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Life in Petra

by Andrea on December 6, 2011

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Imagine carving a city into this landscape:

landscape Life in PetraThe fact that one of the world’s most magnificent architectural and anthropological marvels was created here and managed to thrive as it did is testament to the clever nature of the Nabateans, an ancient Arab tribe that excelled in trade. Once situated between the most important caravan trade routes, Petra was as important to the region then as it is to Jordan now. The trade in luxury products made the Nabateans rich as items like incense, myrrh, spices, fabrics, precious stones and bitumen passed through. Even smarter, they held customs rights over these goods, which could be up to 25 per cent of the value. This enabled them to build the incredibly beautiful, rose-tinted treasure we see the remains of today.

IMG 7470 Life in PetraBefore we began our explorations of Petra, our guide, Raed helped us fashion the keffiyehs we had received as gifts from the Four Seasons Amman the night before. A huge part of our time in Jordan was spent learning about the culture and customs of the Jordanian people and we quickly learned that these once mysterious (to us, anyway) garments are actually very practical for use against the hot sun beating down on our heads and the sand blowing about in the desert. We then set off on horseback to the entrance of the ancient city.

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Our first times ever on horseback! I think we did pretty well…

The horseback ride is included in the price of entry to Petra but it is customary to tip the guides a couple of dinars after the ride. Horses without carts are only allowed to the entrance but it’s possible to hire a horsecart to take you through the As-Siq, the 1200m long main entrance. We chose to walk through this deep, narrow gorge instead.

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The sides of Petra’s long entrance can be up to 80 metres high.

As our guide pointed out the features of the novel irrigation system, terraces and carvings that surrounded us, we were interrupted by the local children selling their wares. These were certainly the most clever sales-pitches we’d encountered from young merchants this year.

“Buy a necklace for your wife, sir,” said a little girl. “She’ll love you more.”

Another child offered to tie my keffiyeh better, not happy with Raed’s work. I declined, but she reassured me that she didn’t want any money from us. Hers was quite stylish but we were in a hurry and moved swiftly along.

IMG 7536 Life in PetraSuddenly, Al-Khazneh, known more popularly as the Treasury, appeared before us. I’d seen heaps of blog posts and photos about Petra before this moment but I was still awestruck at the sight of it. At 40 metres high and 28 metres wide, this tomb is a marvel of engineering. It’s difficult to believe that something like this was created in the first century BC. Here we also found the first market area in Petra. Locals mix with tourists to sell crafts and souvenirs or transportation by camel, donkey or horsecart.

IMG 7581 Life in PetraWe continued along, past the intricately carved tombs and living spaces of Petra’s ancient inhabitants. I was constantly distracted, however, by the local people around me. Most were dressed in bedouin clothing, looking as we expect them to, perhaps. We knew they live modern lives but they played their parts perfectly, providing the experience of a living, working city. Because Petra is as alive today as it was centuries ago. People still visit from the surrounding regions and even further these days. Trade still happens, though few luxury goods are on offer now.

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The Urn Tomb

IMG 7582 Life in PetraAfter lunch it was time to fulfill a dream I had for my first time in the Middle East: a camel ride! These are easy to negotiate with any number of guides around the grounds. John wasn’t as keen after being nervous on the horse and opted to ride a donkey instead.

IMG 7615 Life in PetraI was cold by this time and had changed into a woolen hat (the breezes are cool this time of year in the desert). Riding a camel was a lot better than riding a horse for me as you don’t have to straddle as much and sit a lot higher. It was great for gazing out over Petra as the sun began to set. At one point my guide handed me the reigns and disappeared! I still had John and his guide, Mohammad, behind me but they stopped to pick up some souvenirs and I suddenly I was riding alone. Luckily, camels are incredibly smart (they’re my new favourite animal). They have excellent memories and will always find their way home. I could go on all day about these fascinating creatures but just know that when I got nervous and tried to stop my camel, he stopped, turned his head, saw Mohammad behind us and then proceeded more slowly so the rest of our little caravan could catch up.

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Hello to Mohammad and thanks for our fun late afternoon rides in Petra.

Our time in Jordan was sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board. Thanks to them for a wonderful trip.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Krista December 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Your photos are some of the best I’ve ever seen of this area! :-) What a fun trek. I never think of this part of the world as being cold, but obviously it has to be now and then. :-)

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Andrea and John December 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Wow, such a huge compliment, Krista, thanks! =) We were still a bit cold to the bone after Europe so I think we were extra sensitive. It wasn’t too bad, but chilly nonetheless.

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Andi Perullo December 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm

This is the most incredible post you’ve done yet! LOVE these photos!!! I have no doubt you’ll treasure them for years to come.

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Andrea and John December 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Thanks, Andi! =) Though I’m still sad I couldn’t take the camel home with me ;)

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Bret @ Green Global Travel December 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Stunning photos! The more pics I see and stories I read about Jordan, the more eager I am to visit. Thanks for sharing!

