Here are a few things I learned on my visit to Petra. I hope this helps future visitors!
IT’S A BIT DIRTY
UNESCO has deemed it a World Heritage Site, which is wonderful in that it helps preserve it in theory, but in reality it draws more visitors over to marvel in its wonder – the responsible guest, as well as the abusive stereotypical tourist. I saw trash thrown throughout the Siq and grounds, as well as tourists climbing over into restricted areas. MAJOR ‘NO-NOS.’ It is truly heartbreaking to finally step into your dream destination to see it littered with disregard and rubbish. There is no excuse. There are trash bins throughout. Please, if you visit, do your part and throw out your trash appropriately. I even picked up some I saw along the way because it doesn’t belong on the ground. Our world deserves more respect Also, it’s super dusty, but no big!
THERE ARE VENDORS EVERYWHERE
I guess this can be viewed as good or bad depending on your reasons for visiting. I did end up purchasing a beautiful engraved Arabian pitcher and a couple bags of myrrh from some local vendors. They were very friendly and it provided a great opportunity to interact with locals. It’s also pretty cool to claim that your new treasures came from Petra. But on the other hand, it can completely alter the vibe of the ancient ruins. Hard to focus on the past with modern gifts for sale. But yet again, back in the height of Petra’s thriving metropolis, there would have been local vendors as well, so it’s hard to form an opinion on that one.
The only reason for my surprise with this one is because they came in and built shops and toilets, so I assumed they would have evened out the walking surface a bit more. I am actually thankful they didn’t – makes it more authentic, however it is a bit difficult to walk without glancing down at the ground every few steps to ensure you have your footing. A few notes on that if you plan on going and are concerned with mobility:
- I did see a man being pushed in a wheelchair , although it got stuck in the sand a few times. It is possible though.
- Camels and donkeys are available to ride throughout most of the areas (I even heard that for people with limited mobility, further access on camel or donkey can be arranged ahead of time). I cannot attest to the health of the animals, which is why I opted to omit that experience.
- Comfortable, reliable shoes are a must.
Most people recommend sneakers, but I went with my trusty Birkenstocks as I tend to do most of the time. Only issue I had was slipping on the smooth stone since these shoes don’t have great treads. Got very dusty though!
WHAT TO WEAR?!
Visitors to Petra come from all over, making it a very diverse group of people. It’s important to stay fairly conservative. Definitely NO CLEAVAGE. But since it’s such a highly visited site, it’s not as offensive to see a variety of styles. I’d say, when in doubt, cover up. Plus it can get quite cold in the shady Siq.
Along with hoards of human visitors, many camels, donkeys, and horses can be seen shuttling visitors throughout. From what I’ve gathered, the horses can only go from the Visitors Center to the entrance of the Siq. The horse carriages go from the entrance of the Siq to the Treasury. From there, jurisdiction belongs to the camels and donkeys, who aren’t allowed in the Siq. I’ve heard the animals are not always treated to our western standard of animal care, but I cannot personally attest either way. I chose not to take part in case that was the truth. I do know that while some of the owners say the rides are included in the price of your visit, they hassle you for a tip. Keep an eye out, when they’re coming through, they’ll expect you to get out of the way. And while there are plenty of locals picking up poo, watch your step for the fresh ones!
SO MUCH SUN!
Once you exit the Siq, there is not a lot of naturally occurring shade. There are a few eateries and shops you can step into, but come prepared with sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, an umbrella – whatever you need to hide from the sun. Or you can always purchase and learn how to tie a headscarf like the locals. I’ve had mine for years but recently learned how to tie it like a Bedouin here. The result is something like this:
I’ve been to lots of places were the locals are not always nice or friendly to the visitors. That was not the case here. Sure, many of them are not keen on having a full conversation with everyone, but I felt very welcome and like I could approach anyone for a quick chat or question. More places throughout the world should be like that! It shouldn’t be a surprise to be confronted with friendliness 🙂
LOADS OF LOOS
Don’t worry, there are plenty of toilets. Not always toilet paper though so remember to pack some. And you should probably tip the staff member in charge of keeping the can clean.
HOW TO REQUEST A PHOTO
I have always struggled with asking to take portraits of strangers. It’s part shyness and part respect. I realized a few things that help:
- If you purchase something from them, they are often happy to pose
- After offering a compliment or chatting most will let you take a photo
- Sometimes all it takes is a smiling and asking
Petra has so much to offer! Way beyond the Treasury, there are tombs, and small hikes, and many treasured views throughout. As I said in my post about our time there, we were told it takes three days to fully explore it, so get moving! Taking it all in is great, but prioritize what you want to see and plan accordingly. Wish I had done this better.
PICTURES AT PETRA
I am no professional but I have taught myself a lot about photography over the years. I think many people would agree with the following statement: Petra is hard to photograph. Of course others will disagree. Hear me out though:
- The lighting is VERY bright in parts, creating unattractive shadows and throwing the colors off in some spots. UsingLightroom I was able to combat some of these issues, but not always satisfactorily.
- Since it’s so bright, checking your shot on the display screen just got 10 times harder so good luck.
- PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE, including directly in front of your camera, even if they know you are there. Using Photoshop I stamped a lot of people out of some photos – I won’t tell you which ones though!
AND REMEMBER TO HAVE A GREAT TIME!