On a recommendation from a friend, we were up at 5.45am the following morning to get down for breakfast at 6am so that we could get on our way and into the famous site as early as possible. We had misheard the concierge the previous day and wondered why when we turned up at 6am, breakfast was still not quite setup and the staff seemed to be a little wary of our presence. It wasn’t until we asked for something that wasn’t on the buffet that the waiter apologized for the delay due to the fact that breakfast didn’t actually start until 6.30am and so the various machines in the kitchen were still warming up. It should be noted that the staff were exceptionally friendly and humble, almost to the point of making you feel guilty for asking for anything as everything is done ‘with my utmost pleasure’
After a very hearty breakfast we made our way to the site entrance, which is about 100m from the hotel front door (highly recommend getting into the Movenpick if for nothing else, the convenience of being right on the doorstep of one of the most magnificent sites I have had the pleasure of seeing) We picked up our day tickets for 21JD each and headed on down the dirt track that we had ventured down the night before by candlelight. It is an altogether different experience, walking into this site during the day and one to be appreciated for different reasons as our ‘Petra by night’ trip.
We walked through the entrance to the site at 7am and for the first hour or two we shared this amazing site with about 10 other people, including the local store owners. I can highly recommend getting in early, so you can get pictures of the wonderful remains alone or with just you in them, as we exited the site 6 hours later, even in off season, there were a lot of tours going around and taking a picture without some random head popping into it, became nearly impossible.
As mentioned we had done some reading up and had planned out what we wanted to see the day before, so we knew what we wanted to see. If you want to see everything, then prepare yourself for some serious walking – we basically did 6 hours of non stop hiking, up and down mountains and through the various ruins. We saw everything we wanted to and exited at 1pm as floods of people were just entering, we were very hot, very tired but oh so very satisfied and mesmerized at what we had seen. The two hardest parts of the day were the walks up to the High Sacrifice Area and up to the Al Deir Monastery
however, both offer huge rewards once you get there, especially if you choose to walk up rather than take the poor donkeys. Whilst I know that they are beasts of burden, they are small animals and the size of some of the (it has to be said) American tourists sitting on them, was just unfair to the poor animals, especially when you see the terrain you have to go up to get to both the aforementioned sites. Naomi got to the point where she said that if we saw a horse, donkey or camel that wasn’t too thin and in was in good condition, she’d take it to get out. Being my size, I couldn’t put an animal through that!!! ? The views from both are breathtaking and the monastery itself is a marvel.
I feel it necessary to point out at this point that if you are particularly animal friendly, you may be a little perturbed at how the animals look and in some cases how they are treated. A case in point is when we reached the top of the high sacrificial place, there was a rather forlorn donkey tethered to a signpost wearing a metal bit, his throat was so dry that he couldn’t even eee-orrr. He tried, but no sound would come out. So Naomi took it upon herself to find a container and we gave him our water I only mention this because for some people, the site of any animal in distress is too much to bear. I also want to make it clear that there were some very healthy looking horses, donkeys and camels in the site too!
We exited the site at 1pm and walked the additional 100m (a godsend to be in the closest hotel) to our room. Having walked solidly for 6 hours, we treated ourselves to a large pizza from Mystic Pizza just next door. As per Lonely Planet, it’s a good pizza and thoroughly enjoyed by us after our hiking! After a good feed and a nice revitalizing shower, we were ready for……. Bed!! But we didn’t succumb, well one of us didn’t. I went down to the pool complex to relax in the sun, cool down in the pool and do some more reading up on Jordan – this didn’t quite go according to plan as at this stage of the afternoon the pool is in the shade and the water was a bit cold!! As I mentioned, we live in Dubai, so no stranger to heat and once you get acclimatized to Dubai, it’s amazing that 25 degrees can actually feel cold!! So I sat by the side of the pool and watched some crazy Germans swimming in the cold pool, all the while learning more and more about the magnificent Petra and Jordan.
