Jordan – Part 1: Petra


Who is this „Petra“, and why is everybody visiting her?!

It was a normal morning at home. Nelly clearly has not slept well, and her mood was not going to improve. While brushing teeth, Philipp tried to explain her why it is much smarter to have breakfast at the airport: “As we can use the airport lounge, we can save a lot of money by not eating at home! And think about the energy we don’t need to use to make our own coffee!”. “I don’t care!”, she replied, “I’m not going to spend 2 hours sitting in the airport lounge just you can drink a monthly ration of coffee for breakfast!!

It was the usual discussion…

Meanwhile, us backpacks were packed and ready for our adventure! It was the first time for us flying to the Middle East! And our trip leads us to the land full of history and religion: Jordan!

First thing we’ve thought was that we’ll see a basketball game. But Michael has retired many years ago, as Pack correctly remembered. So, we did some research and found out a lot about the rich historical country that got his name from the Jordan River (not the basketball player). The more we read, the more excited we became. Until the day finally had arrived, where we sat together with our owners in the airport lounge. It was Tuesday, December 28, 2021; Philipp had his coffee, Nelly had a power nap and us backpacks could hang out and prepare for the 3 ½ hours flight from Vienna to Amman.

The flight itself was as boring as it could be. P. Pack was allowed to stay in the overhead bin while I had to be squeezed under the seat in front of Philipp. WHY?! Probably Nelly needed space for her second nap this day? I don’t understand…But as uncomfortable it was, at least they took us with them! What else can a backpack wish for!

The arrival in Amman turned out to be a long procedure. First the passport and visa check. Fortunately, our owners had bought the “Jordan Pass” in advance! They entered the data online and paid it easily via credit card. With this genius Pass in hand, the visa was a simple formality: quick double check of data and stamp in the passport.

As fast as we passed the visa checkpoint, the next stop took slightly more time: the COVID-19 station. All arriving travellers were requested to have a PCR test done in their home country and bring the test result. Thankfully, this does not include their backpacks! But when we arrived at the COVID-19 station, there was a huge waiting line! As it turned out, all humans must make another PCR test on site! When it was our turn, our owners put us aside, paid the PCR test fee (28 JOD – around 32 €) and had this long stick put up their nose. To our delight, we didn’t have to wait for the result. It was supposed to be sent to the phone in around 4 hours.

SPOILER Alert: It DID arrive 3 hours later when we were already in the hotel room in Petra. Both owners were negative and were pleased about the quick and easy way the result was communicated. Apparently, it was a chat bot that worked with Whatsapp and the result was sent via .pdf. Amazing what human technology can do!

The next step after the COVID-19 test was a waiting line (again!) at the border police. Philipp seemed a bit nervous, but that is always the case with police involved. The border guards asked a few routine questions about our plan, our stay, checked the passport (incl. the visa stamp) and we were good to go! Finally!

But wait…there’s one more thing to do: MONEY!
It seems that Jordan is having their own currency, the Jordanian Dinar. 1 Dinar (JOD) is the equivalent to 1,25 Euro (EUR). Luckily, there are plenty of Currency Exchange booths around the airport which all have similar fees and offers. We decided to go to “Global Exchange” because they offered to exchange back the remaining cash for the same rate and no extra fees! What a bargain for us!

Eventually we reached the arrival hall. Nelly tried to contact our guy for the rental car. It was agreed he’d meet us, but we couldn’t find him anywhere! No worries, no stress! Let’s have a quick coffee at the Jordan Starbucks (it was a regular Starbucks, but we’re in Jordan, so…) and get a caffeine kick. This was anyway needed as it was already quite late, and we still had a long drive ahead of us!

After 30 minutes the rental car guy picked us up from the airport and we drove to their office. After another 30 minutes of paperwork, dealing with the payment and a car check, we backpacks got thrown in the back of a small but new car. It was a Suzuki Alto and it would be our buddy for the following days. Philipp got in the driver seat, Nelly took over the navigation and off we went. Next stop: Petra!

