November 16 and 17, 2022
Today we were supposed to drive to see little Petra on our way to the town where our hotel is, and then see Petra tomorrow. We didn't have to leave the hotel in Aqaba until 11, but that totally felt like a wasted morning. We convinced our guide to have us leave earlier and to instead of going to little Petra, to get 2 day tickets to the main site and spend a little time there today and the regular full day tomorrow.
The main sites are along a long path, and there is only one way in and one way out. There are some hikes that radiate up the cliffs from the main path. We decided to go and hike up to the Monastery since it's the furthest in. Wrong decision. It took us longer than expected (about 50 minutes from the main gate) to get to where we start the climb to the Monastery, so we had to rush up the 600 steps to make it up and back in time before they were going to pick us up at the main entrance, all the while dodging donkey poop. While we think it's still a good idea to split Petra across 2 days, we would recommend taking a full day on the first day with a guide to go through all the sites on the main line (which takes about 4 hours and leaves you close to the head of the stairs to the Monastery) and then hike up to the Monastery. On the second day, you can choose any of the other secondary trails that you have time and energy for. We ended up spending a lot of time walking through the nobles tombs on the north side of the valley.
The carvings are really beautiful, and the color of the sandstone gives it a great effect. The style of the carvings is influenced by Roman architecture, but it was 100% done by the Nabbetean inhabitants of the valley. Only later, after the Roman invasion in 160 AD, did the Romans construct any actual buildings. You can tell those since they are constructed of stone blocks instead of carved out of the rock face.
On Wednesday, we had dinner as a group at a local restaurant. They served us family style chicken maqluba, Wich is a single pot meal where they take chicken and put it on the bottom of the pot, then layer veggies over that, and then put rice over that and cook on the stovetop. When serving, they take the pot and flip it over onto a tray in one swift motion so the rice is on the bottom and the chicken is on top.
Thursday to heal our aching muscles, our group leader helped 11 of the 12 of us book a service at a local hammam. It would be the first time at a hammam for a few of the group. It took a little convincing for 2 of the guys in the group, but after they had the scrub down, they decided they would definitely do it again. In fact, Bob, who is going on to Turkey next is already planning on finding one wherever he is next week. And we needed it, definitely. The dead skin came off us in rolls, practically. The guy rubbing down Eli made some quip about it.
The place where we went was pretty no frills. Apparently the women's side was quite a bit larger, but the men's side had a small steam room for about 6 people and then 3 marble tables for services. They don't provide towels or disposable suits to wear, so you have to bring your own. There wasn't much design to the place, it was mostly just functional. But for 35 bucks for an hour in the steam room plus a scrub down, it was the right price.