduct for Petra

Ancient Aqueduct for Petra

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Ancient carvings in the Canyon

Ancient carvings in the Canyon

Walking down the Canyon, there are tons kids swarming you selling trinkets of all sorts. This is pretty much the norm for the trip in Petra, half the people trying to sell you trinkets and the other half are trying to sell rides on horses, camels or donkeys.

As you get to the end of this first canyon, the magic of Petra starts to peak out around the last corner.

The Beauty of Petra begins to show itself!

The Beauty of Petra begins to show itself!

So that awesome building that’s just peaking out of the canyon is “The Temple of Doom” from Indiana Jones! But in reality the temple of doom was more of a bank/treasure in ancient Petra, not as doomy as Indian Jones portrays it as.

At this point in my trip, it started to rain pretty good, so I apologies if the pictures are not as good.

Temple of Doom

I can not describe how incredible this actually looks in person. I literally walked down an extremely narrow canyon and came out of this opening:

Canyon leading to the "temple of Doom" in Petra

Canyon leading to the “temple of Doom” in Petra

And when you come out of that canyon you are just overwhelmed by the most beautiful architecture carved out of the side of a canyon. The detail and scale of the whole thing is just beyond words.

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When you are done admiring the beautiful “Temple of Doom” aka the treasury, you can continue to move down into the heart of Petra. Again, you can either walk or you can “rent” a camel.

Camels of Petra

Camels of Petra

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Again I decided to walk instead of rent a camel ride. Below are some awesome picture of the walk down into the heart of Petra.

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Stairs carved into solid rock!

Stairs carved into solid rock!

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Down into the heart of Petra, where it opens up a little:

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As you get to the main area, you can’t just help but look in awe at everything. It looks like an entire village carved out of the stone canyon walls. Its impress to think of an entire ancient civilization living down here, and I can only just close my eyes an imagine what it must have looked like thousands of years ago as a busy city.

If you ever go to Petra make sure you wear some good shoes, because if you really want to explore things, you may do a little bit of hiking/climbing up some great rocks.

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Panorama view of Petra

To the right, in the above panorama picture I began the climb up to the tombs of Petra.

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As you climb up there are some awesome tunnels and caves to explore.

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When you get to the top, you have an amazing view of the theater down below.

Petra theater!

Petra theater!

And as you can see, the weather they day I visited Petra was extremely wet.

Rainy weather visiting Petra

Rainy weather visiting Petra

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The tombs of Petra are next to what was described to me as their court, and housed their jail underneath.

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The cells of the jail were a little bit flooded after all the rain of the day.

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After climbing through the wet cells up to the top of their judicial system, you will get some amazing view of the valley below Petra.

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Jordan Park Ranger

Jordan Park Ranger

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When you get to the very bottom of the valley, you hit an awesome road that was built by the Romans when they took over Petra. The road to this day is amazingly beautiful! Along the Roman road is also some beautiful Roman architecture that is still standing to this day.

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Once we got to the bottom of Petra, we had an awesome late lunch buffet, eating local cuisine which was absolutely amazing. We had a guided tour up until this point, but after lunch we had a couple hours to explore on our own before we had to be back at the visitors center way back where we started. Me and a buddy decided to climb the biggest mountain and see what was at top. So in the rain and wet stone steps we started the climb.

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I wont lie, the rain and the rising river made me a little nervous but we pushed on to climb this awesome staircase up the side of a mountain n the middle of Jordan. It was off the beaten path, away from the crowds and we were on our own. This was the start of the real adventure for me.

The past few miles down into the heart of Petra were filled with kids selling trinkets and lots of tourists. At this point, starting this climb it was me and my buddy alone in the mountains of Jordan. This was the best part of this trip!

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That rock will freak me out on the way back down

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The tent like shelter in the above picture were some locals living in the caves. Remember at the beginning of this article I mentioned to save your money at the shops near the visitors center. Along this climb there are a couple little shops of locals selling things, and the prices were a heck of a lot cheaper. I spent some money and did some bartering going up this trail. At the particular tent “store” in the above picture we met a local women and her daughter. I tried to give the little girl some turkey jerky that I had brought along but her mother did not seem happy about it, so I did not get to leave her with a free snack.

