Jordan (3): Admiring ancient Petra and swimming in the Dead Sea


Petra was supposed to be a highlight of my trip to Jordan in March this year. Swimming in the Dead Sea was yet another. To reach the ancient city, from Wadi Rum, after all the adventures with the train robbery and horse riding, we continued our way to Wadi Musa.

In ancient Nabatean city of Petra.

The hotel we booked, turned out to be an almost luxurious place. Its manager Ahmad welcomed us with traditional Bedouin coffee and baklava. He also offered to prepare packages with lunch in case we felt hungry while visiting Petra.

View on the Wadi Musa by night.

We went out to eat. We were able to order the lamb, but not the mansaf, which – as we read – is a national dish here. We hunted for this dish in Aqaba, but nowhere (that is, wherever we ate) they had it.

Mansaf is a traditional Arabic lamb dish cooked in a sauce based on yoghurt or cream, seasoned, served with rice or bulgur. It should be eaten with hands, using bread.

Finally, we decided to try local beer, so we went to the center, where we found a large, recently built square and a shopping center. We drank the most expensive beer in our life there. I don’t think it was worth it.

Wadi Musa, which means in Arabic the Valley of Moses, doesn’t offer anything interesting. However, it’s the place from which every tourist goes to Petra – the most famous attraction in the country.

Mythical Petra

Petra is a mythical place. It’s considered as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is mentioned every time Jordan is mentioned. These are the ruins of the Nabataean city that flourished in ancient times, from the 3rd century B.C. until 1st century C.E. It was then the capital of the Nabataean kingdom. It’s situated in a rocky valley to which one narrow road leads among the rocks – the As-Sik gorge. It’s famous for its numerous buildings carved into the rocks.

The Main Trail starts at the main entrance, next to the tourist center, where we get a free map. It’s four kilometers long one way. To get back you need to take the same route. We walk along a narrow gorge carved in the rocks, the view of which is breathtaking. At one point, the gorge opens into a larger square with the Treasury. It is for this view thousands of tourists come here every year.

The multi-storey structure carved out of the rock was built around the 1st-2nd century AD. Its purpose is unclear, although recently a view prevails that it was the tomb (and not a temple) of one of the rulers of Petra.

Treasury – the main attraction of Petra.
Ruins are not the only attraction of Petra.

In the square, camels, donkeys, carriages, and other attractions await tourists. Of course, everyone proposes a price “especially for you”.

This is not the end of exploring Petra. We continue along Fasad Street, we pass 44 tombs carved into the rocks, a rock amphitheater, the remains of the Great Temple and Column Street, until we reach the palace of the Pharaoh’s daughter.

Petra enchanted us but didn’t sweep us off our knees. We admired more sharp shapes of rocks, shimmering with distinct colors in the midday sun, than, for example, the Treasury.

Unfortunately, this is a problem people who travel a lot, have. The more you visited, the fewer places amaze you, there’s not WOW effect.

Swimming in the Dead Sea

The next stop of our trip is Swemeh or Sowayma at the Dead Sea, some 200 kms away from Petra. We are going there with one goal in mind: to bathe in one of the saltiest lakes in the world. The average salinity here is 26 percent!

The road runs along serpentines among the mountains, the sight of which makes us stop every now and then to take pictures. There is something captivating about these breathtaking landscapes, which prevents you from taking your eyes off them, which makes you admire the beauty, power and severity of the mountains, and on the other hand – soothes you.

Earlier, whenever I had to drive roads among the mountains, my blood pressure grew, and so did adrenaline, I didn’t feel safe. This was the case, for example, in Sierra Nevada in Spain, even though the roads there are not too difficult. Here, driving through the mountains along the Dead Sea, I felt strangely calm, I was not scared by winding roads, sharp turns up and down.

When we finally find our hotel in Swemeh, we find it luxurious. It’s quite expensive (probably the most expensive hotel we have ever stayed in), but the level of services is high. It has its own beach, which can be reached on foot (it takes about five minutes) or by a hotel bus. There are also several swimming pools.

The next day in the morning we take a walk to the beach. Bathing in so salty a water is quite a strange experience. First, I am floating on its surface. The water is so salty that it lifts me to the surface. Besides, it feels like an oily layer on my skin. After such a bath, a shower is mandatory to rinse it off. Also, be careful that water does not get into your eyes. They will be itchy for a long time.

But the bath itself is not the only attraction. Being here, be sure to check the rejuvenating properties of the Dead Sea mud. Most often, on hotel beaches there are places with mud specially prepared for tourists. We covered ourselves with this black mud. It was hard to wash off afterwards, especially in salty, greasy water. A hotel boy who had a huge freshwater bottle with him was extremely helpful.

Bathed and rejuvenated, we continue our journey – to the last point of our trip: Amman.

The places where we stayed in (these are not affiliate links, I am posting them here because I can recommend):

Wadi Musa: Over Mountains Hotel

Swemeh: Ramada Resort Dead Sea

Our room in Over Mountains Hotel in Wadi Musa.

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