Jordan – Day 5: Petra & a dip in the Dead Sea

We decided to go to Petra really early.   We wanted to beat the 100 degrees (F) heat, so we met our guide at 6:15 am at our hotel.  We were leaving before the free hotel breakfast was set out, so Holly asked them to wrap us up something to go.   We grabbed our packed breakfasts and entered Petra.

Our guide was named Zeid, tourism was the family business, and he was all about business.  He moved fast and talked along the way. There was very little small talk. He was particularly annoyed when Hayan and Holly B. befriended a stray dog near the gate.   Every guide has their own style.

It was very helpful to have a guide as he showed us the remnants of sculptures and other things we missed the day before in the siq (canyon.)  Additionally, this was the first real explanation of the Nabataean society that I received. Samer was excited to ask him is Fairuz’s Queen of Petra play was accurate.   You can imagine Samer’s shock when this young Jordanian man did not know about the famous Lebanese singer’s play.  We deduced there is nothing real about the play.

Petra was as breathtaking as it was the day before.  The treasury is a fantastic reveal coming out of the canyon and it lived up to my expectations.   I was truly in awe when I stood in front of it.   The rest of the complex is quite impressive, but that first moment is one to revel in.

Now, I must confess something.   I think I broke a traveler’s golden rule: always be a responsible traveler.    The largest building at Petra is not the treasury, it’s the monastery.   It’s 850 steps up the side of the mountain, and it was already hot by 9 AM.    I succumbed to exhaustion and hired a mule to carry me up the steps to the monastary.

Peta published an exposé a year ago on how terribly the animals are treated.  I am really thankful for the ride to the monastery, but I know that I was being terribly lazy.   The mules go up the side of the mountain in less than 20 minutes.  Normally, I would not have elected to do this, but our trusted guide suggested we do it.   That (false) assurance was enough for me to jump on the mule and go.

If you decide to do this, negotiate precisely what you want to do with the mules.   We told the mule owner that we wanted to go one-way and we’d discuss more.  He was under the impression we wanted to use the mule’s more and we got stuck paying him more for a ride out of Petra later, that no one really wanted to take. Karma eventually struck and during my walk down from the monastery, my knee started to hurt. It made the descent miserable.

Once we got to the top of the 850 steps we arrived at the monastery and the “best view in the world” outpost.  The facade of the monastery is so big that it is hard to capture with a camera.   Simply put, it is massive.  We were unable to enter it, but I understand it is a single chamber.  This was probably not a monastery, but a temple honoring a dead Nabatean king.

While you are looking at the monastery, directly behind you is a path to an overlook claiming to be the best view in the world.   There is a man with a tent, where you can relax and enjoy the view of Wadi Araba below.    It’s quite nice and was a great way to beat the heat.

I don’t like telling stories that are not mine, but I’ll make an exception this time.   The group split for an hour.  One group took the mules to a very high point in Petra to be able to look down on the treasury.   While they were on the mules, a snake came out of the brush and onto the trail.   Holly F. reports that a guide jumped from his mule, pulled out a whip, and killed the snake with the whip! Others thought it was a machete, but Holly and Spencer both assure me it was a whip (Indiana Jones style).

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The “new” road.

Before we left our guide, we told him where we were going to stay at the Dead Sea.   He gave us directions that would not yet be on google maps because it’s a new road.  He told us the views were marvelous.  All we had to do was take a left at Abu Huimel Coffee Shop near Little Petra and take this “new” road all the way to the Jordan Valley Highway (road 65).  The road went up and over the mountains, through the desert, and finally to the highway.    It was one of the most terrifying roads any of us have ever been on.  Along the edge of the rail-less road were road signs with prayers in Arabic saying “God is Great.” and  “Ask God for forgiveness.”

The Dead Sea

We stayed at the Al Mujib Chalets on the Dead Sea.   Originally, I thought that we’d leave Petra later than we did, so I opted for us to skip the more resort-style hotels on the northern end of the Dead Sea.  This hotel was closer to Petra.  Al Mujib Chalets are little cabins in Mujib Biosphere Reserve with access to the Dead Sea.   They are simple, you get breakfast, and there is a nice communal dinner offered as well.  Oh, and the air conditioner works really well.

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Photo Credit: Josh Ferris

I confirm that the Dead Sea is one of the weirdest sensations you will ever feel.    It feels as though the sea does not want you in it and is constantly trying to expel you.   You really float … a lot.  The salt content is unbelievable.   The Dead Sea burns everything; my scrapes, my cuts, my ass, and even my dick! The whole thing is a burning, bouncy, out of this world experience.   I accidentally got some water in my eye and was convinced I’d gone blind.    This description paints a fairly horrific picture, but I loved swimming in the Dead Sea.   One must do it.

Next – Jordan – Day 6: Jerash & Amman

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