The bus dropped us off at the Wadu Musa bus station where somehow, a shuttle van for our hotel was waiting for us even though we didn't specifically ask for this...obviously the bus drivers talk! It was the most perfect streamlined arrival yet. We arrived at the popular place "Valentine Inn" and were struck by, in spite of its very old interior and strange management, the fact that it was the first real backpacker-y place we encountered in Jordan to date having several hostel connections in other destinations, discounts on this and that and actual backpackers staying there. Checked in to our dirty, carpeted but comfortable double room with WiFi IN the room ( we were so impressed!) feeling pretty good. However, we were left to wonder what kind of place this truly was when our peaceful lay around was interrupted by a knock at the door. Initially thinking it was on our door which is weird because that never happens, we quickly realized it was not when we heard a clearly African American guy banging on the door shouting "Come out Meeka, I know you're in there with him/why don't you tell our kids to their faces/I'm never leaving until you come out/(adulterous guy in question) will be arrested because his visa is expired/I'm calling the police". Eek. This barrage continued with silence in return until the hotel manager came up and the African American guy demanded that he open the door because "his wife is in there/this is adultery" after which the manager began trying to convince the alleged people inside to come out or he is also going to call the police. All to silence on the other end. We didn't know what to do, stuck in our room not wanting to go out admitting that we've been here the whole time listening but also not wanting to be eavesdropping pieces of garbage while also fearing what we might incidentally hear on the other side of our door considering this was the Middle East and women's rights aren't exactly paramount here. Not gonna lie, it was all particularly unnerving, especially given the last point. I don't know ow it all ended but eventually the police showed up, the door opened and everything was quiet with no shouting, drama, nothing. It just ended and everyone disappeared. In preparation for our massive next day exploring Petra, that evening we decided to a) watch Indiana Jones, my childhood favorite AND who knew, filmed in part at Petra on Netflix. Too bad this was a failure because it was not on Netflix so we settled for b) grabbing the hotel buffet instead of heading out into town to get dinner. We met the most hilarious backpacking couple doing a very similar trip as us who also had a very similar dynamic as us so it was great to just have a hilarious, raucous conversation with complete strangers. I also forgot just how funny Bridger is when he's in his element and this conversation was a charming reminder that I am in a relationship with possibly the funniest man in this world. At this hotel, I also came across some interesting information about Wadi Rum Bedouin's. While researching the Wadi Rum desert prior to going, I was reading WikiTravel or something and under the "safety section" it said something about blah blah blah dangers and then at the very end, "if you're not careful you just might fall in love with a Bedouin man...". This made no sense and no other details were offered by Wiki but didn't think anything of it. UNTIL I stumbled into this website: www.http://stop-scamming-in-wadi-rum.com Haha basically the idea is that these Bedouin make "friends" with foreign women visiting the desert, charismatically charm them and woo them into a romantic relationship and then essentially request money for this or that once the women are in love with them/steal money from them in some way. I chucked while I perused the site until sure enough, I scrolled down far enough to see our handsome camp host pictured without a shadow of a doubt as one of these fall-in-love-scammers haha! So I guess that tall, dark and handsome is also very strategic. .. Petra is pretty well the main tourist draw of Jordan and is famous world over. Our experience at Petra was also such a large microcosm of our overall experience in Jordan, straddling a line somewhere between absolute adoration and hatred. For this reason, it is really hard to write about our Petra experience but I'll try to unpack it in the most honest way possible. Since Petra is the most visited tourist site in Jordan and world famous, we decided to wake up at the crack of dawn and hit Petra at sunrise hoping to get a few hours experiencing its magnificence without throngs of tourists and the supposed vendors, hawkers and other scummies inside the gates. So we miserably rolled our asses out of bed at 5 am, grabbed our packed lunch from the hotel and hopped in a "shared taxi" (i.e. back of some randoms truck at 5:30 am because no true taxis were around) with two other girls from our hotel down the some odd km down to the park gate. Turns out the park gate was still closed so we sat eating what turned out to be a breakfast so utterly dry and disgusting that even the stray cats violently stalking and meowing in our ears wouldn't eat it when we fed it to them! Whatever, got the job done for cheaper than we could have eaten in the park itself.
Eventually the ticket office opened and we paid our soaringly inflated tourist price of 50JD (approx. 85 CDN...by contrast, the equally famous ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia cost only 20USD) where locals pay...1JD. Wow Jordan, you financially fucked us again. At least this time we knew this one was coming so it wasn't such a shock but still felt crappy. We experience inflated tourist pricing everywhere and for the most part we can understand it and actually feel pretty ok about it given our high money earning potential at home compared to local people's. I also think it's cool to offer local people cheaper rates as incentive to explore their own country which is a really great thing and I hope everyone takes advantage of it. I also wonder why our government doesn't do the same thing for us but I digress, again. However, this level of inflation was like, take a liberal estimated 30JD tourist inflation that I can handle and then add the remaining 20JD in the "fuck you, you stupid foreigner, go home, we hate you" category. Anyways, of course we paid because after all, we're only in Jordan once which I'm sure, further exacerbates the continually inflating problem. We entered through "the Siq", basically a narrow canyon leading into the city protecting it from invaders.
