Petra is an amazing ancient city carved out of stone and made popular by the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie. No matter how many video clips and pictures of Petra you see, you are not prepared for what is revealed to you once you are inside Petra in Jordan.
Where to stay in Petra
It is not possible to stay inside Petra itself unless you like your bed literally rock hard. But fear not, there is actually a town called Wadi Musa that sprung up over the years right next to Petra to facilitate your visit there and to grab as much of your tourist dollars as possible. And many of the businesses there seem to have Indiana Jones in their name.
There is plenty of accommodation and food options available for every taste and budget. We already stayed in Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea before getting here (see the Dead Sea adventure here) so we got an excellent deal for a combined stay at the Movenpick Resort Petra (and a cheap transfer between the two hotels). Movenpick Resort Petra is a magnificent beautiful hotel with everything you would want or need for a comfortable stay. Thoroughly recommend it.
Cooking in Petra
By the time we arrived and checked into our hotel, it was already too late to go inside Petra. So instead, we did something a bit more modern and went to a cooking school called Petra Kitchen. Yep, traveled half way around the world for a cooking class. And what a class it was. For about 3 hours, 15 students and 3 chefs worked hard to make soup, cold and hot mezzas, savory pastries and a main course. All up, we created about 10 dishes, each being large enough to feed about 20 people.
The head chef took a liking to my enthusiasm and spent a lot of time teaching and joking with me, specially about my fear of using too much salt. Lets just say, my guess on how much salt was required was out by a very large number of table spoons. Yes, spoons! As in plural. As in 10 heaped table spoons of salt for the main chicken and rice dish alone. But I guess, it was the first time I was cooking enough food to feed a small army and still have enough leftovers to feed the police and the navy. Imagine using 3 very large pots just to make the main course with each said pan then emptied on a very large tray.
After all was done, we all sat down and had an absolute feast and only managed to eat less than half of the food. And I learned something interesting. Baba Ghanoush is actually totally different to what we know in Australia. Our version is actually called Moutabel, which is a different dish. Their version is more like a salad than a dip and it is delicious.
Inside Petra Jordan
The next day, it was time for the main course, in a manner of speaking. The actual ancient city of Petra was calling and it was time to put on the walking shoes, pay the entry fee, hire a guide and walk and climb and keep walking until the feet stopped working or the sun set, whatever came first.
There are no words to describe the amazing spectacle of Petra or the superb intelligence, skill and knowledge of the Nebatean people who built it more than 2,000 years ago. Even the photos will not do it justice. From carved canyons to ceramic drinking water pipes shaped to pump the water under pressure up hill into each house, from amazing tombs to the amphitheater.
To get inside Petra, you first go though the Siq, a twisting and winding narrow canyon. It is just over one kilometer in length so if you can’t walk it, you can always hire a horse and buggy to take you. The gouge is spectacular by itself with some amazing rock formations.
Then you come out of the canyon and your heart skips a beat as your jaw drops. Petra’s most famous sight, Al Khazneh (the Treasury). A 43 meter tall and 30 meter wide building hand carved out of the rock sans Indiana Jones! Hand Carved! What can top that you say.
Well, not much. Except, after walking for about 3 kilometers and then climbing 800 old crumbling steps into the mountains and looking casually to your right, you see El Deir (“The Monastery”). Similar to the Treasury but almost twice as tall. Boom!
And then you climb a bit higher and you are on the top of a mountain and there is no one around except the mountain goats. AMAZING!
And I didn’t even bother to mention dozens of other structures that were created either by the original city dwellers or by the Romans who came after. In about nine hours, we only managed to cover a small portion of the city and just the main key points of interest.
Inside Petra at Night
But wait, there is more. We went back at night for a special candlelight night when thousands of candles are placed to guide you through the Siq canyon and in front of the Indian Jones’ building. Everyone is seated on the ground on top of Bedouin rugs (for a more genuine feel, the rugs are scented with a camel smell) and served the traditional sweet tea (which you need to stay alive because the temperature by that stage is down to 6 degrees). You then listen to traditional Bedouin music and get a talk from a Bedouin about what the place was like 20 centuries ago.
And as you sip the tea and look up to see more stars than you thought possible, you forget about the cold and the smell and the medium size rock that dug itself into your butt half an hour ago. You start to imagine what an amazing city it would have been so many moons ago when people could achieve with their bare hands and their imagination what we can’t do today with modern equipment.
- Getting sunburned while everyone else is wearing winter clothes and complaining about the cold – ✅
- Remembering about your fear of heights after the point of no return and wishing for a spare pair of undies – ✅
- Waking up in the morning and thinking ‘Gee, it’s amazing that I can still smell a camel’ before realising you stepped into camel poop the night before – ✅
- Getting an offer of a free massage if you pay for a horse ride that was already included in the price of Petra admission – ✅
- Going to a restaurant supposedly serving authentic Jordanian food just to see burgers and pizza on the menu – ✅
- Seeing multiple businesses trying to use Indiana Jones in their name – ✅
- Breaking the handle of your suitcase as you walk into the airport – ✅
- Not realising there are actually segregated security scanners for men and women and being told off for standing with women – ✅
- Pissing off airport security guards not once, not twice but three times – ✅
- Mastering the Arabic numbering system – giant fail