Petra, Jordan. One of the Seven Wonders of the World. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this age when everything is measured in gigabyte memories and digital apps, I cherish experiencing places such as Petra that left me in awe and gifted me with vivid moments to remember for as long as I live.
THE GAME PLAN
Sometimes, the spontaneous trips without itineraries are the most memorable ones. In my list of a few travels to date, my recent trip to Jordan was the most unplanned, however worthwhile. This short but sweet weekend-getaway from Dubai where I am currently based, resulted from the random impulse to attend the mass of His Holiness Pope Francis in Amman International Stadium scheduled last 24th May 2014, Saturday, 4PM-6PM (the date coincided with my days off at work) that I read from Jordan Embassy website. To be honest, I submitted an accomplished Media Accreditation form last 14th May 2014, a day before the deadline set by The Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan to cover the momentous event, but even after the said date, I got no response. Perhaps, I thought, they would release the details near the date of the event for security purposes, or they really preferred mainstream media men and not just someone less famous from his virtual home in social media. Nonetheless, something within me made my decision firm to travel again and discover Jordan this time hence, I did the needful.
Visa Requirements to travel to Jordan for Philippine-passport-holders and UAE Residents like me :
- Original and copy of passport with at least 6 months validity
- UAE Residence valid for more than 6 months.
- Passport ID photo
- NOC or No Objection Certificate from Sponsor and/or Employer
- Hotel Reservation (plane tickets are not even a requirement as of this posting).
- Visa fee (kindly check the embassy or consulate’s website).
- 30 minutes to apply and wait for the visa to be issued at the consulate in Bur Dubai.
With only roundtrip tickets, boarding passes, 2 overnight-hotel-reservations, duffel and laptop bags on hand, I arrived safely in Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan right after attending to my 8 hour-work in Dubai, via a 2 hour and forty-five-minute-flight with FlyDubai Airlines at 9:35PM (Jordan time) last 22nd May 2014.
It was the first time that I didn’t google and prepare for itineraries because I surrendered everything to the local travel-guide-par-excellence, Hasan, who was recommended by my former student and her husband, Jill and Arence, who recently savored traveling to Jordan. After conversing with Hasan on facebook and via few phone calls, I simply told him I just want to go to Petra and Dead Sea, and trusted him with the rest (where to go, where to eat, what to enjoy-after all, the best person to tour you around is a local like Hasan with 20 years of unparalleled tour guiding). He picked me up from the airport and drove me to my chosen budget hotel in Amman City Centre – the Canyon Boutique Hotel (affordable, huge and clean room with toilet and shower, fast and free wifi).
Fast forward to the late afternoon the day after I arrived in Jordan, I and my travel-guide-driver, Hasan ended our long but fun road trip (after going to Madaba, Mount Nebo, Dead Sea, Kerak, Showbak that certainly deserve a separate blog posts) in Petra, Jordan. I intently stayed overnight in Petra after spending a night in Amman just to be early at the gates of Petra the following day.
Hasan stayed with his friends after he drove me to Al Anbat Hotel in Petra (affordable, huge and clean room with toilet and shower but NO WIFI in the room -Do you know how it feels to be like lifeless even for overnight?).
The next morning, 24th May 2014, Saturday, Hasan picked me up from my hotel, left and dropped me off at the gates of Petra with pieces of his advice on my pocket :
- Thou shall not tell the ticket counter that you came with a travel-guide for you will be charged with two tickets.
- A pass for one day in Petra costs 50 JOD (Jordanian Dinar) or around 70.60 USD per pax.
- One can avail of Passes for 2 days to a cheaper rate.
- Access to Petra at night, when candles lord the desert floor in front of the tombs comes in different rate.
- Tickets are inclusive of horse ride from a few meters after the gate to the Siq until the Treasury. Return rides via horse and carriages are available at another cost.
- Avoid and just be polite with insistent vendors within Petra.
“Horses are included in your tickets, Sir! Just give little tip to the guides.”
“Thank you, but I want to walk and take photos.”
After 10 to 15 minute walk from the ticket counter, I found myself at the ancient main entrance to Petra. The Al-Siq or The Siq.
Hemmed in by cliffs soaring up to 80 meters, the Siq is the stunning 1200 meter long, deep and narrow gorge. Motor vehicles are prohibited to go through the Siq, thus the options left for tourists are to ride horses, donkeys, horse-drawn-carriages or on foot. As mentioned, I went on foot not only because I would take photos but I absolutely wanted to absorb and feel every second of every minute of my walk through it. And there I was. Stunned and awed by God’s creations!
I caught myself dropping my jaw and silently uttering, “Oh My God! Oh My God!” upon the sight of the Siq. There’s nothing like it! The multitude of colors of sandstone from cream to rose-red to orange, burnt pink to rust and brown dazzled my eyes. The fact that I was walking the main passage way to Petra where the ancient city of Nabataeans was, that served as the gate to travelers and traders in caravans who came with Indian spices and silks, African ivory and animal hides, Arabian frankincense and myrrh, en route to Egypt and Europe, it’s beyond words. Unbelievable!
About 45 minutes later, or probably, an hour of my slow-paced walk along the Siq, an incredible beam of golden sun rays at half hour past 8 in the morning, squeezed through those rose-red sandstone and greeted me. My heart raced a thousand beats!
