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Ancient City of Petra • Petra • 2 • To See & Do

by mythic44

To See & Do

The Archaeological Ruins at Petra are Jordan’s biggest tourist draw and a must-see for anyone travelling in Jordan.

One should also visit Dead Sea to experience the float without the fear of being drawn.
Petra is an archaeological park, so the entrance fees are considered fairly steep compared to other Jordanian attractions. Tickets for visitors spending at least one night in Jordan cost 50/55/60 JD for a 1/2/3-day pass (Dec 2011). Bring your passport to prove your stay in Jordan. Day-visitors to Jordan are charged an impressive 90 JD (Dec 2011), although you may get away with the normal rate if you don’t say anything. Student discounts are not available. Do not attempt to purchase tickets from dubious scalpers around town! Time permitting, the two-day pass is recommended, as there is much to see and do in Petra. For more than one day, the ticket office can ask for your passport as the ticket has your first name on it.

Guides can be hired from about 50 JD and up (depending on what you want to see) at the Visitors Center. Many of them were born and raised in Petra, and will gladly share their knowledge with you. Alternatively, major hotels can rent you a portable Easyguide audio guide (JD 10/day) for commentary in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Easyguide is also available as a mobile phone service on all Jordanian mobile phone networks, a map  is needed to use this service.

    • The entrance to Petra is a long, winding sandstone canyon known as the Siq (about 2km). There are minor carvings spotted here and there throughout the Siq, but the most impressive sights are the colorful and unusual sandstone patterns in the rock walls. There are also remains of terracotta pipes built into the sides of the canyon that were used in Roman times to carry water.
    • Upon exiting the Siq, visitors can view the jaw-dropping grandeur of the Treasury (al-Khazneh in Arabic). Be sure to note the urn atop the Treasury structure. It has been rumored that the urn contained a Pharaoh’s hidden treasure, and the urn bears the bullet pock marks where Bedouin travellers throughout the years have tested the theory. Get there when the park opens at 6AM or 6:30AM (depending on the season) and you may have the Treasury all to yourself or with less than 5-10 people around.

  • Past the next bend is the outer Siq or Street of Facades, a large canyon lined with the facades of various tombs.
  • At the end of the Street of Facades is the 7000-seat Roman Theater. The theater was created by the Nabateans but later enlarged by the Romans. It is still used for occasional performances.
  • On the side of the valley opposite the Roman Theater and a short walk up the hill, are the Royal Tombs. The name was given because they are quite grand in scale compared to the others in the area, but it is unclear for whom the tombs were originally constructed.
  • The Monastery (ad-Deir), the largest carved monument in Petra, dates back to the 1st century AD. The interior, like that of the Treasury, is puny in comparison to the facade. The more than 800 steps up to the Monastery can take over an hour; Few visitors choose to ride donkeys up to the top. The donkeys are treated very badly, and it’s quite depressing seeing this along the way.
  • Petra by Night happens on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 20:30. Entrance fee is 12 JD (Dec 2011) and you do not need a day pass. Order your tickets at your hotel. It is only made of candles, you’ll hear a short play of Bedouin music and be served some tea in plastic cups while you sit on mats at the Treasury. It’s best to see this before you see Petra by day, as it becomes far less impressive if you already walked up to the Treasury during daytime. It’s not amazing, but it’s something nice to do during nighttime.
  • Princess Alia Clinic, Brooke Hospital for Animals located just inside the entrance to the park. As you can witness inside Petra, not all donkeys, horses and camels are treated right. A few are overworked, carrying overweight tourist or being excessively whipped. The Brooke charity educates owners about the treatment of equestrian working animals and treats the animals for free. The clinic is happy to tell you about conditions for working animals in Jordan. You can give a donation to the clinic.
  • Wadi Musa which is the city next to Petra doesn’t have any big touristic attraction

There are a number of popular hikes around Petra

  • In order to understand what in reality Petra is, it is better to spend there two days. The first day: Siq – Treasury – City – Monastery. The second day: another way to Petra through Wadi Muthlim – see the Treasury from above on Jebel Al -Khubtha – High Place of Sacrifice. If you enter Petra through Wadi Muthlim do not turn left immediately after the small Siq, first go right to see Aqueduct, Tunnel and Al-Wu’eira Fort and only after that return to Petra center. It may not be possible to go through this route due to excess water in it. It’s not recommended doing this route without a guide.
  • The High Place of Sacrifice – The site at the top of the mountain contains elaborate rock altars used for sacrifices. From the High Place, one can view much of Petra from above. Beautiful scenery. It can get cold and windy up there. The trek down the back side of the mountain reveals many interesting tombs and carvings that might be missed by the average tourist. The round trip generally takes 1.5-2.5 hours. Not many people go through the back route as it’s not always clear where it starts – ask.

* The Mountain of Aaron (Jabal Haroun) is the highest peak in the area. At the top you will find a small church and the tomb of Aaron, brother of Moses. The route to the top and back will take you past the Monastery and will take 4-8 hours depending on your chosen path.

Most hikes last about 2-3 hours both way.

Throughout Petra, vendors will offer bottles of decorative sand art. While they may appear similar to other such souvenirs found in other Jordanian locations, these are unique in that the sand used to create the art is naturally colored sand scraped from the rock walls of various Petra canyons and not artificially colored. The most common design displays a camel’s silhouette against a desert background. Some artists can write a name inside the sand bottle in a surprisingly short amount of time.

There is only one restaurant in all Petra at the far end of the Roman Highway, which does a roaring trade despite steep pricing. It also has the valley’s monopoly on beer.

For just snacks and hot & cold drinks however, there are a number of small stores and vendors scattered throughout Petra.

Shade is sparse in Petra, and on a hot summer day you can expect to go through at least 4 liters of water (and more if you can afford to carry it). The need for water in the winter months is much less. 1.5 liter bottles cost 0.5 JD.

Preparation

The most cold and rainy months to visit Petra are December and January. In this time it is warm during the day and very cold in the evenings and at nights. That’s why it is necessary to take coats, hats and gloves. And it could warm up your visit there if you take a thermos with hot tea with you. Avoid going if the forecast shows a lot of rain, as the guards may need to transport tourists out if the valley starts to flood (like on Jan 18th 2010). The hot, dry air sometimes results in nosebleeds. Carry petroleum jelly (Vaseline or other brands) or petroleum jelly based products like Vicks and apply liberally to the insides of the nostrils to avoid nosebleeds. Also, carry plenty of water and Oral Rehydration products like Electral if you are traveling to Petra in the hot summer months to avoid dehydration. A good cap and sunglasses will help you avoid getting a heat stroke.

 

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Ancient City of Petra  •   Locations & Activities


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