While I was deployed to Egypt I had the fortune to visit Petra along with
some other soldiers. Eight of us departed in a bus from South Camp in the
Sinai Peninsula. We parked
at the Egyptian/Israeli border where the bus stayed until our return. From there we took
a cab into Eilat, Israel and stayed at a hostel for the evening.
companions apparently were more driven by their hormones than their desire to
travel. Only myself and one other slept that night and made it to our final
destination. The others spent the night club-hopping which resulted in them missing
out on an opportunity they probably will not have again.
We had to travel from Israel to our final destination in a taxi. Although
it was a long trip our driver pointed out sites along the way and generally kept us
entertained. Upon arrival we stopped at a restaurant outside Petra to get a quick
meal before entering the city. The waiter convinced us to eat when we got back and
that they would prepare a special meal for us.
Our driver took us to the city and
dropped us off. At this point, we had lost a lot of daytime hours. We only had
about 4 hours left until sunset. We did not have time to see the entire city, but
from what I could tell it would take at least a day and probably two to have time to see
One thing I should mention is that up until somebody asked me if I wanted to go,
I had never heard of Petra before. Therefore, I had no idea what I would
be seeing. At the time I asked what Petra is and was told that it is an
ancient city carved out of rock. Didn't sound too exciting to me, but it
was a chance to see something new, so I went.
Upon arrival in the outskirts, everyone kept trying to rent
us a horse. Being soldiers, we were used to walking and the trip had
already cost us a small fortune, so we declined. As we walked toward the
entrance to the city, we were continually badgered to rent a horse and the price
kept getting lower and lower to the point we finally said ok just so they would
leave us alone.
Of course we expected we would have the horse for the
entire tour. It did not work out that way. Because we had already
walked most of the distance, we only had about 100 yards left to go before we
reached the fissure that leads to Petra. At that point they take their
horse back. I think we only paid about five bucks each, but still, for a
100 yard ride, that was kind of expensive. The kicker is that the distance
to the entrance is the shortest walk of the day. In other words, it is the
least of the times when you would want a horse.
While there is a lot to see in North Africa and the Middle
East, this tends to be the way they do business with tourists. If you are
careful, you will never get ripped off for a lot, but sometimes it is easier just
to pay people to leave you alone. The sale they are making is not the actual
product they say they are selling you. What they are actually selling you is
an end to that particular person annoying you. If you hold fast, they will
eventually go away.
So now that we were back on foot, we made our way through the only entrance to
a fissure called the Sig. I am not sure how long it is, but probably
a little over a mile. There are lights strung through the fissure so you
can see because very little sunlight actually makes it to the ground.
you emerge from the Sig, the first thing you see is an ancient vault
made most recognizable after being included in the last Indiana Jones movie — Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I did not walk inside, but I did peak
in through the entrance. It is fairly small inside, so most of what they
show in the movie is not what you will see if you go there
— not that you would
expect that anyway.
The story we were told is that supposedly the vault was
full of gold at some point. If you click the picture to the right and look
closely at the upper middle section, you will see it has been damaged.
Apparently this was caused by various raiders trying to break it open, including
Napoleon's armies. I do not know a thing about Napoleon or if he was ever
in the region, but that is what I was told so feel free to pass that information
around without verifying it as I am doing.
The entire city is carved from the salmon-colored rock and is breath taking.
It is almost impossible to take a bad photograph here. We had perfect blue
skies filled with dramatic clouds as a backdrop for the entire day.
As anyone who has traveled with me can tell you,
I am a demanding
photographer. Some things I really do not like in my photos are cheesy souvenir
stands in front of historic sites and tourists in bermuda shorts and bright yellow
t-shirts. The Jordanians were very cooperative and for a small tip they would always
move their tables aside so I could get clear shots. The tourists I just had to deal
One question I am asked is if people actually live in Petra.
The local Jordanians told
me that nobody lives in Petra. They make their living there renting horses and selling souvenirs to
At one point someone related to me a fairly lengthy history of Petra and
I have forgotten all of it unfortunately. An internet search for the city of
Petra will return a number
of sites if you would like to see more of it or learn of its history. If you ever
have a chance to travel, this is one place I highly recommend.