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On the way up we found another local living in the nearby caves. She introduced herself as Noel Christmas, I have no idea if that was her actual name but it did give me a good laugh. She was making tea with saffron, and was kind enough to share it with us. She did not want to accept any money from my and my friend and was amazingly friendly to invite us into her shelter to share a cup of tea with. After a little bit of discussion we convinced her to let us pay her for some tea to go. We exchange a little bit of cash and she filled coffee mugs we had in our backpacks with her amazing saffron tea. In the cold rain we were hiking in, this saffron tea was absolutely amazing, and helped us push on up this mountain side.

Me and Noel Christmas sharing some tea together

Me and Noel Christmas sharing some tea together

Despite having very little, she was one of the best hosts I have met on my international travels. She really wanted us to stay, but unfortunately we were on a time crunch to summit this mountain and and make it back down and up our original path back to our bus in time.

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I am almost at the top of this climb at this point!

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When you finally get to the top, it looks like an empty opening and nothing amazing. But when you turn right and look over your shoulder you see the Monastery.  I can not describe the shear size of the monastery, the pictures don’t even do it justice.

Petra Monastery

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Just getting to see this Monastery in Petra is worth the effort and the hike to the top, especially in the rain!

Again the pictures don’t even do the Monastery justice for its shear size. To give you a better reference point, look at the bottom right of the door for a grey dot. That small grey dot is me! I am 5′ 7″ for reference! If you have trouble seeing me, click the picture to enlarge it and zoom in, this should give you a good idea of the size of this beautiful place!

Yep, that tiny grey dot under the door is me!

Yep, that tiny grey dot under the door is me!

That was 100% worth the hike up to the top, and the best part was there were no crowds or tourist or anybody. We had this experience all to ourselves and it was absolutely amazing!

At this point we looked at our watches and realized we did not have a whole lot of time to make it down this mountain and up the canyon back to our bus… We had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time. As we were literally running down the mountain in the rain, we ran into a local with two donkeys.

We had a chat with the local, and told him we didn’t have a lot of time. We offered him American cash and he agreed to run us down the mountain on his donkey and back up to the bus as fast as he could. This ended up being another crazy adventure of a ride…

Riding Donkeys down the mountains of Petra!

Riding Donkeys down the mountains of Petra!

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That rock I pointed out earlier is in the background of the above picture. I have to say riding down on wet stone on a donkey in the pouring rain, I had to duck and get small to make it under that rock!

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Riding a donkey down the steep wet cliffs of Petra was an interesting experience to say the least. There were a couple times I though the donkey was going to slip and I was going to die, but it never did. I was very impressed by the donkey I rode, and was thankful it got me down the mountain safely.

When we got to the bottom and were on more flat ground, the donkey owner jumped on the back of the donkey I was on. We were still under a time crunch and this is when the ride got fun. This guy rode the donkeys hard and we rode them at a sprint over the Roman roads through the middle of Petra! This was an amazing experience, all the tourist were gone at this point it was just us on the donkeys running at full speed over an ancient road through an ancient city! I felt like a middle eastern John Wayne!

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AS we rode farther and faster, I realized the locals had Petra divided up into zones. Locals had zones for donkey and camel rides and they were not supposed to cross zones. We must have offered our guy enough money, that he rode straight through other zones in order to get us back on time. Each time we crossed a zone other locals were screaming at him to stop and he kept riding fast and hard. He brought us to the end of the horse road from the beginning.  It was here we said our good byes and thank yous to our amazing donkey driver, and then jumped on some horses. At this point I was out of American money and ended up paying the horse guys in money from Hong Kong.

After our amazing adventurous hike up to the monastery, and our crazy donkey ride down wet cliffs, we made it back to our bus with three minutes to spare. We were the last ones back but we made it back on time!

If you are ever in or near Jordan, Petra is a must stop visit. I took a lot of pictures, but they can’t even begin to do this place justice. Its an experience like no other, and its amazing to see the city an ancient civilization carved out of stone.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Susane

    wow – what a great story. I visited Petra in Oct. 2015 and will return in April 2016. I will make sure to go and see the Monastery and the Sacrifice place this time.
    The Treasury is actually a tumb, but locals and archaeologists used to think there was a hidden treasury somewhere.
    The Petra theatre was built by the Romans. The theatre hosted 8000 spectators wich leads experts to the clue that Petra was the home of some 30’000 citizens!!’
    All the big buildings were tumbs. The real city is still burried and waits to be diggen up.
    And, I almost forgot: If you have more time to spend in Petra, you can share a night with local Bedouins in a beautiful cave or book a night in beautiful Wadi Araba desert just behind the Monastery.

    • Mike

      Glad you enjoyed the post! If you like travel and adventure, I hope you follow the blog on twitter or facebook.

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