Petra and the Last Crusade

Trip Start Feb 28, 2009
Trip End Mar 31, 2009

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Monday, March 23, 2009

To travel to from Egypt to Jordan, the options were to either catch the ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba, or go over land through Israel. Either way, it was going to be a full day of buses, taxis and border crossings. I chose the overland route mostly because it was meant to be cheaper, but there was still going to be the problem of what money I was going to need and in what currency.

I caught a minibus from Dahab to Taba at the very East border of Egypt. On the way, I was talking to two British girls who were heading to Tel Aviv. Before then, I hadn't considered going any further into Israel than Eilat, but I started to entertain the idea of diverting there for a few days. Ultimately, I knew that I had come all this way to see Petra and to keep that my number one priority I should stick to my original plan. But this idea had been planted in my head and the thought of seeing another country was starting to seem really attractive.

Once in Taba, I crossed the border into Israel. I had heard that it would take around 45 minutes to walk into Eilat so I skipped the taxi and headed off to find my own way. Two hours and ten kilometres later I arrived in Eilat. Not wanting to walk anymore I withdrew some Israeli Shekels and caught a taxi to the border with Jordan. There are limits to being completely self-reliant.

After paying the extortionate departure tax (considering I had been in the country a whole of three hours) I crossed the border into Jordan and had no choice but to catch a taxi to the nearby town of Aqaba. Once in Aqaba, I was planning to wait for the ferry to arrive and see if i could find some people to share a taxi with up to Wadi Musa (the town people stay in when visiting Petra). In the taxi from the border, the driver offered to take me to Wadi Musa for 45 Dinar. When I declined, he remarked that I wouldn't be able to find a better deal and seemed quite put out, but ended up dropping me at the bus station where I got straight on a public bus, costing me seven Dinar.

I arrived in Wadi Musa around five in the afternoon. It was already getting quite dark as there had been a sand storm and there was a lot of sand in the air. It was also freezing cold. I had never anticipated that Jordan would be cold. I had only packed a day pack to last me about four days and stupidly I had not packed any warm clothes.

I hadn't booked a hostel but had picked a hostel out of my guidebook that I was going to head to. The bus driver was trying to help me out and got the owner of the hostel on the phone who told me it was overbooked. The driver then gave the card of another place that was a little further out of the town and he told me he could drop me there. Coming from Egypt, I was suspicious of this and suspected that the person that I had spoken to on the phone had been and associate of the driver. I decided to make my own way to the hostel and when I turned up the owner told me that it was him that I had spoken to and that they were booked out. My impression of Jordanian hospitality was raised instantly and I felt a little guilty that I had been so suspicious of the driver. The first two hostels I tried were booked out but I eventually I found a cheap hostel that I was happy with and settled in. I had my own room and everything.

Early the following morning I headed down to Petra, leaving the hostel at 6.30am. I was freezing, but it was worth it. The whole place was deserted and I was able to spend some time enjoying the area on my own. Petra is amazing. It feels like a huge geographical amusement park. Towering red cliffs with cave tombs and intricately carved facades that have quite a Roman era feel.

After seeing a few of the outer tombs, you funnel into Al Siq canyon which is about one kilometre long and leads straight to the famous treasury (Al-Khazneh). The Urn Tomb was another highlight, and well as Qasr Al-Bint which is one of the few standing structures and isn't carved into the rose walls of the canyon. While the external facades are beautifully carved, the insides of the tombs where often quite plain and often smelt as though the local Bedouin people used them as toilets.

Climbing the 800 steps (on foot) to Ad-Deir Monastery also had to be done. There's a great view over the whole area and the monastery at the top is huge and well preserved. I spent a total of five hours walking around Petra and by that stage I was fairly worn out and headed back to my hostel.
The plan for the following day was to visit the Dead Sea in Jordan, but there wasn't really any way of getting there without going on a tour or by taking a bus towards Amman and getting off at the sea. I was keen to travel there as independently as possible and it seemed like taking the public bus could leave me in a difficulty place to get back from. This was when I first seriously entertained the idea of spending some time in Israel.
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