Cultural adventure? With kids? Petra, Jordan is Indiana Jones (Jr) worthy!

If you love cultural and historical interesting places, sun and good food, I recommend Jordan. The ancient city of Petra is not only a UNESCO site, but also one of the New 7 Wonders of the World! It is well deserved (unlike some of the other wonders). This ancient city is way larger than the iconic treasury, and it can be fun for kids.

Petra and Jordan is on my Top 10 destinations in 2018 for the cultural explorer!, since a new walking opened. It’s also on Lonely Planet’s Best In Travel for 2019. Besides having the friendliest people and serving the most delicious food, there are some spectacular sights. Both for the cultural and the natural explorer. The top sight is definitely Petra, a place which all Indiana Jones fans know.

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WHAT IS PETRA?

Petra is an ancient city covering a huge area. Imagine in Roman times traversing the Arabian desert for weeks or travelling the Silk Route with camels packed with goods hoping not to be attacked, and then finally arriving at a splendid town. That is Petra: a refugee for caravans. And now tourists. Although the refugee part is gone.

When I went back in 2011, it was crowded. Now, it’s probably packed. It was impossoble to take the great picture without a lot of other people. But who are we kidding? The featured image is a cropped version of this one below.

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WHAT TO SEE & DO IN PETRA

This building behind us is the most known. I was suprised at 2 things: first, you can’t enter, which is extremely disappointing, because, as we all know, that’s where the holy grail is. Second, this is only one building in a vast city – the treasury.

SIQ

You enter the place through the siq which is an experience in itself. Remeber to see the buidlings before the siq as well.

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Coming to the end of the siq and getting the first glimpse of the treasury, was the most exciting. This was my primarily reason for coming. You know why…

A HUGE CITY

Besides the treasury the city has a dam, many tombs and a Roman theater. An earthquake desstryed a lot, but there are still many tombs left, since they are carved into the rocks. Thetheater can accomodate 4.000 people and is interesting reminder how culture is used for political purposes.

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There is also a museum, but we didn’t have the energy to visit. But I wish we had.

BRINGING KIDS

As you can see on the image above in front of the treasury, Petra is not necessarily a great place for kids. But my then 4-year old warmed up, when he disocvered the innumerable amount of stairs and rock to climb. Just remember, it’s great exercise!

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Everywhere are shelves carved into the rock with fantastic colours.

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You can buy plenty of ugly souvenirs, if pictures aren’t enough souvenir. I wouldn’t, but yo can also…jordan-11 099

…and buy a camel ride. I usually just say no, but our son was so tired, that the two of us took a camel back. It was actually kind of fun, but the experience was later completely overshadowed by a camel ride in the Sahara desert in Morocco. But you can’t blame the camel (or dromedary).

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The area is so large, we only saw some of it. Use 2 days, if you can.

NABATEANS – WHO?

Why was Petra so important that you 2.5000 years later absolutely have to take a selfie here? Nabateans, you know…

Actually, people have been at Petra long before, but not much is left. The Nabateans was an Arabic tribe settling in 6th century and the city called Raqeem. First they stayed in tents, but grew more organized and more powerful – so much they became interesting not to be sacked. They were skilled in many crafts and architecture as you can see. The Greeks changed the name to Petra – meaning rock. Eventually the Hellenic influence was to much to resist (I feel the same way), and later on the Romans including King Herod tried to control the area because of important nearby trading routes.

Petra was then on the outskirts of Roman Empire as you can see on my old map hanging in my kitchen (yes, love history). The blue areas are the Roman Empire in different stages and the red lines are trading routes. Petra is connected to Gaza and further in to Egypt, but also to Philadelphia in Arabia and further north to Damascus in Syria (old Syria) and noticebly a connection to the desert caravans. My map reads the goods were textiles, drogen and weihrauch, which is textiles, spices and incense. It was also very close to the all important Silk Route. A little tax on these sought after goods brought a lot of money.

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This meant a huge flow of goods, wealth and cultural exchange as ground for development. And being a part of the Roman Empire, you can’t go down on equipment and of course it helps cement your border, if you build massively.  Not a borderwall as others do, but build to impress.

In real Indiana Jones style the place was rediscovered (by Europeans anyway) in 1812 by a Swiss guy. After this, it quickly became a tourist site, so you are a not a first mover here.

HOW TO GET THERE

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When we visited, we just bought a ticket at the office before entering the siq. But as with every other site getting tickets beforehand is become a travel planning necessity. Read more on the official page.

Petra is close to another top sight: Wadi Rum. We visited both on a two-day trip from Aqaba, and you can find inspiration to the Wadi in Red rocks & camels in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan! We hired a random dude from the street in Aqaba to drive us, and luckily (as often happens) he was super nice, and we had some great conversations about our differences and similarities (like taste in sunglasses).

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Our driver Mohammed with me and my son, who is not entirely happy about being picked up…

The itinerary:

Day 1 Aqaba → Wadi Rum / Spending the night in Wadi Rum / Day 2 Wadi Rum → Petra → Aquaba. Only do this if you don’t have much time, otherwise I recommend using 4 days for this trip. We were so tired after (not) sleeping in the cold desert, we had to drag ourselves through Petra and didn’t really have the energy to explore everything.

Want to dive deeper into the Arabic culture, try reading the best travel book for Jordan! or if you prefer ancient ruins, go to the ancient city of Perge in Turkey!

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