There are very few days that you know for a fact you will remember for a lifetime. Today was one of those days. We finally were going to get off the boat and experience Jordan. We woke up slightly earlier then normal and had room service brought in at 7 AM. I got a banana and Jenn had a pastry and orange juice. I did go down to the coffee shop and got a cappuccino. I’m only three drinks away from getting a free one!
At 8:30 we made our way down to the theater to join up with the rest of our tour. For some reason Royal Caribbean gave two or three options for each stop for tours. This is why we booked externally for Israel. However, it seemed as though 90-95% of the cruise had purchased tickets from Royal Caribbean to visit Petra. When we made our way to the theater the line was out the door and spanning up the stairs and into the 5th floor. It was insane. Luckily it was organized chaos and we quickly received our number for the tour (26) and were off to the tour bus.
We got settled into the tour bus and were whisked away on a two hour drive out of Aqaba, Jordan and towards Petra. We stopped an hour in the drive for a bathroom break which as anyone who’s taken a cruise excursion knows, also an opportunity to buy stuff from gift shops. This stop however had the added benefit of being an incredible look out point. Jenn and I spent the entire time taking photos and enjoying the majestic views. You could even see a shrine/burial site built for Moses brother Aaron perched on the top of a hill site.
After our fifteen minute break we were back on the bus and off to Petra. We arrived at Petra a little after 11AM. We disembarked and got our tickets near the visitor center. We then walked with our group for the next ten minutes or so through the entrance and into Petra. At the first stop with our tour we made the game-time decision to ditch the tour and enjoy the next six hours in Petra on our own. We quickly snuck away and started our own adventure.
Our first diversion was the Bab Al Siq (Gate of Siq) one of the first things you see as you make your way through the gate. We thought in typical Joel and Jenn fashion that what would be better then taking pictures of the Bab Al Siq would be climbing into it. Only a couple of people were doing it but it was well worth the effort.
From there we took the wounding narrow pathways through huge rock formations (Siq Canyon) through much of Petra. If you’ve ever seen anything about Petra you’ve seen The Treasury (known as the Al Khazna). This is where the long narrow pathways lead to. Its one of the most magnificent things I’ve ever seen. It’s a beautifully building built into the mountain face. I’m not sure what Jordan has done (if anything) to preserve the treasury building but its simply fantastic. Before leaving the Al Khazna we picked up two packets of Pringles and a snickers bar. It was a nice and much needed rest break before the big trek began.
We continued to make our way past the treasury to where the city of Petra opens up. Near the theatre we took a trail that led up into the mountain to the highest point of Petra, the High Place of Sacrifice. From the ground level it seemed like a pretty innocent hike, we’ve done much worse on the Great Wall or even in our own backyard doing the Crystal Cove hikes. However, the combination of the altitude and a much tougher hike then we initially thought made for quite the climb. Luckily we’re still in pretty good shape and made it to the top of the majestic mountains that gave incredible views of both Petra and the nearby mountainside. It was sort of fascinating to find little shops up near the Place of Sacrifice. Similar to the Great Wall of China we were left wondering how they got their products up and down the mountain everyday.
We made our way down the mountain after taking a ton of pictures and spending fifteen minutes catching our breath and taking in the amazing sights. After making our way down the mountain we were starting to get short on time. It was around 2:30PM and our lunch was from 3:30-4:30PM and our bus departed from Petra back to our ship at 4:45PM. We then made our way further down the path. We took in the gorgeous (and still standing strong) theatre. It was here that we encountered several more shops each saying the exact same thing, “it’s free to look” and “welcome to happy hour”. I’m not sure if this is rare in Jordan but its never cost me anything to look into a store no matter how expensive their merchandise was. And secondly I’m not sure they have a clue what “happy hour” means to Americans. Its super disappointing to keep hearing Happy Hour and not be offered up half priced drinks and appetizers.
But alas I digress. We continued past the beautiful theater to the Royal Tombs. There we passed up more shops and others asking us if we wanted to take a donkey or camel ride. Lucky for us we’ve rode a camel before and neither of us have a desire to ride a donkey so we politely declined. We made the hike up to the Royal Tombs which too are impeccably preserved. It was quite the site to take in. We got more views of the theater as well as the Great Temple and the Colonnded Street. At this point it was a little after 3PM when we got done touring the Royal Tombs. We could see the end of the road for Petra which was the Great Temple and saw enough from the Royal Tombs to call it a day. We then made our way back up the road we walked down too and back to the main visitor area of Petra.
When we got back we headed to the Crown Plaza where a buffet lunch was served. We ate with some of the dancers and ice skaters from the ship which was interesting. Jenn had some pasta, rice, and beef for her lunch and I did the same only adding some pita bread and hummus. We left lunch and nearly crawled our way back to the bus. We spent the last fifteen minutes in Petra licking our wounds and thinking about nothing but how good it would feel to lie down.
All things considered though we were extremely fortunate to have the day we had in Petra. For Petra it was mild weather only around 80 degrees and although our entire cruise ship was at Petra it didn’t seem incredibly crowded. Sure every few steps someone would try to sell you something. But when I think about going to any of the major wonders of the world I can say the exact same thing. What was nice about our time in Petra was the fact that we completely ditched our tour and made it our own day. We did our own thing and had an incredible time doing it. We braved some pretty intense hikes and are currently more sore then I’ve been in a long time. Oh and we both did this all in flip flops. Probably not the smartest idea but worked out anyways.
We made the two-hour drive back to Aqaba and our ship. During our ride home our tour guide who was on the quieter side on the drive in, found his voice. He took the two-hour drive as an opportunity to talk about love, politics, and religion. Absolutely the stuff you want to dive deep into on a cruise tour. Some highlights were his description of the seven day Weddings. The fact that women are still massively oppressed in Muslim culture but that it’s “getting better”. And his 1950’s style answers to both gay marriage and abortion. Although at least it doesn’t sound like there is any stoning in the streets happening in Jordan, it still seems like our world has a long way to go.
We got back to our ship a little after 7PM. The Explorer of the Seas looked gorgeous lit up at night. We got on the ship and took quick showers and ordered room service. We both had hamburgers, Jenn got a mushroom soup, and we both enjoyed some chocolate chips cookies before watching two episodes of New Girl and calling it a night.
When I think back on our day in Petra I can’t help but sit in pure awe. It’s easily one of the most impressive sights I’ve ever seen in my life. Ranking up there with the likes of the Pyramid of Giza, The Great Wall of China, and the Coliseum. There’s no wonder that its one of the 7 Wonders of the World. It’s truly breathtaking from the moment you get out of the bus to walking through this truly incredible world built into the side of a mountain. You feel with each step that your walking back in time. And because its still a living city it feels alive and real and less like a tourist destination. It was an absolutely incredible day, easily the best so far on this trip, and one of the best destinations I’ve ever seen on our many journeys together.
This is the perfect way to get ready for a week at-sea.
For those curious today we walked nearly 17,000 steps or 8.25 miles, 119 of those steps being on stairs.