As I always try to do (above pizza being the exception), I like to try food from the region I am visiting, whether it be Eisbein in Germany, to frogs legs in France, or jellied eels in South London. So we ventured out of the hotel, 5 shops/restaurants down, which was about all our tired legs would carry us, to a restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet, the perhaps unusually named Oriental! We figured that a restaurant in an Arab nation, named Oriental and recommended by the literature had to be a good choice. The assorted Mezze that was brought out was good, although the hummus tasted slightly fizzy which is never a good thing. I decided to try the Mansaf, as it is the adopted dish of Jordan, and Naomi ordered the Musakhan. Mansaf is stewed lamb in a yoghurt sauce served on a bed of rice and Musakhan is chicken in olive oil and onion sauce roasted on Arabic bread.
A piece of advice which I guess is applicable the world over, is that when ordering it’s probably easier to point at exactly what you want on the menu. Unfortunately neither of us speaks Arabic and although familiar with a lot of the mezze items, our accent obviously impacted our waiters’ ability to take our order because we ordered fried Kebbeh and ended up with meat kebab and Naomi ordered the Musakhan and ended up with a Moussaka! She sent it back and got the Musakhan she ordered, but wished she had kept the Moussaka. Musakhan is basically a chicken and onion Panini ?
After dinner, Naomi was ready for bed and so headed on up to the room, I on the other hand needed to jump online, so popped into the 7 wonders café to take care of a couple of necessities. I would have done this in the hotel, except that a) it is extortionate, even compared to other parts of Jordan and b) earlier in the day the fibre optic cable to Jordan was cut and at least in Petra, there was no internet connections and more worryingly for us, none of the ATM’s were working, so no cash! Luckily by early evening this was resolved and Petra was back online and we had cash to pay for dinner!
With Naomi fast asleep after our hard day I popped up to the roof garden in the Movenpick for a nightcap and a Shisha. The guys up there were very happy to prepare this for me, as I think that the lack of clientele was boring them. So I sat on the roof of the Movenpick smoking a mint Shisha, looking over this amazing wonder of the world, admiring the clarity of the stars on the cool July evening in Petra.
Another early start this morning, but not as early as the previous day; so the breakfast buffet was in full swing today when we got downstairs. We had decided that we would stop at Little Petra on our way to the Dead Sea, after a taxi driver had recommended we go there for sunset the previous day. Unfortunately after our 6 hour hike and some missing skin on both my feet, the last thing we wanted to do that day was any more walking. So we checked out of the Movenpick in Petra, loaded our suitcase into the little green hire car and set off to Little Petra. My strange feet whereby my 2nd toe is longer then my big toe means that the skin had been rubbed off the top of both of them the previous day, so I was bandaged up to prevent further skin loss and we made the 30 minute drive to Little Petra, later on I will give a recommended timeline and order of visit for the attractions, so you can get the most out of them. Little Petra is free and is a nice little walk, again up through some rocks, but worth it for the view and the landscape. It proved to be a great beginning to our day and a bit of exercise before the drive up to the Dead Sea.
Naomi noticed in the Lonely Planet (recommended prior and during the trip – it was our bible) that there was a route not on the maps that you could take to get from Petra to the Dead Sea that took you passed Little Petra and through Wadi Arabaa, after which you jumped on to the Dead Sea Highway all the way to the Dead Sea and our next accommodation, the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort. This drive was absolutely amazing, we had a 1.6 litre automatic Hyundai Elantra with 108,000 kms on the clock and although the road turns into a track for some of it and there are potholes and mountainous routes to contend with, our car had no problems and the landscape you go through is breathtaking to say the least. If you are a Top Gear fan, you will appreciate the ‘best driving road’ competition they had and this road would be perfect for testing a new 4×4 crossover or super SUV. The drive itself to Dead Sea was again as much a highlight as actually arriving at our destination. It is just incredible to see the landscape change and somewhat humbling to drive along overlooking Israel and Palestine, knowing the current ongoing issues.
