Drew and I were up early to cross the Allenby Bridge border crossing from Israel into Jordan. This border crossing is notoriously a complete shit show that can take up to five hours and just happens to be the only crossing into Jordan where they do NOT issue visas upon arrival, so preparation was key here. First, we had to mail our passports to the Jordanian Embassy in Washington D.C. to get our visas ahead of time. We then arranged for VIP border crossing transfer service. What a fucking racket that is. We showed up at the border expecting to see something akin to a third-world refugee camp, and instead found a completely empty building with more workers to assist us than people actually crossing the border. They took us into a joke of a VIP lounge for about ten minutes, then ushered us into a VIP van, where they drove around the building in a complete circle, back to the front to retrieve our bags, which were about ten feet from where we had originally handed them off to this VIP team. They then drove us to the Jordan side to another empty building where waited another ten minutes while they cleared us through immigration and then kindly said get the hell out and wait for your driver on the curb. After all that build up I’m almost disappointed it was so damn easy. No doubt that VIP service was completely unnecessary, but better to be safe than sorry. One quirky thing about Jordan – everyone kept saying “you’re welcome” to us, and I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to have thanked them for. It took me a few hours to realize that what they meant was “you are welcome in our country”. I thought they were being sarcastic and calling me ungrateful. In summary, I’m a jaded bitch and the people of Jordan are quite lovely.
We hopped in a lovely air-conditioned Hyundai and drove about three hours to Petra, stopping at shitty tourist trap buffet restaurant on the way, but hey, a gal has to eat. We checked into Petra Guest House Hotel, which literally overlooks the entrance to Petra. Convenience is key when you have less than 24 hours to cover one of the seven modern wonders of the world. The original plan was to attend “Petra by night” tonight and then be up at 6am when the gates open for a half day to explore tomorrow. Plans changed once I got some information at the visitor’s center and decided to do a few hours with a tour guide today so we could get all the historical info at the typical tour guide snails pace, and then power through the aggressive hikes early tomorrow morning at our normal insane pace. This way I avoid trying to rush the guide so that I can squeeze in the hikes I want to do in just one morning. That means three trips into Petra in less than 18 hours. I know, I’m a lunatic. Drew is slightly less than thrilled but is humoring me because I have been waiting for this day for a very long time.
We napped for a few hours until 4pm when it cooled off a bit and met up with our Petra tour guide, Ahmad, who led us leisurely through the Siq (picture the Zion narrows without water), to the Treasury (the insanely famous temple you have seen a million times), and down the main drag to the Theater and Great Temple complex. We stopped often and were given a lot of information, but I didn’t mind the unhurried pace because Ahmad was on his shit. He grew up as a Bedouin in Petra, and would actually take refuge in the old tombs of Petra during the rains as a young boy. This guy isn’t just a local, he’s a legit descendent of the Nabateans (the people who built Petra). He is also full of little gems of wisdom, for example, “Jordan is like a quiet house on a noisy street”, in reference to the peaceful nature of Jordanian people. Overall, it was a great introduction to Petra. We headed back quickly to shower and have a dinner before Petra by night…
Here is what “Petra by Night” is marketed as: Meandering through the narrow and mysterious canyon of the Siq in the dark, guided by nothing but candles, until the awe-inspiring beauty of the majestic Treasury comes into view, lit up by twinkling lights while a local musician to serenades you. Petra by Night in actually: Stand in a hoard of tourists waiting at the entrance gates and then be bum rushed while you very unconfidently stumble through the Siq on uneven, sandy pavement guided by some candles but mostly iphones. As the Treasury comes into view, you must first maneuver around the ignorant tourists who have stopped dead in their tracks in the middle of a moving line to take a picture, and you are rushed into rows of seating on the ground. You then spend twenty minutes watching people repeatedly attempt (and fail) to get a decent picture in the dark while a random flute plays in the background. They finally light up the Treasury façade with some rave lights and the crowd goes ape shit with their cameras. An old Bedouin tells a “story” that is actually a sales pitch to use their guide services the following day. The end. Luckily, we brought rose in water bottles – you are not surprised – so we had our own entertainment. For those of you who took bets on the Israeli wine situation – I don’t hate it.
The next morning, we were ready at the gates for the 6am opening. Andrew woke up sick, but he’s a champ and will power through it. Our first stop was the hike to the infamous viewpoint that overlooks the Treasury. Our guide from yesterday warned us that this hike is dangerous and we should definitely not do it. Sorry Ahmad, but that Instagram pic ain’t gonna take itself. We paid the Jordanian kids at the bottom of the Treasury to show us the way up the side of the mountain. It actually was not bad at all from a danger standpoint. And you are talking to the gal who bitched out on the Angels Landing hike in Zion, so if I say it’s safe you can trust me. Since the early bird catches the worm, we had the entire viewpoint to ourselves. On our way down we passed some girls in dresses and flip flops making their way up. For the record, that is definitely dangerous. But I’m sure they’ll look adorable in their pics, so priorities. We decided they were Americans, for obvious reasons.
Next up was hellish hike up 850 stairs to the Monastery, which looks somewhat similar to the Treasury, but with much more peace and quiet since all the fat, lazy tourists have been weeded out. I’m sure some of you smug ass holes are sitting at home on your ass and thinking that 850 stairs doesn’t sound all that bad. And you might be right. But please note that I said STAIRS and not STEPS. That does not take into account the parts of the hike that are not technically stairs. Please also factor in that we are in the middle fucking east and it’s hotter than hades. By the time we finished the Monastery hike, were exhausted and dreaming of the breakfast buffet waiting for us back at the hotel. We hiked back to the Treasury where we found a guy with a horse-drawn carriage and we happily paid the man to sprint us the last mile back through the Siq and up to the entrance gate. It was about 9:30am and the tourist mafia was out in full force. We chuckled as our horse galloped through the masses, yielding to no one, while the tourists clung to the walls of the Siq to avoid being trampled. Out of our way losers, mama needs breakfast. That’s a wrap on Petra – we head to Wadi Rum next in the next blog…which was in actuality about two hours later. This trip actually is a sprint, not a marathon.