AL-KAZNEH or THE TREASURY
Ahhhh…Finally, the Treasury!
No amount of words or volume of photos could ever do justice to Petra, particularly the Treasury. Nothing could ever prepare you for it. One must experience it to believe and understand its magnificence, brilliance and beauty.
Before I click my camera a countless times, I stood still in front of the Al Kazneh or The Treasury. The clock’s hands seemed to cease from ticking. It was those travel moments that I wanted to relive and relive and relive endlessly. It was surreal.
Al Kazneh or The Treasury is the pride and joy of Petra. The Nabataean’s creativity and artistic touch were apparent in the Hellenistic and Alexandrian architectural style of that 30 meter-wide and 43-meter high incredibly gorgeous facade. Carved in rose-red sandstone in the 1st century BC as a tomb, some scholars stated that it was later used as a temple. Although the exteriors was exquisitely carved, the interiors was empty with dark chamber.
Didn’t I tell you I walked through the Siq and arrived at the Treasury in Petra on an empty stomach? With only frequent sips of water to beat the high morning Jordanian sun, I felt and heard borborygmi from my then hyperactive stomach. Good thing, I found the coolest unbranded coffee and snack shop in Jordan right in front of the Treasury.
Too bad my photo of that bitter-sweet and authentic Arabic coffee that I paired with chicken wrap prepared and served to my table, was found to be blurry, and unfit of posting. Nevertheless, it was one of my most extraordinary breakfasts ever!
After being fed, the tourist in me kicked in. I scouted some local young boys to take my cam and shoot my photos-worthy of instagram, facebook, twitter and blog posts. Tee-hee! 😀
The obligatory shot with the camels and donkey was followed with a once-in-a-lifetime photo-op with 2 good men geared in ancient Nabataean guard attires. While I was trying my best to smile and immortalize the moment, two adorable young tourists stole the show like random professional photo-bombers. Good job, kids! Good job! You made me think about the greatness of starting to travel, live and explore the world early. And you mean, EARLY! My goodness! 😀
I also saw more infectious and innocent smiles from another pair of kids who were too damn lucky to set foot in Petra and learned to appreciate the world we live in at such young age. Their parents were doing it so right!
Hasan never forget to remind me that it would take me another hour to walk through the Siq again in my return to the gates. We agreed at 11AM pick up at the area after the ticket counter where he left me before 7 that morning. So immediately after soaking myself with the beauty of Al-Kazneh, I glanced at my wrist watch and it was already 9:45AM. I only had less than an hour to walk through the rest of Petra.
These are the areas near the High Place of Sacrifice where religious ceremonies honoring Nabataean gods and funeral rites were held.
THE MAIN THEATER
Other than the small tombs and chambers a few steps after Al Kazneh, the next must-see-ruin in Petra is the Main Theater.
The theater has Graeco-Roman design but was actually built by ancient Arabs, the Nabataeans. The Main Theater could seat 3000 initially and was later extended to hold about 7000 people; it was that majestic!
Written guides about Petra state that one needs 4 to 5 days to explore the entire Rose-Red City completely. There are more tombs and chambers on cliffs, the impressive Ad-Deir or the Monastery that could only be accessed after ascending a flight of 800 stairs cut into the rocky mountain.
Obviously, I left an unfinished business in Petra. I opted not to wander further after the Main Theater and strolled my way back to the Treasury, then to the Siq.
When I saw the money that Deema was offering, it was a ten (10) US dollar bill. She thought of disposing it casually as she only give importance to dinar. I told her not to do so as it amounts to seven (7 ) JOD (Jordanian dinar). I didn’t take the bill despite she was insistent but took 2 sets of postcards instead and gave her 2 dinars for them. She smiled after she saw her photo.
That brief encounter with innocence led to seeing flock of matured tourists hours before high noon.
I had mixed emotions and thoughts with these tourists. I so appreciate the fact that in spite of their osteorarthritic and rheumatoid arthritic ages, they keep an inspiring enthusiasm to travel. On the other hand, I pity them for being exposed under the scorching sun at noon-time! Thus, keep in mind that the best timings to visit Petra is either early to mid-morning or mid-afternoon to avoid being sun kissed. Wear protective SPF lotion (which I didn’t; so worthy to unfollow!), sun visors, hats, caps, umbrellas, sunnies or ghuttra to feel and look like local.
I shall never forget that weekend morning in Petra.
Shukran, Petra, Jordan!
Thank you for that amazing experience!
“May you find the courage to walk to your own path.
May you dare to venture into the uncharted domain of your own heart.
Fear will show you the way, walk steadily toward it, for otherwise you will always be running.
Have trust and faith to guide you like a torch piercing darkness.
Do not believed and do not deny, but find out for yourself,
for there is no truth but the one you have earned in your own experience.”
– Yossi Ghinsberg –
*This Jordan Blog Series is not sponsored. It will be followed by blog posts about Madaba, Mount Nebo, Dead Sea, Kerak, and Shobak and the gastronomic feasts I had with my new found-Jordanian friend, Hasan, so please stay tuned. His photo and contact details will be shared on the coming posts. Thank you!