At the end of last month I took a small break away from London to thaw out a little and enjoy some sunshine, you can even check out my tan lines over in the members section if you like. For this little escape I decided to check out Jordan. I only had time for a short break and I wanted to go somewhere warm and tick something off my bucket list at the same time.
If you’re an Indiana Jones fan you will recognise this place straight away as the Grail Chapel from the Last Crusade but this site is actually Petra – an ancient city built over 2000 years ago in Jordan. I’ve always wanted to see this place for myself but never thought i’d actually get the chance to visit it for real.
I arrived after a drive which I can only describe as a two hour long near death experience, speeding at 140 kph along mountain roads a mere few feet from trucks, gravel and cliff edges. All while watching my local driver texting and smoking, I was only too happy to kiss the ground when we finally arrived. Fortunately I’d packed plenty of Boots digestive support tablets for the trip so at least my pants were clean.
The entrance to the site itself is nothing remarkable. It’s the usual visitors centre experience you can expect at any large tourist site – cheap souvenirs, bottled water and the subtle smell of 50+ sunscreen mixed with horse shit. Tip – Don’t go when there is a cruise ship in town.
By contrast the walk in to the city is beautiful as you meander your way down the narrow ravine for about 30 mins dodging camera wielding retirees and local horses pulling carts full of people who don’t want to leg it. I highly recommend that you pay for a guide – your appreciation of the site and it’s history will be greatly enriched. For the full experience keep the Indiana Jones theme ready on your phone as you round the final bend towards the treasury. I recommend the “Pocket Whip” app because you’ll get a whip crack and the theme music in one handy wrist flick.
The treasury is the most recognisable part of the site but the city is huge and was home to over 30,000 people at it’s peak. It was one of the largest cities of it’s time but was abandoned after earth quakes destroyed most of it. When you look at the site in pictures what you see are mostly tombs carved in to the rocks that surrounded the houses. Anything carved in to the rock is a tomb, all the houses have since collapsed or been destroyed.
By now most of the elderly cruise ship passengers will be tired from missing their naps and will have stopped speaking long enough for you to enjoy the atmosphere of the site which is large enough to get lost in. There are a number of climbs you can make within the site itself. You’ll need a full day at least to explore them all. Make sure you take plenty of water with you everywhere you go and take a sugary drink too for some quick energy.
It’s these kinds of adventures that I enjoy more than anything. While many of these places have become over developed there are still some places around the world that can surprise you. Petra is one of those places. Once you are through the visitors entrance the site opens up in to an amazing panorama for you to explore, climb, breathe and taste. So many places like this can only be experienced now through fences and glass. It’s important to preserve these sites for future generations but it can leave us disconnected from our history, where the balance is? I don’t know, I’m only grateful that I had the chance to touch this place.
I was fortunate enough to have missed the tragic floods in Petra that killed nine people by a matter of days. It’s a precious reminder of how fragile life is and how important it is to embrace every day.