I had never heard of Petra until earlier this year when Joe wanted to show me his favourite programme called Idiot Abroad, where this daft British man called Karl Pilkington is sent to see all the 7 Wonders of the World. Of course, he also ends up in Petra, Jordan. I was terrified at first, because in the programme Karl stays in a camp with some Jordanians who live in the desert and they eat a camel’så head for dinner etc. And all things happen which are just unimaginable to this Finnish gal! Obviously, though, the makers of the programme wanted to make Karl’s journey as horrible as possible so that particular event wouldn’t happen to us (Joe reassured me). So, off we went to Jordan (in my next post I’ll tell you more about Jordan, it’s safety and how they encourage tourism.)
Petra is an archaeological and historical city in southern Jordan. It was established possibly circa 312 BC as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans and it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who were known for their amazing skill in constructing water-collecting methods in the deserts and their talent in carving structures into solid rocks. Although the native rule of the Nabateans eventually came to an end, the city flourished under Roman dynasty until the earthquake in 551 causing inhabitants abandoning the city – it became lost for centuries.
In 1812 Johann L. Burckhardt dressed as an Arab and tricked a local Beduin to take him to the Lost City of Petra, and it’s been a tourist attraction ever since. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved and the way the sunlight enhances the Treasury in the afternoon.
When you first enter Petra’s sight-seeing area, you have to walk at least 1km to get to the entrance of the Siq. The Siq is a tunnel which was created when the rock walls split in two and made it possible for the ancient city to be hidden. It’s gorgeous, no matter what time of the day you walk it through but especially in the afternoon sun. The Siq ends to The Treasury, which is the most famous part of The Lost City because of how well it has been preserved. The other parts of the city are simply gone or there is little to see, simply because they have been in the open air for centuries causing the sand to damage it. The story tells that there’s a Pharao’s treasure on the top bit of the Treasury – which created the name. Of course the story’s false, but being such a beautiful remain I wouldn’t be surprised if they had hidden something there! All of The Lost City has beautiful parts and caves where the Nabatean people used to live, and you can climb on top of a mountain to get amazing views of ancient Petra.
TIP: Take an umbrella with you – it’s HOT. Some people do Petra in one day but we got a two day pass since we don’t like rushing things and walking around in the heat gets pretty tiring. Joe did climb up to see the Monastery, which looks pretty much like the Treasury, but I sat down to a restaurant nearby and saved my energy for the following night as they do a lightshow called Petra By Night which meant we had to walk all the way back again! (It was great, btw.)
Since Jordan has been Joe’s number one place to go to for some years, he had dreamt about sleeping in a cave with the local Jordanian people called the Bedouins. The Bedouins, also known as Beduins, is a grouping of nomadic Arab clans or tribes who have historically inhabited the desert regions. Bedouin territory stretches from North Africa to the Middle East, and they all share a common culture of herding camels and goats. The Jordanian government provides the Bedouins with various services such as education, housing and health clinics although some Bedouins give it up and prefer their traditional lifestyle.
After we’d seen on Idiot Abroad that Karl also slept in a cave, I went online and Googled: sleeping in a cave, Jordan and a link to an Airbnb rental came up. A man called Ghassab rents his grandfather’s cave for several tourists and if we wanted to stay, we would only have to pay 25e pp for the night. He had plenty of great reviews, and it was, after all, Joe’s biggest dream so hey ho, to the cave we go! On the day of our stay, we got picked up by Ghassab’s friend called Alli in his shaky, nearly-falling-apart car and got driven to the middle of nowhere to enhance our Jordanian experience. I got well excited in the car. Here we go! I thought, and it did end up being one of the best nights of my life. Getting there, we learned that it might be too hot to actually sleep in the cave, so they set up a tent for us in front of the cave and Joe reassured me he was happy to settle with the tent.
We climbed up the nearest mountain to see the sunset before having an amazing vegetarian dinner. Whilst eating, we learned so much about the Bedouin history and culture. Ghassab has been in the CNN news as well as in a Finnish YLE documentary, since he has hosted around 1,500 people in his camp already. Ghassab also has a French wife, so it was extremely interesting to hear her experiences living with a Bedouin man. After dinner we lied down to watch the stars and the Milky Way – it was pitch black, there were no light pollution whatsoever nearby. We were so happy. Sleeping in a tent was interesting – we kept hearing shepherds and goats knocking about but we didn’t mind. In the morning we were just so grateful about the unique experience. I have always felt I’m more drawn into the people rather than the historical monuments or buildings when travelling and this definitely helped satisfying my interest to meet more local people!