We ended up with a "third wheel", a little I assume, stray puppy who followed us from the gate for the first hour. Not sure why because it's not like we fed him or anything but maybe just because we were warm and kind to him, unfortunately, behavior that I assume is not the norm based on the way he cowered when people shuffled their feet towards him.
We walked through the Siq for several hundred meters encountering almost no other people. Eventually it opened up into a courtyard that contained the most magnificent "Treasury", a giant building literally carved out of the red rock. This is the building that is so famously featured in Indiana Jones though I can't remember which of the 3 movies.
Being here alone made waking up so early worth it as we were almost the only ones there and there were no hawkers or anyone otherwise hassling us for one reason or another. We were able to get some great shots with nobody else in them of this monstrous architectural feat.
We also started talking to a guy from the only other group there at that time, another white Arabic speaking American working in Amman at a boarding school founded by the much beloved king of Jordan. Well, turns out, despite being illegal in Jordan with even the "Google maps" people there a few days earlier being denied drone entry, these people with the king's backing were authorized to bring in a drone to take first even video/shots of the Treasury as its view emerges from the Siq. We watched as they filmed by flying the drone high in the canyon and filming up and down the Treasury and got a peek at the video...pretty cool stuff. We continued walking through the park on loose gravel/rocks seeing infinite rock carved or rock cut buildings and tombs.
We had heard that there was a path leading up to the top of the canyon overlooking the Treasury so of course we took this and again, were 2 of the only 3 people on this "secret" pathway. At the entrance to the path, a little local 2-3 year old boy came up and asked for a biscuit, no family in sight. I said we don't have any but took some pics on the cell phone and showed him the pictures which was quite enchanting to his little mind. Then he wanted to try my sunglasses which I obliged but then he walked away to a little makeshift tent where, a true testament to the amazing hospitality of Jordan, he began independently pouring (and spilling) tea from the pot into glasses while saying "Welcome, Welcome!", as obviously modeled for him so many times by someone in his life a few years older!!
Anyways, the path was pretty well a straight up staired/pathed hike leading to what, we weren't sure.
But regardless of what we found at the top, if anything, the views along the way of the surrounding valleys, canyons, cliffs and desert was extraordinary and warranted the effort on it's own. Even though it was about an hour and some up, we took our time and got some pictures and took some time to marvel at the surroundings.
It also worked out because even more than looking at ancient sites, we like hiking. Eventually we made it to the top, were greeted by two of the most adorable puppies (seriously where did they come from?!), an empty Bedouin tent and the promised, awesome view of the Treasury from above.
We quietly hung out for awhile in this tranquil top of the world place while hordes of tourists, hawkers, animals and the obligatory costumed ancient Troy looking guards posed in front of the Treasury for photo ops and of course, money. Once agian, we patted ourselves on the back for hauling out of bed to beat all of these things. I'd say our hike up there and the time spent at the top was the highlihgt of the entire day in Petra.
But alas, with only one day to explore, we couldn't stay forever. We slowly meandered the rest of the way through the park until we made it to the pathway leading up the Monastery. We were so happy that we did the Treasury hike first because the hike up to the Monastery was 800 some odd stairs and we definitely would not have volitionally taken on more stairs after this! There are so many stairs, that vendors have taken to, sometimes aggressively hawking donkey/horse rides up the stairs to the top for those otherwise unable or unwilling to walk. We figured that we were young, able, somewhat fit individuals who of course could manage ourselves which we did...but barely. We stopped halfway up the top at a little store to grab a drink and were warmly welcomed in to sit down for a tea with the hosts, two Bedouin guys. One of them was a totally normal guy but the other one was a more classic "cool" guy with his ripped jeans, man tank, ripped bod and the tall, dark and handsome thing going on. He invited us in to smoke shisha with him (Bridger did, I didn't) and went on about how we should come stay in his cave in the park with him (Bedouin in this area really do live in caves), lots of tourists do and love it and never want to leave, it's so peaceful, Bedouin life is so peaceful and relaxing, some people come and they don't have money but we Bedouin are so trustful you know you can just mail us money when you get home, you know all of that. Of course we decided not to lock ourselves in the park in a cave with a total stranger, but after reading the don't let the Bedouin make you fall in love with them/scam you website, I couldn't help that it all smelled very much like that haha. By the top we were just grossly hot and sweaty, every piece of clothing sticking to us mercilessly. The journey turned out to be well worth it as the Monastery building, again carved out of a mountain, impressed us almost if not more than the Treasury in all its sandy colored magnificence. The Monastery was even bigger than the Treasury and with even better viewing capacity in the wide open space surrounding it, we were again mesmerized by the sheer engineering mastery of these people so so long ago!