The drive was smooth as it is mainly highway between Amman and Petra. The streets are very well maintained and most of the other drivers were driving quite safely. Some even had their lights on! (Remark: It was 9pm and it was dark as f***, so driving with light on seems like the choice to go for; seemingly not for everybody though…) One very annoying thing were speed bumps randomly placed on the road. They are quite high and very poorly enlightened. And with “poorly” I mean “totally not”. Additionally, they simply had the same color as the street! How are you supposed to deal with them!? It was a challenge to see them in time to react properly, but I think, Philipp did a good job. At least we arrived in Petra unharmed, and even the car still worked. Well done, Philipp!

In the hotel, our owners had a discussion with us about what to do. They were hungry, but we were very tired and stuffed already. So, Nelly and Philipp headed out to get some late-night snack. More details? Read all about it in our Food Section! But here some impressions:

Fat and happy, Nelly and Philipp took on the 10-minute walk back to the hotel room. Us backpacks were already half asleep in our corners of the room. Philipp and Nelly kept chatting while I was slowly drifting away. The last thing I remember was Back asking them to shut up: “Guys, please let’s get to bed and have some rest. The next day is going to be full of fun and adventure!”

The alarm rang at around 8am. Nelly opened the blinds to let the light in. Outside was a little grey but Philipp ensured it would be sunny soon!
While our owners went to have a long breakfast, we were preparing ourselves for the trip of the day. Well…our preparation was merely mentally; only when Nelly came back, she filled us up to the top. Back alone was carrying 3 litres of water!!! Where did they think they were? In the desert?!

Anyhow, while we’re getting ready, Philipp came back from the 2 hours breakfast and Back read to us some stories about Petra.

Interesting information about the city of Petra

Interesting information about the city of Petra

We went out of the hotel and after only 5 minutes we’d reached the Petra visitor centre. Thankfully, the Jordan Pass our owners acquired included 2 days of Petra, so we didn’t have to stand in line to get in.

Inside (actually “inside” is still outside as Petra is a city, so…) we started our journey on the dusty and rocky road. Friendly people around us tried to sell us souvenirs and other great things! Unfortunately, we were so packed, we couldn’t fit anything inside us anymore. Hence, our owners politely declined, and the sellers went their way. There were also people on horses offering us a ride. As we’d learned much later, the horseback riding to the Siq (details on that later) was even included in the ticket price! Not included though was the tip the horse guides expected to receive.

The more you know
Tipping is a common thing in Jordan. People tend to be genuinely friendly but seem to be very disappointed when you don’t tip them. From taxi drivers to shisha servers and tour guides: even when you’ve paid for their service already, have 1 or 2 JOD for them prepared in your back pocket. It doesn’t hurt you and you support nice and helpful people.

Where was I? Yes! Of course…the way to Petra.
Our owners declined the offer to ride the horse as they wanted to enjoy the walk on their own. After around 1,5 km we’ve reached the entrance to the Siq. This is the 3km long path through the mountains leading to one of the most wonderful things us and our owners have ever seen: The treasury of Petra.


We admired the view while having tea next to a souvenir shop. Nelly was making pictures, Philipp checked out the items sold but didn’t buy anything. The tea was typical for the region: black tea with A LOT of mint. We loved it and it was only the first of many teas we should have on this journey.

After about 200 pictures we continued to explore the city. Petra doesn’t end at the Treasury! Quite the contrary. It’s about the start of a long-stretched collection of tombs, buildings, temples and at one end even a monastery carved into the rock:


On the way there are many sellers of souvenirs and spices. Don’t worry. They’ll always approach you, but if you decline (politely!), they’ll let you go and don’t act pushy. In case you don’t enjoy walking, you can choose one of many different transport possibilities: riksha, carriage, donkey, horse and even camels…although the camels seemed to be the most uncomfortable. Our owners decided to walk, and we decided to use the method “getting carried around” – the most comfortable option!

