Middle East Day 12 – Petra
4th November 2017
Today we are going to Petra. We have decided against independent travel and booked a tour. I’m not really a tour person – I don’t have the patience for other people. We leave our hotel for the 7 am pick up. The car is late and only takes us to a meeting point to wait for our bus. By the time the bus arrives, it is in an hour since we left our hotel and we can still see it. We take the bus to the border. One group member has issues with Israeli Immigration and we must wait. It is now 2 hours since we left our hotel and we can still see it. At Jordanian Immigration two group members have problems and we have to wait again. By the time we board our Jordanian bus, it is 3 hours since we left our hotel and we can still see it.
With the delays and a stop en route, we reach Petra quite late. Our guide takes us down through the Siq into the city. It’s spectacular. A narrow 1.2 km long gorge deep in the red rocks. It’s also fairly daunting with a constant stream of horse drawn carriages hurtling down laden with tourists. It is an acquired skill enjoying the scenery whilst avoiding being run down.
Then the gorge opens up and in front of us, our first glimpse of The Treasury, a huge tomb carved into the sandstone rock. It is indeed one of the Wonders of the World.
Our guide tells us we are free to explore. We have 20 minutes, before we must make our way to the restaurant for lunch and our return to Israel. We have been travelling for 8 hours for a 20 minute visit to Petra. Most of our group are day trippers and therefore not happy.
Luckily, we are not returning, we are spending the night at the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp and have tomorrow free to explore at our leisure. We are collected by a man in a pick up truck (we’re going off road). He drives for while, then just as it is getting dark, stops in a layby. He says we should witness a desert sunset. He’s right. It’s beautiful.
We continue to our camp. We are literally the first there. We arrive at the same time as another pick up truck containing the staff. Our tent is basic but cosy. There are no other guests, no power or water (they are only available from 6-10 pm). We wonder why we didn’t opt for a hotel.
But 6 pm arrives, as do several coach loads of tourists. The atmosphere is jovial as the staff cook dinner over a camp fire, we can shower, there is electricity, even Wifi. Best of all, the camp is at the foot of some rocks which are now illuminated with hundreds of fairy lights. It is magical.
Middle East Day 13 – Petra
5th November 2017
We have the whole day to explore Petra at our leisure. Our driver collects us after breakfast and suggests he takes us to the rear (the tradesman’s entrance) rather than the tourist front entrance. We wonder if he’s saying this because it’s more convenient for him. But he’s right again. He drops us at the top of the hill and we walk down into Petra. We are alone apart from the occasional Bedouin riding his camels/ donkeys/ horses to work.
The road is lined with caves and ancient carvings. We have a lovely day exploring Petra, have a picnic sitting on a rock at the top of the Siq, then head for the meeting point to pick up our coach to Eilat. This group have also had problems at the border and only 20 minutes in Petra. It’s a weird atmosphere. We’ve had the best day and are tired and happy in a bus full of angry people.
We reach Israel and cross the border without issue but although our Israeli bus is there, the driver is not. One group member has had enough. He gets in a taxi and leaves. He doesn’t tell anyone and no one else notices him leave. (I worked in a school for many years and have been on dozens of trips. It is a reflex reaction to constantly check and recheck group numbers.) The driver arrives and does a head count. We can’t depart as we are missing a passenger. I explain that I saw him leave in a taxi. No one seems to believe me. Our fellow travellers are becoming more irate. After a long wait (all in view of our hotel) and a phone call to HQ, the driver is finally allowed to depart. He enquires where we need to be dropped. Th others are all staying at beachside hotels in the opposite direction to our own. He drops us first; this is not a popular decision, and we are relieved to escape the bus before things boil over.
A fact about ticket prices to Petra. In an attempt to boost Jordanian tourism, the government has made a one day Petra ticket more expensive than a two day pass, so our experience was immeasurably better but, including accommodation, cost about the same. A one day ticket for non accommodated tourists is $127, while for an accommodated visitor, a one day ticket is $71 and a two day ticket is $78. One night B&B at the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp costs $78. So that’s one day at $127 or two days including accommodation (and breakfast) for $155. In summary – don’t go on a day trip!