Fall 2012: Revisiting Nabataen Petra

#1 Jan 3rd, 2013, 09:45
Join Date:
Aug 2006
  • nycank is offline
Between escaping constant barrage of rockets, siren;, and the nervous nellies making a beeline to nearest airport; I decided to head to Eilat, at the mouth of Red Sea, it was time to take a ride to Wadi Araba crossing and onto Jordan. The weather reports called for a mostly sunny day with light shower, and no flying objects with mission to kill.

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30NIS Taxi ride to the border, and it was time to bid Israel oktatabyebye for now

With no lines to pay the passage fees and exit stamp, I was doing good timing till I walked a hundred yards into the Jordanian side. Two bus load of finns and the swedes on a package tour to Wadi Rum ahead of me. I was stuck in the end, of a long long wait. No way was this line going to be done in two hours.

As luck would have it - The head shift supervisor decide to step out and have his ciggarette break. He took pity over the fact, I, was without a neon-green baseball cap and without an entry form. Such indignities as waiting had befallen on me. Once he realized I was not part of the nordic group, he asked me to follow him, gave me a form and asked that I go into the giftshop across and fill it up.

Over a double strong, double jolt, single shot of Jordanian coffee, I complete my form with assistance from a kindly old man, while the main tout sings out old Raj Kapoor songs to impress on me how clued he was into the Bollywood scene. He sends his side kick with my form, and passport; while I pick a few postcards, and change 100 USD for 72 JD. Being early morning enough, I took the man’s offer to share breakfast of olives, cucumber, bread, honey, dates and hummus. In the meanwhile the young man came with my passport and a entry stamp/VOA. In all the border crossings I have been to (land, sea and air) this had to be amongst the easiest and coolest.

I walked over to the supervisor’s office, shook hands and profusely thanked him for his help; and I & the fixer headed to the gate... I got reminded of one dictum of negotiating treacherous landscape, as told by a veteran news photographer - “One man’s tout is other man’s fixer” If you are in a hurry, you should not be without one.

Welcome to Jordan !! Where every cab driver is a Mr. know it all, and comes with stellar recommendations from the King himself. Little was I to know, that within this smiling face was hidden large discontent with rising gasoline prices, commodities shortages, lack of expression.

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There are two ways to get to where I was planning to go - Wadi Mousa/Mussa. The guidebooks way, or my way- which is follow the locals. Time is not an inexpensive commodity, and nor did I have the inclination to hang around a parking lot waiting for the local minivan to arrive from the local town of Aqaba. I had to be in W.Mussa before noon, and it was 9AM already.

There were about two dozen green taxis, Two Volvo buses, and a few handlers. I had been informed that there was a chance someone awaiting a trip to town in a mani van and then onwards to W.Mussa could be persuaded.

Within minutes, thanks to the mere presence of Mr Fixer who accompanied me to the parking lot; the chief conductor of the orchestra, that was the taxi-stand ensured that I had a cab ride all the way to my hotel in W.Mousa; 50 JD split three ways.

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What trip to Jordan is complete without getting caught midst a traditional sandstorm. Severe enough that the highway had to be shutdown to prevent accidents.

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No trip, be it a Volvo bus, or a cab, or a mini van is complete without an obligatory stop at an appropriately located cafe-cum-handicrafts-cum-restroom parking lot; This is nearly true anywhere in the World. From Argentina to Algeria, from India to Israel, from Hungary to Honduras. This was no different about an hour away from Wadi Mousa overlooking Wadi Bani.

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If one were to believe the guidebooks, Wadi Mousa, consist of just one or two worthwhile places to eat or drink, and a couple of places to park one’s head. If you speaketh English, between the handful of the guidebooks you manage to get say dozen plus more. While, the Marriotts, the PriorityClubs, and Swisshotels have their presence; it is what you discover from others that makes a difference. A word of mouth, and the trust of a friend always trumps the internet wisdom

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It is the language that you do not speak, the guidebook you never saw, or the people you distainfully ignore, who will lead you to a kitchen that you will remember, or the smile of the old woman as you clean your plate with the last piece of bread, or the last sip of the local drink or the final pull from the hookah that will be etched in your memory for years to come. Wadi Mousa has its share of those word-to-mouth places where you come with an open mind, and generous heart.

