Perhaps leaving Petra for the end our trip was a mistake.When I found in December that we’d have a month in Israel, the first thing that crossed my mind was going to Petra. I am unsure of exactly why. I don’t know that I could have positively identified the iconic picture of cliff-chiseled Treasury and the slot canyon of the Siq as an archaeological site in Jordan. I’d certainly never heard of the Nabataeans, nor could I have told you when they lived or what they did.
Now I know. They lived in Petra. We believe that most of the carved facades there are tombs to worship the dead. They flourished as the same time as the Romans and controlled the vital link of the Spice Trade from Arabia and further east. Somewhere I read that they were a bit like the Swiss, and so despite being fierce horsemen and warriors, their empire was governed with an eye toward neutrality and the pure interest of commerce and then it was taken over by the Romans. Over the next several hundred years, a series of earthquakes and a shift from caravans to actual shipping, left Petra slowly fading to oblivion. The Nabataeans disappeared, leaving behind only their writing that forms the basis of modern Arabic.
Most people travel to Petra in organized tours from Amman or Eilat. We decided it would be just as easy and much more cost effective to do this on our own from Eilat, especially in the off-season. Crossing the border was no problem, though instantly we were beset with haggling taxi drivers and force to deal with a currency I’d never heard of before. In Jordan, it dinars and they are worth about 1.5 dollars.
Here’s our rough costs for doing it ourselves: $40 cab ride to Petra, $70 a night for a room in a gracious semi-clean decent enough hotel, $75 to get into Petra for two days, $15 bus ride out of Petra, plus food and another $15 for our first attempt at leaving.
Was this worth the effort? Yes. We had complete freedom in the site. It is incredibly large, and even if the weather wasn’t vile and the hiking pleasurable, I don’t think we’d have been able to see all of the sites in two full days, let alone the three or four hours many people spend. It’s a 45 minute walk through the fissure of As Siq just to get to the primary site. If you truly are limited in time, one day is better than nothing, but we’d recommend two days to explore. My favorite trail wrapped around the cave museum to the Crusaders Fortress.
As far as continuing to Israel? We sat on the mountainside for an hour before inching forward. Within 2 miles we’d dropped below the snow line and were well on our way back to Eilat and with a bit of traveler’s luck, arrived in Tel Aviv in time for a late supper, though we ended up enjoying that exhausted in our hotel room.
I’d like to go back to Jordan. I’d like to spend more time in Petra.