We arrived in Petra around noon with the bus, and took a taxi to our hotel, the Petra Guesthouse, located conveniently just by the entrance to Petra. After relaxing for a while we decided to go and have a quick look at one of the world’s most beautiful cities, also known as the red-rose city – it was already getting late and the site was closing. To enter Petra, you walk through a beautiful passage in the mountain, between the pinkish coloured rocks, a magical walk with cool air and your steps and voices echoing off the walls. We arrived at the Treasury, which is the first carved structure in Petra – and it was really something else. By the Treasury, we met Feras and his cousin Abdullah, who asked whether we wanted to ride on mules to the Monastery at the top, suggesting to give us a tour of the entire site. We hesitated, as we were only supposed to have a quick look at this point, but then we figured that it could be nice to do it already now instead of next morning – and the light was really beautiful as the sun was soon setting. For photos, and for avoiding the crowds, it was a perfect set up. Feras also happened to have a very calm and approachable personality, he wasn’t insisting or pushing, just suggesting – and that felt reassuring and safe. We agreed that we would go with them to the top of the mountain and Feras also invited us to see the cave where he lives. So off we went on our two beautiful white mules, passing people on the way, all of them walking in the other direction to exit the site.
We had to learn how to trust the animals beneath us, as they were climbing stairs, walking very closely to steep falls and stepping around slippery stones. As much as we wanted to guide them in the direction that looked like the safest to take, they knew the best way. We arrived at the Monastery and it was all empty, there was not a single person present apart from the man serving coffee with cardamom in the little restaurant by the site. It was quiet, there was a soft breeze, the monastery looked mysterious and the coffee was delicious. I was trying to imagine that this construction was built as much as 312 years BC, and how incredibly old and beautiful it is, carved in red stone. Imagine it wasn’t even known to the western world until more than 2000 years later, in 1812. And here we were.
We continued up to the top of the mountain where Feras and Abdullah showed us the view, it was scary to stand so close to the edge and I felt worried that the animal would suddenly decide to jump off the cliff, it was very steep and a very deep canyon. Once I relaxed and decided that I would probably survive, it was a beautiful view to take in, and Feras and Abdullah were throwing stones into the distance, competing on how far they fly, listening after the distant sound of rock against rock. The sun was setting as we were standing there, and it started getting darker, we decided to climb down and start returning, but first we were going to pass by the cave where Feras lives.
By the time we had come off the mountains and started heading towards the cave, it had gotten really dark. My mom was getting worried, “are we going far?” “are you going to take us back all the way to the entrance?” she asked. “Don’t worry, Feras reassured, it’s just 10 minutes more” that was enough time for it to become completely dark, I could barely see the road ahead of me. “Does the horse even know where it’s going?” “Yes, trust it – it knows the way and it sees better than us” Feras said. So we headed to the cave, and it was indeed not that far away. Feras explained that his family is one of the few that still live in Petra, as many Bedouins moved out when the king had built a town for them with schools, hospitals and other comforts. “We love the king, but some of us wanted to return. My father is one of the guardians of Petra, and we live off the tourism here – it’s good. I’ve learnt all my English from the tourists. My sisters live and study in the village.” We entered the cave, which really was a door in the wall, and a big room behind it with carpets, sleeping bags and pictures on the walls. We sat there for a while talking until we felt really hungry and decided that we wanted to head back. So we stepped outside, and it had gotten even darker than it had been before. Now we really couldn’t see anything at all, I couldn’t see my own feet. “Are you completely sure the mule sees in the dark?” I asked again. “Don’t worry, just let them take us back” Feras said. So we hopped on the mules and headed back down the mountain, passing places where I know I had seen steep falls before. I could feel the animal moving underneath me and it felt calm and reassuring, so I decided to relax, let go, and just look up at the sky instead. It was completely filled with stars. The air was warm and still, that sweet smell from when we had just landed in Amman was back again, and the silhouettes from the mountains in the distance were lit up by the cities behind them. It was completely quiet apart from the sound of hoofs against rock, none of us spoke. Mind cleared, bliss. My entire body smiled.
We arrived back to the treasury where we had first met Feras and Abdullah, and looked up at the details of the construction that were barely visible, I imagined arriving here at night and discovering this for the first time, what an amazing moment that would have been! We continued out through the mountain passage, and Feras and Abdullah now made the mules go faster, they knew this way by heart – so we raced out through the narrow passage, fast, with the wind in our hair, and the clapping sound of hoofs bouncing loudly off the rocks, the stone wall sometimes swooshing closely by us, it was a bit scary but I had already decided to trust the animal, so I embraced the moment as yet another beautiful one.
When we arrived at the exit there was nobody left, not even a guard to let us out, so we thanked Feras and Abdullah and let ourselves out. Happy to have had our own custom made and spontaneous experience in Petra, not at all what we had expected.
To contact Feras you can get in touch with him via email on email@example.com, or by phone/whatsapp at +962 772098134, we highly recommend him especially for his calm, honest, courteous and kind personality. Thanks again for everything, Feras, and thank you for showing us your home!
We arrived in Amman at 8 in the evening, and the first thing we did was to get a Jordanian sim card with 4g network (including free local calls & sms, and 3GB of data) from the Zain kiosque – it was about 20€ and worked well throughout the trip – even in the desert! A driver picked us up and took us to the home of friends where we spent our first night. The air in Amman was pleasantly warm and had a sweet and embracing scent, it smelled like a mix between apple flavoured water pipe smoke and warm desert sand.
We woke up early the next morning, had a joint breakfast with our hosts and took a cab to Amman’s southern bus station in the Wahedat area, from where we hopped on one of the local buses to go to Petra. (There is also a tourist bus service called JETT bus which departs to Petra every morning at 6.30am and returns at 5pm) The local buses from Wahedat depart every hour (or rather, once they are full) and the price is 7€ per seat, we got there at 8am and waited about 45 minutes to depart – and we paid for three seats – one each, and one for our bags. :)
The 3,5h trip through the desert isn’t very exciting in itself, but it’s always pleasant to look out the window and relax while the wind tosses your hair around. A nice and easy start to our trip.
img src=”https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7598/16815529029_c12da5be24_c.jpg” width=”800″ height=”534″ alt=”Jordan 2015: Amman”>
With 10 days blocked out exclusively for my mother during my contract break in March, Mami took her persuasion skills out and convinced me that it was time for yet another trip with our backpacks. We looked at maps and weather reports together, thought of options that were not too far away yet not too close.. and when Daesh started smashing art to pieces in Iraq we agreed that Petra in Jordan was a place that we should make sure we experience as soon as possible.
We booked our flights to and from Amman without booking hotels, and I decided that if we’re going to spend days looking at monuments and beautiful desert, I want my mom to understand some of the local context and history, and experience some of the places I visited in 2010. So we added Palestine and Israel to the itinerary, and the circle was closed. March 9th to 19th 2014 – Jordan, Palestine, Israel. The photos and the stories are coming!