We set off bright and early the next morning for Petra. After a three hour drive we were rewarded with the most amazing visit to the ancient city. The siq is the main entrance to Petra. It is just over 1 KM long and opens up to the Treasury. It was the most rewarding kilometer I think I have ever walked. Our guide was rich in knowledge about the town, which is believed to have been built around 300 BCE. It was everything I had always hoped it would be, the weather was perfect, it was not terribly crowed, and I took far too many pictures. Petra was named one of the ‘New Wonders of the World’ in 2007 which exponentially increased the number of tourists visiting the site. In 2010 just under a million people visited the city, causing concerns about its’ preservation. That number has been cut in half in recent years as many would-be visitors have been scared off by Daesh. Our tour guide said that although the smaller number of visitors has affected his livelihood, he is glad that things have slowed down. He loves the city so much that he would rather have it safe then have the extra income. I found this particularity striking, and a representation of how Jordanians in general seem to hold their country is such high esteem. We tried to imagine what our visit would have been like with double the amount of people, and we were also very grateful for the smaller numbers. We spent the day exploring the ancient ruins and enjoying our guides’ immense amount of knowledge. It was a magical experience, and one we were very lucky to have together.
Just outside the entrance to the siq is The Cave Bar. This was our reward for all of the walking at the end of our visit to Petra (and also for my 30th birthday!). The Cave Bar claims that it is the ‘oldest bar in the world’ because it is located inside a tomb that is over 2000 years old. We treated ourselves to a rest and drinks (beers mostly with a cocktail named after Petra for me-how could I pass that up?!) as we let what we had just seen really sink in.
Then we were off to the Bedouin camp for the night. The Bedouins are desert dwellers. They are seen as the ultimate example of Arab culture that has stood the test of time. They will never turn away a traveler, an example of the hospitality the majority of Arabs embody to this day, and they continue to live their lives as members of tribes and clans, as the entirety of the Middle East did prior to World War I. There are Bedouins living in much the same manner that they have for thousands of years in many of the Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan as well as into the African Sahara. In Jordan, the Bedouin camps in the Wadi Rum desert looked too amazing to not visit for at least one night.
I’ll admit, this is the part of the trip I was most nervous about. Being a Colorado girl I of course love to camp, but I was a bit nervous about what I was dragging us all into. Luckily we had an adventurous group. My fears were magnified, however, when we arrived in the desert in the dark and were told to exit our van and instead get into the back of a pretty sketchy looking Toyota truck for the remainder of the ride. We were all a little on edge, and the speed at which we took off did not help matters any. It was worth it though! Our night at the camp was the highlight of the trip. There was amazing food, lots of tea, shisha, and traditional music around the camp fire that lasted well into the evening. They even sang happy birthday to me while playing the traditional Bedouin instruments. The only thing missing was wine, which we’ll know to bring next time.
For being people that live in the desert with so little, they sure did seem incredibly happy.