Petra By Day – Exploring Without a Guide

Petra by night may be serene, but Petra by day is downright stunning. Also called the Rose City, the sandstone walls shimmered as their colors swirled in the rising sun.

Now, we had less time in Jordan than I would have hoped for, so in advance, I decided to read a lot of travel blogs. And I got a lot of advice on Petra: Or so I thought.

Many of the most prominent blogs about Petra give advice about how to be the “first” person to see the Treasury. They talk about waking up before dawn, wandering through the Siq, and enjoying the animals along the way.

To clear a few things up: You don’t want to be first at the Treasury. Doing so means walking through the Siq in the early dawn light and for those of you who’ve seen a sunrise, you know the sun isn’t high enough to reach inside a canyon.

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Chandler and I were feeling pretty lazy from our Petra By Night Christmas and instead of getting to the front gate by 7:00 am, we made our way there closer to 7:30. And I’m so glad we did! The sun had only risen at 6:33 and had we arrived any earlier, the whole Siq would have been covered in shadows. And as someone who has walked through it a total of six times now, it’s one of the best features of Petra and well worth good lighting.

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We took our time wandering through the 1.2 km rock canal that used to carry water from Wadi Musa to the inner city. We encountered people along the way, but never more than a handful at a time – the large tour buses from Amman don’t arrive until late morning.

Before we knew it, we got our first glimpse of the Treasury by daylight. And despite what those pesky bloggers claimed, it wasn’t a surprise – the ground goes from stone to sand right before the temple peaks through:

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Despite the fact that we weren’t the “first arrivals,” there were probably only 20 people around. And other than the one girl who had her boyfriend take 50 shots of her jumping next to a camel (I wish this was a joke), everyone else respected each other and the angles necessary to get good photos.

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Because this is the first big site inside of Petra, wares were already on display and more were being set up during the 20 minutes or so that we spent at the Treasury.

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And here’s that damn camel:

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Earlier I mentioned all the blogs I read marveling at the animal life inside Petra. They raved about the camels and donkeys and cats and dogs and horses. What they forgot to mention was the smell.

Some of the animals were super cute, like the following donkey. But in areas where the animals gathered for rides/photos/etc, the beating sun (and we were there in winter!) could really amplify the unpleasantries.

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As we wound our way along the road, we were reminded yet again that we were plenty early. Once we walked away from the Treasury, we only encountered people in groups of two or three at a time.

The Bedouins themselves were only just getting up and setting up their stands further along the trail.

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In fact, most of what we encountered so early were the animals and their minders. This adorable baby donkey followed me halfway to the Royal Tombs, and, unbeknownst to me, while I was petting it along the way, its owner was hassling Chandler for money. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but I think that donkey was trained just for that purpose. Chandler didn’t part with any of our money, but it didn’t leave him feeling any more sympathetic to animals:

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With a quick walk by the amphitheater – you can’t go inside, but you can get better inside views on the Al-Khubtha Trail – we were on our way to the Royal Tombs.

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There are four tombs: Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, and Palace Tomb, so named for their features because none had inscriptions.

Here, the sandstone colors became even more varied, shifting from the reds/oranges/pinks we’d been seeing and adding purples/blues/yellows.

 

 

Some of the tombs are more elaborate than others, but all come with their unique charms. From the banded coloring to the Greek Corinthian-style capitals at the top of the columns to the imposing multi-stories, there was plenty to keep our eyes busy.

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Before we knew it, more people had started to arrive and it was time to press onward. We took our final looks at the valley below and began our ascent up the Al-Khubtha Trail to the professed “best view of the Treasury.”

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