By Julia A. Kragh
I’m obsessed with ancient history, and the country of Jordan delivers.
To maximize your experience, book a tour with a reputable tour company in Jordan. I recommend Jordan Private Tours and Travel, owned by Amman native Mustafa Nofal — tour guide extraordinaire — for a one-of-a-kind, insider’s experience to Petra and Wadi Rum.
Mustafa knows the area’s hidden, off-the-beaten-path treasures; he took me to places I would never have discovered on my own. And if you are a photographer, you’re in the best of hands. Mustafa will guide you to “secret” locations where you will capture the most amazing vistas.
Once you have booked your private or group tour, here are my five must-haves for a comfortable and memorable adventure:
- Good walking/hiking shoes or boots. The Petra Archaeological Park sprawls over 100 square miles of mostly mountainous terrain. Wadi Rum is expansive as well and you will definitely want to climb those roaring red sand dunes.
- A hat with a chin strap or other type of secured head covering due to windy conditions in the higher elevations and stifling temperatures. If you go from May through September, the desert heat is blistering by day, so you’ll want to protect your head.
- Water! You can take in bottles of water, which I highly recommend, as once out in the vast expanses of the Petra Archaeological Park, I found nowhere to buy anything. Your tour guide will have your tour vehicle loaded with coolers full of bottled water for your trip, so have plenty for your campsite in Wadi Rum.
- Long-sleeved, light, cotton clothing. Long sleeves will protect you from the scorching sun and skin burn. The diurnal temperatures of the desert drop drastically at night under the crystal clear sky, so you’ll also need long sleeves for sleeping in your Bedouin-style tent.
- A camera. Your smart phone will do just fine if you’re not a professional photographer and don’t want to lug the extra equipment. I have shot photos at both sites with a point-and-shoot camera, an iPhone, and a DSLR camera. When I got home and downloaded all my photos I couldn’t tell the difference in image quality! So now I only shoot with my iPhone.
First stop, Petra.
Capital of the Nabatean Empire from the 1st century BCE, known as The Rose City, and a UNESCO world heritage site, Petra takes your breath away with its majesty and magnitude. The Treasury building is the iconic crown jewel of the site. But there is so much more to feast your eyes on, including the Siq, the various tombs and temples, the Theater, and the Monastery.
Most of the buildings’ facades are carved out of the rose-colored rock. A sight to savor and your camera will love it, too! Allow yourself at least five hours to explore.
We walked — and climbed — the site, but there are also guided camel tours available. Exploring all the history Petra has to offer is an amazing experience, but physically challenging. So bring your stamina. And don’t forget to hydrate!
Next stop, Wadi Rum.
The massive red rocks and sand dunes of Wadi Rum look like melted wax dripped down the sides of cliffs, forming mountains that jut skyward out of the red desert floor. Red as far as the eye can see. The entire landscape is otherworldly: Mars. Wadi Rum — a UNESCO world heritage site — is where Matt Damon was filmed stranded alone and fighting for his life in the 2015 movie The Martian.
When we arrived, our small group piled into the back of a pickup truck for a fascinating two-hour tour of Wadi Rum. As the light began to slip away, we watched in awe as the blazing, golden ball of the sun vanished behind the red mountains at sunset.
Back in our Bedouin-style camp, Desert Moon Camp, we feasted on a traditional zarp — tiers of chicken and root vegetables roasted for two hours inside a sand-covered pit in the ground. After dinner we indulged in sweet Bedouin tea while stargazing through a special telescope that transported us right onto the moon’s cratered surface.
We slept comfortably through the chilly night enveloped in thick wooly blankets inside two-person Bedouin tents made of richly woven fabrics. At sunrise we awoke to a Bedouin breakfast of cheese, olives, bread, yogurt, halva, and tea.
For this intrepid traveler, my bucket list trips to Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan, delivered all the ancient history and adventure I had dreamed of.
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