Deserting Petra for the Desert

Petra Travel Blog

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Not as grand, but Little Petra still has impressive facades.

I’d like to say we woke up around 6AM Thursday morning, but the truth is we weren’t ever truly asleep.  It was still windy as all get out, but a gentle breeze compared with last night, and at least the sun was shining.  The camp was a shambles, but our Bedouin hosts still laid out a buffet breakfast inside the only permanent structure there.  It was basically one large room where all twenty of our British-Irish hiking gang had slept in a pile after the tents collapsed.  The Dubai gang had driven themselves in, so like us they had vehicles to retreat to last night.


Sand storm be damned, we carried on with our itinerary.  We wanted to start the day by exploring Little Petra, which is only 200 meters from the Amareen camp site, but we gave our gate keeper a lift into town so he could get to his morning classes.

End of Little Petra --- these steps lead up to the trail through a wadi to the Monastery.
  The forty-five minute detour was no problem and then it was our final investigation of Nabatean ruins.


It was kind of crazy to think how close our secluded camp was to Little Petra, because the entrance was jammed with people and tour buses.  Naturally this traffic attracted a bunch of souvenir and food shacks which added to the clutter.  But it wasn’t any chore to slip into another realm of the people who built Petra.  Little Petra is quite different from the main venue, much more residential and lacking any monstrous facades, but similarly entered via a (much shorter) Siq.


There are stairways etched into the canyon walls everywhere and the life of the Nabateans is almost palpable here.  It is a different atmosphere than main Petra, which in a lot of places is really just a massive graveyard.

Many tourists, but many Nabatean stairways just begging to be explored!
  Although we were both ragged from last night’s escapades, it was impossible to resist the temptation to follow some of the steps, all leading to interesting homes and cisterns carved into the walls.  One of the primary attractions in Little Petra is a home where an ancient fresco is claimed to remain.  Apparently back in the day Petra was even more colorful, with the natives accenting the wonderful colors nature had already provided.  Unfortunately, I found the ‘painting’ to look like the grand daddy of all Rorschach ink blots – just a black smudge on the roof.


We hiked the length of Little Petra until it dissolved into a pretty trail through the wadi and turned around.  This was the trail we were supposed to hike the first day up to the Monastery, by the way.  Little Petra is dwarfed in size by its big brother down the road, but has a charm that requires checking out if you make it here.

The natural beauty can be every bit as astonishing as the ruins.


Finally sated with the crown jewel of our expedition, we pushed on to our final destination.  Wadi Rum is harsh, but beautiful country.  It is a place where Lawrence of Arabia persists somewhat like Che Guevara in South America.  Wadi Rum is several hours southeast of Petra, and for much of the journey we rode the King’s Highway.  We had probably driven several hundred kilometers on the King’s Highway by now and yet to see a single sign indicating its name!


Around 1PM we parked at the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center, having missed the turn off for our next camp site.  The Visitors Center is splendid: it blends in with a unique desert landscape studded with mesas.

More tourists and stairways at Little Petra.
  It is laid out nicely and actually has some tasteful shops.  You may have guessed that shopping hadn’t been a concern, but I’ll confess the few shops we saw were uninspiring.  However, the one shop here had these whimsical hieroglyphics called ‘Rum Art’ and I bought a plaque for my wife.  Next we hit the restaurant here and before long the tour buses arrived, filling up the diner that started out with just us two.


Concluding our visit to the center with a brief photo op of yet another unique environment in Jordan, we turned around to get to the Bait Ali Desert Camp (only a mile from the Visitors Center).  Bait Ali was not the Bedouin experience we envisioned, just a commercial tourist residence with tent lodging.

Little Petra
  However, we were both a week into the trip, run down from adventures and missing our families by this point, so we welcomed the not-so-Spartan facilities.   Bait Ali’s primary marketing pitch is that it features the only swimming pool in Wadi Rum, so we didn’t want to miss that opportunity.


The October weather in Jordan had been ideal for the entire trip (with the possible exception of sand storms), but here in the desert it was a bit steamy.  So we changed into bathing suits and hit the celebrated pool, which was frigid!  It really wasn’t too bad after you were in for a minute, but that initial plunge was a bit rude.  We climbed out and lounged about, talking with some ladies from Vancouver and taking in Wadi Rum’s scenery.  The sun was sinking low and bathed the landscape in striking red colors.  Wadi Rum is a really inviting mix of sand and mountains where any spot changes dramatically during the day as sunlight transforms the palette from yellow to red or vice versa.


In the evening we resumed the Spite & Malice championship for bragging rights to Wadi Rum (I had already lost in Dana and Petra).  Our hero started out strong and opened up a 2-1 lead, before Mark took three in a row.  Would I be spanked the entire way up and down Jordan?  Regardless, we played in one of three majilis they had set up at Bait Ali and it was a relaxing atmosphere.  The fact that they had a bar probably contributed to that feeling, lol.


A pleasant surprise was seeing our English-Irish hikers pull in!  After the sleepless night, this intrepid group had stomped about Petra all day before being bused to Bait Ali.  So we got to share an evening with them after all.  Several were in their sixties and I really admired their chutzpah.  We shared our last beer of the evening with a British gentlemen from this troop who was 67 and obviously loving the adventure.  He had trekked Machu Picchu, Nepal and other places too numerous to mention.  But despite living in the United Kingdom had never ‘bagged a Munro’ (one of roughly 250 peaks in Scotland over 3,000 feet), so I had him scooped in his homeland, lol.


Time to turn in and we retired to our canvas tent, a bit grubby with two cots squeezed in.  Not much elbow room and I was rather displeased with the arrangement in comparison to our Bedouin tent at the Amareen site.  Bait Ali seemed to be a family destination and there were a lot of teenagers still rummaging about rather loudly, so my discomfort grew as I climbed into my cot.  The cot was surprisingly comfortable, however, and I’m sure last night’s lack of sleep contributed to my drifting off within seconds of laying down.

thenewextrememimi says:
Really interesting blog, makes me want to go!
Posted on: Dec 08, 2007
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Not as grand, but Little Petra sti…
Not as grand, but Little Petra st…
End of Little Petra --- these step…
End of Little Petra --- these ste…
Many tourists, but many Nabatean s…
Many tourists, but many Nabatean …
The natural beauty can be every bi…
The natural beauty can be every b…
More tourists and stairways at Lit…
More tourists and stairways at Li…
Little Petra
Little Petra
photo by: vances