Six months after booking the ticket, I was finally in Jordan. The journey was long, with stops in Dallas and London, but worth it to finally reach the Middle East. Upon arrival in Amman’s international airport, I was stunned at how modern the facility was; this made me feel a bit ignorant. In addition, the diversity was interesting as well. There were tourists arriving from mostly Europe, as well as many flights arriving from Africa.
The immigration was a fairly simple procedure, as the cost of the visa was included in the Jordan pass I purchased online. The cost of the visa is normally 40 Jordanian dinars, but the Jordan Pass includes the visa as well as entry to a number of sights, Petra included. This alone saves quite a bit of money and eases headaches at the airport, where cash is otherwise required for the visa.
My driver, Ali Salameen, was waiting for me at arrivals. I had hired him for my three days in the country. This would make things easy in my limited three days. I noticed a lot of water on the roads, I learned upon reaching the hotel that there were flash floods during the day, though by my arrival there were just cold, gusty winds. The hotel I stayed at, Marriott Amman, was a true five star hotel. The rooms were very modern and the service superb. Best of all, the price was very reasonable, around $100 US a night.
The plan was to just stay one night in Amman before heading to Petra the next morning and staying the night there. After not enough hours of sleep, I had some breakfast in the buffet. Sadly, most of the food was western, with only hummus and falafel as local dishes; this was enough to satisfy me however. I dropped my big bag at the front, as I would be returning the next day. We took the Desert Highway, a long, boring road through the desert. Being from Texas, I was used to such drab scenery. I arrived in Petra at a decent time, around 11 AM. This gave me 4-5 hours for exploring.
Upon entry, I made sure to purchase a Jordanian head covering, red and white. I learned later that the Palestinians wear black and white. I learned a lot about their distinctions as the days went by. Petra was as stunning as the pictures said and then some. There is a local tribe that is allowed to sell goods in Petra, mistakenly called Bedouins by almost everyone. Ali told me the name of that tribe, though I now forget it, but the village isn’t far outside of Petra.
One should definitely wear walking shoes in Petra, as it is a lot of walking. There are a few sights of particular interest, and one must maintain a good pace to hit them all in the limited time that I had. I don’t think one needs more than a day like many say, a few hours is enough with a steady pace. There is a night light show also, but overrated from what I’ve read.
Back to Petra, it is truly a fascinating experience. Rocks are sculpted in a brilliant tone, somewhat similar to Cappadocia but this was planned. One wonders how this was done so many centuries ago, and is humbled by the genius and efficiency of times past.
The hardest part is to simply not hit someone since the eyes are gazing around in awe constantly.
The one annoying thing is the sheer amount of hawkers. Despite the prices given by locals outside, they charge many times this amount, and you can’t really argue. Also, the animals tend to be abused by the tribesman, sadly. I wish the camels and donkeys could be freed and released into the desert.
The main points of interest are the theater, Monastery, and Treasury. Also, there is the walkway to even get to the treasury which is amazing itself. It takes about half an hour to reach the treasury, another few minutes to get to the theater, and then at least another hour to reach the Monastery, up many, many stairs.
This is a place that is not recommended for the elderly and even the unfit. I saw many people that fit into these two groups that struggled, some just gave up.
Since Jordan’s tourism hasn’t fully recovered from a bombing a few years ago, tourism numbers were not what they once were. This was good and bad; good for me, bad for the local operators. However, they stated to me that numbers were picking up and recovering slowly.
What really hurt the industry was the war in Syria, as tourists at one time used to do two week tours through Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, but now simply visit Jordan, but in far fewer numbers.
A crossing opened while I was there, but no sane person is going to drive through Syria just yet. One hopes that the tourist economy recovers, as the Jordanian people are very friendly and speak English for the most part.
After several hours and kilometers of walking, it was back to the front of Petra, and to my hotel in the local village, Wadi Musa, once again Marriott.
The hotel once again had impeccable service, and an equally westernized buffet as the first hotel. I’m not sure why this is done, as foreigners should adapt to food in a foreign land, in my opinion. Anyhow, the room was spectacular with a view of Petra.
From here, it was off to bed until the morning when I would be heading to the Dead Sea.