We hiked to two separate self advertised "viewpoints" both affording spectacular views across the valleys.
Then we tackled the stairs back down to the main park area where we were quite shocked actually, how still very few tourists were around. The main street and most of the restaurants were virtually empty, another dismal reminder of Jordan's flailing current tourist situation. Great for us to have the park almost to ourselves, unfortunate for the people working here whose sole income comes from their businesses inside the gates. By this point we were sweaty, dirty, blistered and sullied by a very shitty experience which I'll explain later, we were SO done. There was still so much of the park we hadn't visited, but again, not really being huge ruins people, luckily we were both on the same page that instead of slogging through the rest, we saw the big stuff so we were good to just wrap it up. Haha we envisioned Petra being like every other ruins site we visited, more pathway than anything else...nobody told us that a visit to Petra was actually a day of hiking pretty well. I was happy I wore my hiking boots, though Bridger swears his trusty flip flops that he's also worn for every hike to date, were more than sufficient. From a brilliantly designed security standpoint and depressing weary traveler standpoint, the only way out of Petra is back out the way you came in so we began our long trek out. Luckily our hotel, again, had a bus waiting for us which saved us the long walk back uphill from the gates. Hands down this was the sorest, worst my feet have been on this entire trip so far, I suppose a good indicator of a day maximized! Now on to the less positive side of Petra which, unfortunate as it is, is also the other half of our experience there. Prior to visiting, we had read terrible reviews not of the place itself which is undeniably incredible, but of the overall experience while in the park. Stories abound of flagrant animal abuse, constant hassling by often aggressive and persistent vendors selling anything from handicrafts to photo ops with various animals to transport via animal throughout the park to the lack of conservation and maintenance of the site. Here's the sad truth: no surprise, there is a very factual basis to the negative publicity Petra receives. I think it is a sensitive issue because for many years prior to Petra being a hotly visited tourist site, the Bedouin of the area lived within the gates of the city residing in the infinite caves that lie in the vicinity of the park. From my understanding, for obvious reasons the government cannot just for lack of a better word "kick these people out" so they are the ones inside, employed through the various means above. In defense, we had interactions with several smiling, wonderfully friendly, non-harassing people throughout the day so not to make vast over-generalizations about all the people "working" inside the gates. However, vendors/hawkers were everywhere and you couldn't go 5 feet without being asked if we wanted a donkey/camel/horse/to buy something etc. etc. The streets and stairways were lined with vendors selling the same crappy trinkets, constantly singing out at you "no business today!" which, honestly, we believed given the lack of tourists there as well as the rock bottom bargains they were offering a sale at. Though most were friendly or at the least resigned, there were a few who aggressively cursed at us as we said our polite "no thank yous" and walked by. At one point I walked by a little kid like 5 years old and smiled at him. His response was to ask me for a biscuit and then hit me with a stick, the little bugger. In their defense, I did not find most of the people offering animal rides to be particularly aggressive, just numerous, everywhere and persistent, sometimes telling blatant lies. You get exhausted of it quickly as really, you are there to experience and appreciate what the site has to offer and at one point you just want to (or do) stop acknowledging them all together. On the other hand, I can see how locals would become hardened and hateful towards tourists as they experience really disrespectful interactions with us on a daily basis. At one point we witnessed a vendor try to get two women's attention by saying "Miss?" to which they completely ignored, didn't even turn their head. He tried in vain to get their attention a few more times politely in vain when he proceeded to ask if they wanted a camel ride to which they just silently put a hand up in his face. I can understand the reaction, we feel it too, but again, there is still an element of humanity there that gets forgotten on both sides. Over and over again we see that where local people are reliant on tourists exclusively for income (what I like to call the ATM relationship), there quickly develops this pathological relationship characterized by animosity both ways. At the end of the day, it really made us appreciate Philippines and some places in Laos where locals/tourists existed more in a coexisting world than a dependent one. Visitors also regularly complain of rampant animal abuse within the gates taking the form of unkept animals, animals being required to carry passengers far too heavy for far distances and blatant aggression towards them. On this, I am happy to report that this did not seem to be as prevalent as I expected. For the most part, the animals appeared in good condition and with almost no obvious violations.
