Wadi Rum and the Falling Bread of Petra, Jordan

siq golf

     Ah yes, here it is, the classic Petra scene of the treasury as seen through the narrow Siq gorge with the traditional golf cart in the foreground. Timeless.

     Petra and Wadi Rum! I don’t need to sell anyone on it, right? There’s already a well-established reason people go there. It’s a world class combo destination. Throw in a dip in the Dead Sea, maybe the Roman ruins of Jerash if you can’t make it out to Palmyra, Syria, then a day in Aqaba by the Red Sea, and that’s a nice trip right there, that is! Just don’t rest your head at this dive below:
aqaba hotel

     The Jordan Flower Hotel in Aqaba by the Red Sea, the cheapest place in town. There is old, worn, and rundown, and then there is Middle East old, worn, and rundown. I think I saw Lawrence of Arabia’s graffiti behind the bed post. The guys running the place had a fastidious way about them that made us all pretend we were in a five-star hotel instead of a place of untold countless suicides.

dead sea

     I was expecting to be more buoyant in the Dead Sea, but I had a big lunch. That hummus really weighs you down.

petra monastery

     The view of the monastery. Both times I was there I just missed guys jumping along the top of it.

petra ceiling

     The ceiling inside a Petra edifice.

     I went into a bakery in Petra and this transfixed me until I looked closer to see what was going on. The bread is coming off a conveyor belt above the guy’s head. Efficient!

     Did you know Petra was named one of the new seven wonders of the world? Any tourist spot worth their salt wanted to win the voting contest, but for travelers it’s always a losing proposition. Petra used to cost 20 Jordanian dinars ($38) to enter. Now? 50JD (US$70). Locals and Arabs pay 1JD. (Some travelers dedicate themselves to getting into Petra without paying since there are no fences around it. I was sent this link.) That is the price only if you have stayed in Jordan for at least a night. If you are a day tripper from Israel or a cruise ship, you pay 90JD (US$125), if I am not mistaken. A good half million people per year visit, so where does the money go?
petra poster

     It’s odd to see such a poster when tourists pay millions of dollars, and there are plenty of kids selling junk, so why is the government so powerless to stop it?

     It’s a complicated question that no one cares about, so the very short answer is that since the king gets much of his support from the southern tribes, he has a very soft hand when it comes to dealing with them, and he allows Petra as their cash cow. You could say his diplomacy is soft and fine like shifting sands. See what I did there? Sands, cause I’m in the desert? Get it? And I blog for free! I really need to put up a paywall.
     A kid sidled up to me with seven euros in coins in his hand (equal to 5.60 dinars) and tried to sell them to me for seven dinars. First they beg for coins, then they beg to sell you them for more than they are worth. Excuse my Yiddish, kid, but that’s chutzpah.
     $70 is a lot to enter Petra, but I might pay $100 if there was an animal-free day. The horses, donkeys, camels and horse carts, not to mention all the selling, ruin the experience. Well, “ruin” is a strong word, but in the afternoon when you are walking back from a great day, you have to hop around the dung and cover your nose from the smell. Is that the lasting experience Petra wants you to have?
kc wadi rum

     I successfully hitchhiked out of here to the main road, and then I paid-hitchhiked to Petra, neither of which explains my exuberance.

kent wadi rum

     So many photos of me in one blog post! I appear to wear the same clothes every day—on the outside. I do change my undergarments, I want you to know. I even change my diaper occasionally.

king shisha

     King Abdullah is a man of the people!

kent amman

     A rare selfie. I had to document the snow when I came back to Amman. Not pictured: my mesh running shoes. Doh!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION (1 Jordanian dinar = US$1.40)
     I stayed at Saba’a Hotel in Wadi Musa, the town next to Petra. I think it was 8JD for a dorm and 14JD for a single room including heat. A cheaper place up the road, Valentine Inn, is 10JD for a room but charges 3JD for the heat. Since it is off-season and low heat, I didn’t wake up early to go into Petra. I left just in time to stop and get some falafel and hummus sandwiches to take with me inside. A normal bus from Wadi Musa to Amman is 7JD. A government-run JETT bus costs 10JD, I believe.
     The Jordan Flower Hotel in Aqaba is 10JD. I should have bargained, but I did get the whole top floor. The girls in the tourist office were squeamish about recommending it. This woman thought it was great.
     If you find yourself with some free time or it’s late at night and you can’t quite go to sleep, you can read what I wrote on my first visit to Jordan a century ago. I surprised myself rereading the last paragraph where I unload on Israeli travelers.
     Why don’t you stay with me? You can follow along with RSS, subscribe to an email feed, see what’s cooking on Facebook, pray that I’ll say something worth remembering on Twitter and if you are really slumming it, there’s always Google+. (I’ll follow you back!)

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