Our time in Petra was limited and there are several paths to explore. They have different difficulty levels and end in different areas and viewpoints. So, better choose beforehand what you would like to visit or simply spend more days in Petra to see everything.

We’d decided to see the monastery Ad Deir (see picture above). At the end of the “main road” there starts a hiking path going up. We highly recommend a visit! The hike is not too difficult, but nicely challenging. Once you’re at the top, you reach a wide, open spot and you’re standing in front of the monastery. We recommend having a tea while sitting down and admiring the artistry of carved rocks.

Quick side note: You’re not able to get into the monastery! Don’t expect anything you might know from monasteries in Europe with monks and herbal gardens you can visit. Have a tea, admire the facade, and enjoy the moment. It’s 120 % worth the way!

Our owners made another 200 pictures of the monastery and the surroundings. Afterwards it was already time to head back! The plan was to have a quick dinner and then visit Petra AGAIN! But this time it will be Petra BY NIGHT. We didn’t know what to expect but were curious to find out.

On the way back Nelly showed her secret talent in bargaining! Both our owners desperately wanted to own a headscarf – a traditional head cover in the Middle East. Even nowadays it’s common for people wearing it: it keeps warm in winter and protects the face from the wind – very practical in some areas! We’d checked several souvenir places and they were all quite similar. We ended up in one at the Petra visitor centre, where the owner explained us a bit about the scarfs. Be careful when you want to buy one. There are some for as cheap as 5 € but they are bad quality and simply good as a souvenir. A real one starts at 10 € and if you want to have the traditional agal (the black cord worn to keep the scarf in place) expect to pay another 5-10 €. After tough negotiations we happily bought 2 scarfs, 1 agal and 1 hoodie. Through Nelly’s bargaining power we saved around 40 % of the total price. And the guy wasn’t even mad. Both sides had fun and were happy about the outcome. So next time: don’t be afraid, just give it a try! 😉

Our dinner we had at “My Mom’s Recipe”. It was a famous traditional restaurant in walking distance to our hotel. We were seated in the top floor overlooking the street and the entrance to Petra. The food was very similar to the one on the first night although a bit higher priced. Philipp had a kebab plate which was served sizzling hot and more than enough for one person! All together, a place we’d recommend. If you have only one night though, rather visit “Palm Court Restaurant & Café”.

At 8pm we were standing once again in line at the entrance of Petra. Together with what felt like 1,000 people we couldn’t wait until they opened the doors to see Petra at night. You could feel the excitement growing until finally the crowd started moving. First slowly, then we’d reached a normal walking pace. Some people seemed to be in a hurry literally running past us. We didn’t even know exactly where we’d be going, so let them run. We had the best time enjoying the path we’d been walking only hours before. What was so special was that the organizers have set up lights along the way. On both sides of the path, every 10 meters, there was a candle (!!!) lit which guided us to the Siq and further to the treasury. It is amazing how they’ve transformed it! Although it was the exact same way that we’d walked on the exact same day, it felt totally different. I would say there’s only one word to describe this properly: MAGICAL. But I’m just a backpack…what do I know about magic.

At the end of the Siq, in front of the treasury, there was a sea made of lights. The air was full of excitement and peace. People were sitting down on the carpets laid out or running around trying to get the best shot of the beautifully lightened treasury. When everybody had set down the performance started. First, there was a traditional violin player and singer. We didn’t understand the words, but the music was good. As Europeans we had to get used to it at first, as it is very different to our kind of music. The same was especially true for the second performance: a flutist. It was interesting to listen to him too, but the violinist was better for our taste. When the performance has ended the grand final started: the enlightening of the treasury!

What sounds like magic was effectively led lights coloring the treasury in different colors! Nevertheless, it was a very beautiful show and worth the money. Our owners stayed a bit longer before they picked us up and went back the candle lighted way through the Siq.

Back in the hotel we had trouble to comprehend all the impressions we’d made that day. How little did we know about the many more impressions we’re going to make the upcoming days.

Our adventure has actually just started…

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