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If you think $14 for Taj Mahal is outragous or at $20 a day, Angkor Temple complex is a ripoff for a foreign tourist ? Then don’t bother with Petra;
At $75 a day, or $125 if you are them Germans, Brits or Russians coming on a day trip from the Red Sea, Petra is nothing but an abandoned ancient city that you never read in your high school text. If you would rather drink your vodka or chug your beer and lay waste in the them packaged vacation with your fellow countrymen and women - Toasted and peeled as a beached whale or a lazy artic bear...Everything about Jordan would either offend you, or pinch your wallet

Otherwise continue....

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#2 Jan 3rd, 2013, 10:15
Join Date:
Aug 2006
  • nycank is offline

Wadi Mousa/Petra here I come.

If one starts from either Amman, or enter Masada early morning, before sunrise, with all the immigration snafus taken into account. one can expect to be at the entrance to Siq and Petra by 1030-11AM.

Petra, wasthe capital of the Nabataens, an arabian nomadic tribe who were more like toll keepers than really skillful traders. They built this elaborate rock cut architecture, which protected themselves from a long and rather difficult entrance through a narrow one mile passage currently called Siq. Abandoned for nearly ten eleven centuries, till swiss explorer, Johann Burckhardt rediscovered Petra, it is now the most important tourist attraction in the Whole of Jordan, even surpassing the holyland tours.

Having reached my hotel by 1130, I was at the restaurant that served authentic bedouin fare, of meat rice and bread. For 55JD/75USD, I got a two day pass. A one way horse back ride to the entrance to the siq (about a one mile schlep) is included in the ticket, but; beware of strangers bearing gifts; in this case, kids who handle the horses. The aggressive demand for a tip leads to nasty scene at the entrance

From the Siq to the entrance where the famous Khazanah a.k.a Treasury is revealed, is the most breadth taking one mile walk through sheer rock cut gorge. In the last fifteen years the local authority has leveled and semi paved the path and added benches at strategic location for old folks like me, or children who are antsy....Are we there yet ?

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The Nabatean had managed to channel water from one location to another, but cutting small channels deep in the sheer rocks, and storing them close to where they lived. This is evident as one walks from the siq towards the Treasury.

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There is always the horse drawn carriages that take you from the entrance of the siq to the front porch of the Khazaneh a.k.a Treasury for a sum of 10JD. That's about 14 USD for a one mile walk

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The first view of the Treasury is revealed partially, and is as interesting as Cappadocia at sunrise, or at twilight. Both rock cut architecture, both in the region; yet both very different and nothing more in common.

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And on to the Monastery up in the mountains....
#3 Jan 3rd, 2013, 10:48
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Sep 2001
Land that shakes and bakes.
  • edwardseco is offline
Great trip, its on my short list..
#4 Jan 3rd, 2013, 11:09
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Aug 2006
  • nycank is offline


High up in the mountains, is the second most complete structure - The Monastery. A total of over 850 uneven steps are best negotiated with a donkey, or if one is young and able, by foot.

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Some things never change, and some change for the good. Yes, you can get coffee, you can get tea, and yes there is bottled water and some snacks too. There are the normal roadside bedouin trinket sellers, and there are the “touts” or kids with donkeys and and men with camels.

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#5 Jan 3rd, 2013, 12:31
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
Join Date:
Dec 2005
over a 'wine-dark sea'
  • theyyamdancer is offline
Lovely pics and description. Thanks nycank.
#6 Jan 3rd, 2013, 12:49
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Dec 2008
  • vaibhav_arora is offline
Beautifully written, Dr Jones!
#7 Jan 3rd, 2013, 14:08
Join Date:
Sep 2001
Land that shakes and bakes.
  • edwardseco is offline
Gotta reserve my donkey..
#8 Aug 19th, 2013, 01:45
Join Date:
Dec 2007
New York
  • ashwinnaagar is offline
Wow..well written, and nice pictures too, am going to PEtra next year. Was initially planning to do Egypt and Jordan, but looks like just Jordan would be great too. The monastery looks like quite a place..
#9 Aug 19th, 2013, 05:01
Join Date:
Aug 2006
  • nycank is offline
Originally Posted by ashwinnaagar View Post Wow..well written, and nice pictures too, am going to PEtra next year. Was initially planning to do Egypt and Jordan, but looks like just Jordan would be great too. The monastery looks like quite a place..
Indian passport holders do get Visa of Arrival into Jordan. You could start in Israel (Fly into TLV from BOM) and then do land crossing to Egypt, boat to Jordan and fly back from Amman to New Delhi/Mumbai

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