A couple of hours later, we arrived at the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and after parking the car were dropped into the havoc that was the reception area! Admittedly we were arriving on the first day of a long weekend, due to the ascension of the prophet. Sunday had been called a public holiday so a lot of people were making the most of it. Eventually we got checked in but were too early, so our room wasn’t ready. We had been reading about the ‘famous’ Movenpick Friday brunch and so we decided that whilst we waited we would sample it and have a couple of much needed drinks after the checking in debacle. Now in Dubai, Brunch is an institution that forms the backbone of a lot of expatriate’s Friday, so our expectations are perhaps set too high, as the standard in Dubai, albeit it more costly these days, is on the most part exceptional. So the Movenpick brunch was really nothing special, although a very large spread, the sushi looked like it had been out on the side for too long and some of the stews had stewed twice over by the look of it. Eventually though the very attentive staff in the restaurant went out of their way to find our key as reception were not answering and lovely guy called Ibrahim brought us our key and the bag was already dropped off in the room.
The Movenpick resort is nothing short of HUGE, it really is massive and resides on the side of the Dead Sea amongst the other Dead Sea Resorts. It comprises a number of chalet style rooms along with the traditional hotel rooms in the main building. We had a room on the top floor of the main building which gave us a wonderful view from the balcony over all the chalets, the Dead Sea and well over into Israel
Fabulous! Along with the various rooms, you have no less than 3 infinity pools, a summer and winter pool, one of the best spas in the middle east and of course beachside access to Dead Sea, on which the hotel places convenient containers of Dead Sea mud that you can coat yourself in before floating along in the Dead Sea for a while. Be warned that if you get any water in your eyes whilst in the Dead Sea it is going to sting like crazy, so much so that you will probably have to get out pretty sharpish and get your head under the fresh water shower, or if the lifeguard is there cleaning the walkways with a hose, ask him to direct the hose at your face for a couple of minutes. I speak from experience – twice! That aside, it is a very odd but relaxing feeling when you sit down in the water of the Dead Sea and you just float!
After our lengthy drive and wait for our room, we dropped our stuff off and went to explore the vast resort. As it was Naomi’s birthday we stopped in the Spa on our way round and booked her in for a couple of treatments as well as a ‘couples massage’ for the both of us, for later on that evening. If you are travelling with a young family, the resort caters to your every need, but if you are travelling sans kids and would like to get away from the screaming little darlings, I highly recommend heading into the Spa. It is separate from the rest of the resort, with its own hydra pools, sunbathing area, infinity pool, Dead Sea pools and foot spas – and no-one under 18 is allowed in there. If you book a treatment for over 100JD, you have full use of all the facilities before and after your treatment but if you just want to get away from things, you can pay 25JD for the pleasure of the facilities on a daily basis.
Our timing in terms of high season wasn’t great again, as the cable car down to the beach wasn’t working and one of the Dead Sea Pools and the Foot Spa’s were not working when we visited, due to maintenance. We did go and use the Spa facilities and the massage was a very welcome relaxing experience, although the salt rub foot ceremony was a little painful with the open tops of my toes being just a little sensitive. The massage was great and we then decided to head to one of the many restaurants on the resort. We chose the Italian one called little Luigi’s. The food was average and the pasta dish that Naomi ordered was very disappointing. I like to cook and I could have done a lot better, especially as the ingredients were tinned tomatoes, pasta, tuna out of a can and way too much parsley! The Calzone I chose however was very good, tasty and filling. I also tried some Jordanian wine, which was surprisingly drinkable, although not to Naomi’s palate. We missed the sunset as we were being pampered at the time, so after dinner we retired to bed, with a plan to rise early the next morning and get down to the Dead Sea before the masses!
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- Adventure Travel in Jordan (duvine.com)