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Andrea and John December 7, 2011 at 9:55 pm

You must go, Bret – you’d love it! =)

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Kerri December 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Lovely post! Also, love the photo of you on the camel looking straight at the camera :) didn’t realise camels had such long legs!

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Andrea and John December 7, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Thanks, Kerri – their legs are crazy. They go into that seated position and back up again like the person on their back is a feather. Makes it so easy to hop on and off, though

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Dayna and Kurt December 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Some incredible travel photos guys!  I really hope we can make it there someday!

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Andrea and John December 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Thanks so much – I hope you can too!! =)

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Thepinaysolobackpacker December 7, 2011 at 10:43 pm

wonderful marvels indeed! would love to ride a camel too! thanks for sharing your adventures! :)

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Andrea and John December 7, 2011 at 10:48 pm

My dream now is to return to Jordan and do a full-day camel safari in Wadi Rum =) Thanks so much for you comment!

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Amanda Williams December 8, 2011 at 1:55 am

Wow, your photos are outstanding! I’ve been following all the various trips to Jordan this past year, but I have to say  that I never, ever tire of reading about and seeing photos of Petra.

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Andrea and John December 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Thanks so much, Amanda – you should go check it out – such an amazing place to explore! =)

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Anonymous December 8, 2011 at 4:15 am

ahaha…i love your camel ride pic! awesome!!

I’m dying to see petra… i hope i don’t build it so much in my mind that I’m crushed when I finally see it…  It just looks so amazing & beautiful!!!

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Andrea and John December 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all – I do try not to look at lots of photos of places before I go there myself so as not to spoil the surprise but it was unavoidable with Petra since so many bloggers have been through there lately…but it was still awesome to me. Make sure you allow at least three days…so much to see there! =)

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Ali December 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Awesome pictures! I sooo want to go to Petra!

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Andrea and John December 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Thanks so much, Ali – hope you get to go soon – it’s amazing! =)

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Jade December 9, 2011 at 3:27 am

Such an amazing place! I really want to visit Jordan some day!

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Andrea and John December 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

You definitely should, Jade – you’ll love it! =)

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Technosyncratic December 9, 2011 at 9:00 am

I’ve seen a lot of photos of Petra lately as well, but I bet it just doesn’t even come close to being there in person.  I can’t wait to visit Jordan!

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Andrea and John December 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

Photos never come close to anyplace for me =) You’ll love it!

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Andrew December 9, 2011 at 10:32 pm

As I see that Ali has already commented, saying it is on her list, it seems as it is on mine too. The pictures are beautiful and the camel ride sounds pretty cool, though I imagine I would be unsteady like John even on a horse. I know there is tons of history here, but my mind keep bringing up movie images. Both Indiana Jones and a number Arab stylish things go through my mind. :)  It does all lok amazing, glad you guys are doing well.

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Andrea and John December 10, 2011 at 1:48 am

I think Jordan is a very romantic place to visit so you two should definitely head there! We were sad that the Petra night show wasn’t happening the day we were there – only every other night or something like that.

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Cheryl Howard December 10, 2011 at 8:11 am

Looks like quite a lot of fun and who knew camels were that smart? :)

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Andrea and John December 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

I know! I didn’t….they’re a sacred animal in the Middle East and the source of the Nabateans’ wealth

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emilyinchile December 10, 2011 at 9:16 pm

I’m dying to go! I imagine Petra being similar to Machu Picchu in the sense that even after seeing a million photos, you’re still completely awestruck when you see it in person. And I would have been on the camel right there with you – got to try something new, right?

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Andrea and John December 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

It’s exactly like that – a must-see in person! =)

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GRRRL TRAVELER December 14, 2011 at 12:30 am

Beautiful photos!! Sounds like you guys had an awesome time and it’s giving me the craving to see this place! Is it a very expensive country to stay?

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Andrea and John December 14, 2011 at 6:10 am

We did find Jordan to be somewhat expensive compared to other parts of the Middle East. The dinar is quite high-valued…we were on a press trip so we didn’t notice as much but for the things we paid for ourselves, yes, the prices seemed a bit high. As with any place, however, there are always ways to do it on the cheap.

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Anonymous December 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

How cool! I have always wanted to visit Petra. I might be like John though and wimp out on the camel ride. They are so high up!

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Andrea and John December 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm

They are a lot higher than horses – I loved it though =)

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Molly December 16, 2011 at 8:12 pm

When I was living in Spain teaching English, one of my “students” was a Spanish woman who told me that Petra was the most incredible place she had ever visited.  Ever since then it has been at the top of my short list of places to visit before I die.  These pictures only make me want to go more!

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Andrea and John December 18, 2011 at 3:52 am

You should definitely see it, Molly – incredible! =)

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Mary @ Green Global Travel December 21, 2011 at 2:56 am

Great photos of your Petra adventure! It’s in our top 10 for 2012

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Andrea and John December 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Thanks so much, Mary! So awesome that you want to go too =)

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Abby December 24, 2011 at 4:05 am

I think you are the calmest camel rider I have ever seen!

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Andrea and John December 24, 2011 at 5:12 am

Haha – glad to hear it suits me! =)

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