Sometimes you just want to get from A to B as quickly as possible, but there are times when taking the long way, however more tiring, will provide you with some of life’s greatest adventures. Despite the exhaustion and dehydration and crawling on hands and knees to escape falling hundreds of feet down crumbling cliff faces.
Taking the back route through Petra is without doubt more satisfying that striding into the wake of other tourists via the main entrance. The lesser known entrance takes you first into Little Petra, a place where the local Bedouins claim “If you haven’t been to Little Petra, then you haven’t been to Petra at all”. And as I walked through a passage that led to stairs, monuments, tombs, water cisterns and caves carved into grand canyons surrounded by nothing but the sound of sand beneath my feet, I knew following the advice of these locals was going to be the best part of my trip to Jordan.
Of all the wondrous areas within Petra and Little Petra that are free for the public, there is only one area protected from the public; a fresco painted by the Nabataeans over 2000 years ago. What makes this extremely valuable is that it is the only surviving example of Nabataen intricate painting left in the world. Unfortunately it is now almost entirely destroyed by a fire and natural weathering. Little can be seen of the fresco except a few grape vines, various birds and cherubic figures, but it is a reminder of how the Nabataeans created such a culturally rich and sophisticated civilisation.
Following Little Petra, my friends and I set our sights for Ad-Deir in Petra, popularly known as the Monastery and the second most popular attraction after the Treasury. The distance between the two places takes approximately 3.5 hours by foot, and a guide is needed because without, the inevitability of getting lost in this vast landscape is almost guaranteed. You’re only a speck of dust in a terrain full of craggy mountain tops and barren land that stretches as far as the eye can see, so you really don’t want to get lost, especially with limited water supply and the sun’s rays strobing down onto you
After we exited Little Petra, we followed the desire lines around that led us onto a faint trail that leads through to the Bayda Neolithic Village which is supposed to be the oldest village in the world dating back 7000BC. Archaeologists have determined that they cultivated barley and emmer wheat, and hunted goats in an early form of domestication. The latter of which is still prevalent as a source of income for the Bedouin people.
As we carried on, there was not a soul in sight, and we felt privileged to have one of the world’s New Seven Wonders of the World at our feet. We danced around and shouted in exultation and heard nothing but the replies of our echoes, and knew an opportunity like this would not come around again.
Notice how my friends are scrambling on the ‘easier’ route, whilst our guide casually walks along the thread bare cliff!
Following our guide, we ventured down pathways that fell loose beneath our weight, and held onto jagged mountain faces as we climbed across paper narrow routes that opened onto sheer drops. But as the Monastery emerged from behind a canyon, our feet were instantly relinquished from tiredness and all our senses became completely captivated by Petra’s most colossal vision.
The Monastery begins to appear before us…