DOES ANYONE KNOW WHICH WAY TO PETRA?

EXCUSE ME, WHERE AM I AND HOW AM I GETTING TO PETRA?

Recently I’ve seen a few posts about Jordan and I’ve just had a friend that’s just come back from Jordan and it’s sort of reminded me of my trip to Petra in Jordan. Not so much my time at Petra, which was amazing, but my adventure in just getting there.

I had just finished a trip through Egypt and I was staying at the Sawa Beach camp, 2 hours north of Sharm el-Sheik airport on the Sinai Peninsula. The camp is located on the edge of the Red Sea. It must have been out of season because when I arrived, I literally was the only guest in this camp. To say that I loved it was an understatement.

I was allocated a little bamboo Hut right on the water’s edge. It was nothing more than a four-sided, sparsely furnished room with low bed on a bare floor. It was pretty much just a mattress and bed coverings. The walls were made of palm fronds and there was one bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The “living area” was a veranda with a hammock. The open-walled communal area was furnished with lots of lounges and very low tables, a kitchen and dining area. It was perfect.

I had booked in for three nights and I knew I was going to love this. The days we’re spent lying on the beach, swimming and snorkelling. The snorkelling was amazing as just hundred metres offshore; there is a big drop off with colourful corals and an abundance of fish. It was not what I was expecting. So this just added to the whole atmosphere of this beach camp.

My only planed activity other than just lying on the beach and swimming and snorkelling, was to climb Mount Sinai where Moses supposedly received the 10 commandments. This location was an hour or so away from the beach camp I thought that it was an opportunity to climb a mountain that was said to have historical significance. As a warm up, just behind the camp was a range of hills that I decided to climb one late afternoon. The views were spectacular, so I thought yes let’s go climb Moses’s mountain.

the view from the ridge top behind the camp

At breakfast the next morning, Salama, the owner, cook, cleaner, storyteller, driver, and all round good bloke, mentioned that it was possible to visit Petra, in Jordan, as a day trip from the camp.

This pricked my interest as I had always wanted to go see The Treasury Building carved into the rock at Petra after watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Like everyone else. The rest of that day was spent trying to weigh up my options: climb a mountain or go to Petra. Of course there was only one decision.

The next morning after breakfast, I was picked up at 6am by a guy called “Smile” in a white Toyota Hilux ute and we headed in the opposite direction to Jordan, back to Nuweiba. Smile, the driver, spoke very little English, and his knowledge of what I was doing was even littler. Smile’s English consisted of “hello”, “get out”, “you stay” and “wait”.

Not being one who doesn’t like not knowing what’s going on, I didn’t want to wait. so I made my way to the ticket office to enquire about how to get a ferry to Petra. The ticket office man said, in broken English, “wait”, “you sit”, “someone will come”.

And there I waited, and waited, waited, and waited, and waited. I watched ferries depart. I would go up to the ticket counter then asked if that was my ferry. But the reply was always “wait, you sit” 

After a couple of hours, I was beginning to worry that I was going to spend the rest of my life sitting on this wooden bench, which wasn’t even inside the terminal, but across the road! At one point I even tried to work out how I was going to make my way back to the beach camp. I didn’t have a mobile phone ….not that mattered as the beach camp didn’t have a phone number. I thought about walking but it was about 30km away. I thought if I could get to the main I could find my way back to the beach camp , but unfortunately I didn’t know how to get from the ferry to the main road, so that was fraught with danger. So I sat and waited. What else I was going to do?

Suddenly, there was a flurry of activity as I was hastily waived over to the ticket counter. The next few minutes were a complete blur, as I was rushed through the immigration and boarding process, which in itself was a process, with much hustling, jostling, pushing shoving, elbowing, and shouting.

Now I find myself sitting on a boat departing Egypt about to arrive into Jordan. I realised I still don’t know what to do next. The ferry is about to arrive into Aqaba, which is still 120 km away from Petra. I was thinking…. “if just getting the ferry was an ordeal, how the fuck was I going to get to Petra?”

That was when I decided fuck it I’ll just go with the flow where the hell I was going to end up, or how I was going to get back. Fun fact: at one stage during the ferry trip I could see 4 countries simultaneously – Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

On arriving in Aqaba, there were a number of coaches lined up and I was shuffled, no pushed, onto one. As it turned out, it wasn’t random, it was the bus for English speakers. I now had a commentary of what was going on. We drove through Wadi rum and on to Petra.

Next thing I know I am making the 2km walk through the long narrow chasm that leads to the Treasury Building in Petra. With the rock walls towering on either side, it’s an amazing sense of anticipation. But, nothing prepares you for your first glimpse of the rose coloured treasury Building carved into the side of the cliff.

The first glimpse

Yes, you’ve seen it in many photos, you’ve seen it in Indiana Jones, you’ve seen it on Instagram, but to see it in real life is simply spectacular.

It was worth the rigmarole to get there. ….and now to go through it all over again and make my way back to the beach camp in Egypt. But first, I need an “official” Indiana Jones coffee.

The Dont Forget Travel Group is a boutique agency that specialises in custom-made holidays.

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