by Sacha Bunnik
It would be a hard task to name another country that has so many sites, attractions and global icons as Jordan has. What makes it even more remarkable is that Jordan is such a small country, only a day’s drive in each direction, but it has so much to offer tourists.
Jordan has iconic Petra, the Dead Sea, countless biblical sites, Crusader castles, ancient Roman ruins and the rocky wonderland that is Wadi Rum.
Jordan is slightly larger in size than Tasmania and has a population of approx. 6.5 million people, most of which live in Amman and surrounding rural cities. Jordan is bordered by Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and has only a small coastline on the Red Sea in the south of the country.
Compared to its neighbours, Jordan is considered one of the most modern, moderate and westernised countries in the Middle East. As well as being extremely safe it is also very cosmopolitan, making it an ideal place to visit. I have travelled many times to Jordan and never once felt unsafe and would consider the Jordanians as some of the friendliest people in the world.
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Petra would be one of the most iconic places in the world to visit and on most tourists’ must-see list when visiting Jordan and the Middle East. It surely was on mine. I felt like Indiana Jones, on an adventure as I walked the narrow gorge that is the dramatic entrance to Petra. This gorge is just over a kilometre in length, at times the cliffs are 75 metres high and the narrowest part of the gorge is only a few metres wide, all adding to the suspense of entering Petra. Once you walk the gorge, you finally catch a glimpse of the most photographed building in Petra, the awe-inspiring Al-Khazneh, the Treasury.
The Treasury’s façade has been carved out of the red and pink rock and is massive, over 40 metres high and almost as wide. It’s a true ancient engineering masterpiece. Make sure you get up early and arrive at the Treasury before the crowds of tourists do. You’ll capture the best photos that way!
Most tourists only visit the Treasury and then walk a few hundred metres further into the gorge to see some of the other façades and tombs that have been carved into the cliffs. My advice is to keep walking and you will be in for a real treat. As you continue along, the gorge opens up and there are many more tombs and façades to see. The Romans also ruled Petra for a period, leaving behind an array of theatres, obelisks, temples and columned streets, all for you to explore.
Besides the Treasury, the other main highlight of Petra is the Monastery, located at the very far end of Petra and protected high in the cliffs. Most of Petra is flat or slightly hilly. The last 800 or so metres are up steep steps which takes you to the Ad-Deir Monastery. It takes a bit of effort to get to, but a visit to the Monastery is well worth it and completes the whole Petra experience.
There are three options of transport in Petra, horse-drawn cart, donkey or by foot. If you have a death wish, then take the horse or donkey option, but my advice is to walk as it will allow you the time to really experience and see everything that Petra has to offer. The entire walk from the entrance to the Monastery and back again would be about 12 kilometres. It takes a good part of the day, once you have lunch and a few coffee/drink stops at the little cafés that are set up along the way.
Bring good and comfortable walking shoes, pace yourself and enjoy the wonders of Petra.
Located about half an hour from Petra, is Little Petra. It’s a smaller version and is well worth visiting as part of the overall Petra experience. Little Petra has ancient tombs cut into the cliffs of the rugged gorge and the walk in Little Petra is not as long and a visit can all be done within a few hours. Frank (my father) and I managed to walk/climb to the top of Little Petra and enjoyed a cup of tea with some locals, which added to the experience of our visit.