As we navigated the darkness by the warm glow of candles down the never-ending siq towards the treasury, I couldn’t think of a more fitting ending to our time spent at one of the greatest sites our world has to offer, Petra.
Rewind a few days earlier…
We arrived in Wadi Musa on a small minibus a few hours after leaving Amman passing by road signs pointing in the direction of Saudi Arabia and Iraq helping to remind us we were certainly a long way from home. We were surprised to arrive at what we thought would be a small village but instead, was a good sized bustling town. We were met at the station by the charismatic owner of Sabaa Hotel, Ibraham, who promptly drove us up the hill to his guesthouse which would be our base over the next few days. Ibraham and his English wife Gail were full of advice and suggestions for how we should go about tackling the massive site of Petra. We decided to wait until the following morning to make the journey down the hill.
We started early, opting to skip breakfast for a chance to be one of the first to enter the main gates and start the long walk into the site. After the main gate a 10 minute walk leads to a large canyon which has split from a massive earthquake and now forms the entrance to the Siq. It takes roughly 40 minutes of walking amongst the impressive geological scenery until peeking through the crack, the treasury comes into view.
We got lucky and were the first ones on the grounds aside from a janitor sweeping up the area but after a few more minutes, more early birds began to trickle in.
The treasury is the iconic image of Petra, carved into the rock by the pre-Roman arab tribe, the Nabataens. We enjoyed the treasury for an hour or so and when the voices of tour groups began echoing down the siq, we decided to venture further into the Petra grounds.
A lot of people associate Petra as the Treasury but this is just one highlight of the area and there are hundreds of ruins and temples on a much smaller scale. With the daily temperatures reaching 35 degrees celcius, we decided to make a hike up to the area of high sacrifice in the cool morning temperature. We trekked up the rock cut stairs reaching the plateau which looked out over the rocky arid landscape below.
The temperature was beginning to rise and it was time to go back down and we descended an alternate route back down. After getting turned around and scrambling down a few precarious sections of boulders, we slowly walked back dodging the hordes of tour groups who were just now arriving in the mid day sun. There was barely elbow room outside the treasury where just a few hours before was void for only a few lucky tourists. Once outside the gate we broke for lunch and decided to take a cab back up the hill with a siesta back at Sabaa Hotel to follow. We made plans the following day to visit the monastery which was sure to be an even greater physical challenge.
We started early again but this time followed the path to the museum to begin the climb up to the monastery. Despite choosing to hike in the coolness of morning, it was a grueling climb up the 800 or so steps passing a couple tea and tacky souvenir vendors until we finally reached the top. When we were finally able to catch our breath, it was easy to see why the climb had been worth it.
Similar in design to the treasury, the monastery is much bigger and with a definite lack of other tourists willing to journey up the steps, may even be slightly more atmospheric. Exhausted and starving again, we visited some smaller sites on the way back to the exit.
After a quick dinner of falafels outside our hotel, and with sore legs from all the uphill climbing over the past 2 days it took some effort to start the walk back to the main gate in the dark. Luckily, some kind Spanish tourists gave us a ride in their rented car and we joined the other tourists for a special viewing of Petra by candle light.
While we walked in silence through the warmly lit siq, Petra had taken on another personality. Despite having walked through the entrance countless times in the past few days the view of Petra lit with candles was something words can’t be relied upon to describe. Hopefully pictures will do a better job!
Despite our sometimes negative attitude towards mass touristed sites, Petra was the perfect place for exploring, although the sheer size of the site means multiple days are necessary to cover any ground. Sabaa Hotel couldn’t have been a better choice for accommodation due to its location, budget price and the wonderful hospitality of the owners. Feeling slightly run down from the early mornings and physical days, we would be getting no rest for the next day as we were booked to head into the desert of Wadi Rum by 4×4.