We did see one instance where a donkey was just walking, no person on its back, and both its front legs just collapsed. I had never seen that happen to an equine before so possibly suspect. Until one incident happened that soured the entire day. Bridger and I had stopped halfway up the monastery talking to the local Bedouin guys while smoking shisha/having a drink when a Bedouin guy was leading his donkey up the stairs, directly in front of the shop. Shamelessly, he took the 2 inch diameter stick he was holding and slammed it hard across the donkeys face to which I, involuntarily but instinctively, shouted at him "NO! Stop. You can't do that!". None to happy, he stalked off and I didn't think anything much of it beyond that besides, you stupid ass. The Bedouin guys we were with basically said he's crazy but nothing you say will change his actions. Fine, whatever, we continued to the top and did our thing up there. On the way back as we were headed down the stairs, we passed the same guy riding the same donkey who were headed up. As we passed he slammed the same stick hard into the rocks right in front of Bridger, not totally sure whether it was an intended miss or what, but the malicious intent was obvious regardless. As he continued on his way, he looked directly at me and cursed at me viciously for about 10 seconds before moving on. I was a mix between raging and shaken up and stopped at the same guys shop on the way down relaying the story and asking if they knew his name so that I could report him to the park police. They politely declined but in what I believe to be with truly best intentions for my well-being, advised me that the police already know about him but wont do anything because everyone here is cousins or whatever and I just shouldn't say anything to those people because it is their animal and they will do what they want with it and saying things makes it worse for the animal and for yourself...basically saying that the psycho wouldn't have behaved so aggressively towards me if I hadn't said anything to him. This doesn't sit well and felt just gross, so I in vain tried to say that if nobody says anything it just continues too until I eventually just left close to frustration tears. After this, I was just on edge and honestly feared what this lunatic might do if he encountered us alone in a more isolated area of the park (there are many) if he acted that way in the most busy, populated area. All the more incentive to wrap it up and call it a day. The thing that rotted us (me?!) most about Petra was the fact that they charge an outrageous entrance fee but as far as I can see, none of those dollars are funneled back into the park by way of maintenance, police presence (none the entire day), proactive or reactive enforcement of rules and proper behavior on the part of the local people inside the gates or anything of the sort.Ironically, on the way out there was a sign saying something along the line that we take safety and animal welfare seriously or something so if you have a complaint contact us and blah blah number or email address. So naturally I sent a strongly worded but diplomatic email informing them of the incident and chastising the powers that be for not having provisions in place for any of the above. Honestly, I understand different cultures, different culture around behavior towards animals/eachother, however, by nature of charging an almost $100 entrance fee, it becomes a place for tourists and the expectation should be that locals and everyone associated with the park should be required to conduct themselves according to internationally accepted standards. Or charge us local price and behave according to local standards. Your choice. All points, outlined in the email followed by a demand for further personal correspondence on the matter as it relates to an action plan to address the complaints. Haha, they emailed me back with several links outlining their action plan which, for lack of solid wifi or time, I have not read yet. If anyone wants to read and send me a synopsis on the road, here is the response!
Sufficient? I'll know in a few months when I'm home... For the time being, I'm impressed that I got a response at all and will interpret it as a positive sign for developments yet to come.
Thank you for contacting, and for taking time to write us, First of all and On behalf of Petra commissioner’s board let me apologies for what you had been through in Petra and we are really sorry to hear that, These behaviors are extremely unacceptable, immature, and irresponsible from animals' owners, and we as authorized authority have a strict law against any kind of mistreatment inside the park. Just let me inform you that Petra has many places and facilities were established for the animals care purpose such as shelters, stables, medical services, and free access to the water in many hidden spots, as procedures for PDTRA there are a huge sign in your way out from Petra which is demanding the visitors to report any kind of mistreatment to the visitor center or to the tourist police kiosks, so we are asking our visitors to report and complain against this issue to help us to eliminate the owner who did any kind of animal abuse out of the site, so we thank you very much for your complaint. Due the shortage of the rangers , Petra nature and many other reasons we have launched a campaign since months ago against these behaviors, and this campaign “Care for Petra“ contain many members such as The Brooke, USAID, UNESCO, JTB, ILO, and the Park (PAP/PDTRA) as well, this campaign aims to protect and conserve the site, solve the child labor issue, and concentrate on the animal welfare by educate the animals' owners that how they can treat their animals, this campaign have started and we hope the success for it. Please check the below links for more information about our campaign: http://visitpetra.jo/CareforPetra.aspx http://www.unesco.org/new/en/amman/about-this-office/single-view/news/care_for_petra_campaign_launches_in_petra_world_heritage_site/#.VF8hbHKSxbU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-10gK9eE1XY as immediate response; I have asked the rangers’ chief to focus on this issue and give it our first priority, and I have passed your complaint to the senior manager of tourism in PDTRA to increase the rangers at the animals area to avoid any abuse of these poor animals. Again, we are sorry for these actions and we appreciate your complaint and thank you to mention this important issue for you and us as well and be ensured that animal’s welfare issue is listed in our agenda, and we are taking it seriously. For additional information Please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime.