We were not originally planning to go to Jordan, but had heard from several people that it would be a crime to miss out on Petra given that we were so close. So, we decided to make a day trip of it and although it was a bit of an investment with exit fees and such, we were not sorry we did!
We crossed the border into Jordan and looked for a taxi to take us to Jordan. We found a legitimate-looking cab straight away for the same price that was quoted in our guide book, so we figured we were golden. That was, until about 2 kilometers from the border when the cab driver pulled over to the side of the road and told us to get out and get into the pick up truck next to us. He must have seen the concern on our face, and assured us that the truck was a 4x4 and would be better. So, we reluctantly switched vehicles and headed off. Our new driver seemed nice enough, but a few minutes later he told us we'd be going to pick someone else up because his friend's cab had broken down and he wanted to help him out by picking up his fare to Petra. At this point we definitely thought we were getting the run around, but we did in fact come to a broken down cab, with a nice Canadian chap stranded along the side of the highway.
When we got into Wadi Musa, the town near the Petra entrance, we were taken to a hotel where we again changed drivers. On the way home, we also changed vehicles twice. At that point it was almost laughable, as this is apparently just the way things go there. For all of our skepticism, the Jordinians were extremely nice and hospitable - you just need to go with the flow.
Petra itself was absolutely amazing. Nicknamed the "Rose-red City", it was built in the 3rd century BC by the Nabateans, who commanded the spice trade route in the area. They built palaces, temples and tombs into the rocky cliffs, and the site today has over 800 sites. But even without the ruins, the place would be worth a visit just to see the colorful sandstone, with its swirling colors and patterns that seem to grow more intense as the sun sets.
Our visit started by walking through the Siq, a 1.2 kilometer walk way that was created from a gorge that the Nabateans rerouted the river away from. The Siq led to the Treasury, one of Petra's most impressive tombs, which many of you may recognize from Indian Jones & the Last Crusade.
A trail up 800 steps took us to some sweeping views of the desert mountains and another towering tomb called the Monastery, so named because it wasused as a church in later years by the Byzantines. We also visited several other rock-carved tombs, an amphitheatre, and the Qasr al-Bint temple, one of the only free standing structures to survive the many earthquakes that forced the Nabatians to abandon the city.
We picked a particularly interesting time to visit Petra because the winner of an international contest to name the next "Wonder of the World" was to be announced that evening, and of course, Petra was in the running. There was a stage set up near the Treasury for a sunset party that the entire town appeared to be attending, and rumor had it that even the President of Jordan would be there. Judging by the news crews, we guessed this rumor may have had some validity! Unfortunately, we could not stay to celebrate, as we had already paid for our place in Eliat for the night and arranged with our cab driver for the round trip. If anyone knows the results of the contest, please post a comment