After the physical exertions of the last two days I had a lie-in and wrote my blog in the morning. Today’s plan was to use the “back door” to Petra at Umm Sayoun village, an option described in Lonely Planet and confirmed by hotel reception who booked me a taxi. However on arrival, the staff at the park entrance said that this route was exit only. Fortunately there was a local guide hanging around who offered to take me in through a different back entrance a mile further along the road. Although this all sounded a bit suspicious I accepted his offer, and was pleasantly surprised that this other route was not only open, but also involved a scenic walk.
Initially the way was flat and went through the desert, next we went along a path that clung to the side of a spectacular canyon. Occasionally along the way there were little Bedouin camps offering tea or selling souvenirs, but I was the only tourist on the path.
After 90 minutes we made one last steep climb and the top of the Monastery came into view.
This is arguably Petra’s most impressive building- like the Treasury, it is a former royal tomb cut into the mountain, but is much larger than the other tombs in Petra. It was at the Monastery that I finally met other tourists, who had all made the 3-4 hour trek from Petra’s main entrance.
From the Monastery there was a long walk down to the centre of Petra, where there is a colonnaded street and huge ruined temple.
From here I found the other end of the path I tried to walk yesterday. It led up, past yet more tombs (the most famous being the Roman Soldier’s Tomb) and then rose steeply to the top of the mountain at the south edge of Petra. Along the way there were several more Bedouin tent/cafes offering tea. They were mostly staffed by young Bedouin men, most of whom had long dark hair, goatee beards and used eye liner – looking much like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. I finally arrived at the “High Place of Sacrifice”, a flat area right on top of the mountain, where in ancient times the priests would sacrifice to long-forgotten gods. Here I had tea with one of the Bedouin Johnny Depp look-alikes and enjoyed an amazing view of the royal tombs below as the sun dipped lower on the horizon.
Before the sun set completely I scrambled down the last part of the path and arrived back at the Treasury for the 2km walk back up the Siq.
Even though things didn’t quite go to plan, I was very pleased of my idea to enter Petra by an unusual route, since it offered some of the best mountain scenery I’d seen in Jordan and saved 2 hours walking to reach the Monastery – something my tired little legs really appreciated. To celebrate, on arriving back in Wadi Musa, I treated myself to a cold alcoholic beer in the Cave Bar (located in a cave 2000 years old), with a fellow walker that I had met along the way.