Petra

Petra: Romancing the Ruins

The sky clears on a dark December afternoon to reveal the wonders of an ancient kingdom.

We arrive at Petra on a cold and wet December afternoon with the sombre grey sky threatening to play a complete spoilsport. My husband suggests we check into one of the hotels in the town of Wadi Musa (or the Valley of Moses), just next to Petra, and wait for the skies to clear. I am reluctant, as we don’t have much time and waiting in a hotel way up in the valley might mean we will end up seeing less than half of this historical place. Sensing my hesitation, our driver, a young Jordanian with a crisp American accent, asks: “Are you hungry?” to which we nod. We have heard about traditional Bedouin hospitality and wonder if he is going to take us to a local restaurant to taste the mansaf (Jordan’s national dish, made of lamb cooked in a yogurt sauce and served with rice). Instead, he drives us down the winding tracks to the base of Petra near the Movenpick Hotel. “This street has some nice bars and some of the best pizza in the world,” he says. “Weird, huh?” As we sit in a restaurant called Seven Wonders of the World tucking into some of the most delicious pepperoni pizza we’ve had in ages, the afternoon sky suddenly changes to a golden yellow. We can’t believe our luck, and quickly prepare to make our way into the principal city of ancient Nabatea.

Petra is located in South Jordan, about 260 km from Amman via the Desert Highway and 280 km via the King’s Highway. The Nabataeans, who occupied it around 312 BC, were in the caravan trade and lavished onto the city all the wealth they possessed. Entry to this World Heritage Site costs 20 Jordanian dinars (JDs) per person and if you wish to hire a guide for four hours, be ready to shell out an extra 35 JDs. As we wait for our guide to take us in, we check out the local shops that cleverly market Indiana Jones souvenirs (the final scenes of Spielberg’s film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were shot here) along with other local knick¬knacks like gemstones, scarves, Bedouin jewellery and Dead Sea mud packs. There is even an Indiana Jones café, but we decide to forego that and begin our journey into the past.