Our date with Petra is looming and after some down time to get some schooling in, we headed out to the lesser known Little Petra, to get a feel for what was coming up. First some thoughts on Wadi Musa, which is the town from which most people visit Petra.
Wadi Musa, meaning Valley of Moses, usually gets a bit of a bum rap but, if anything, we found the town quite a chilled out place to go about our business. The Rough Guides’ description of the town is that “in sharp contrast to the rest of Jordan, where decency and respect are the unswerving norm, Wadi Musa shows a distressing tendency towards rip-offs, wheedling and outright hassle – the last of these directed particularly at women. Businesses and individuals all too often overcharge and under-deliver. It’s a seedy little place, run with just one aim in mind: to milk its world-famous cash cow dry”. Ouch, that’s not exactly flattering.
I’d agree that outside of the sights of Petra (both “big” and little), there isn’t that much else to see and do. However, there’s a good range of eateries, including Arabic, international and takeaway pizza, it feels safe to walk the streets, especially down Tourist Street where traffic unfailingly gives way to pedestrians and there’s even a couple of places to get a drink. Beware though, as the beers definitely don’t come cheap at c. 6 JD a bottle and with no liquor outlets in town, you’re best advised to come well stocked.
With that in mind, one place well worth heading to is the Cave Bar, which runs a 2 for 1 Happy Hour from 3pm to 4pm (possibly 5pm?), making it slightly more beer-able. The bar is located directly outside the entrance to Petra and is a perfect thirst quencher after a hot and dusty day exploring.
Our personal experience of Wadi Musa is that the town isn’t anywhere near as bad as it is made out to be. During our time we found the locals very helpful and friendly. Over the four days we were in Wadi Musa on separate occasions, the girls received a free flavoured milk carton each and a free sweet pastry. When out shopping for fruit and vege, I was given a couple of tomatoes gratis and on my run when I stopped off to take some pics of Mousa’s Spring, a local policeman gave me a bottle of water to drink. In addition to that, we were provided with free mint tea after one of our meals, and the friendly dairy/supermarket we frequented sold us everything at local prices - 0.10 JD for ice creams, 0.20 JD for big bottles of water and 0.50 JD for each Mars bar Veronica consumed with gusto. If you can avoid the taxi’s, which are a rip-off most especially compared to prices in Amman, you’ll also likely come away with a positive view of the place.
If you believe what you read, Little Petra (also known as Al Beidha) is a little gem, that is little frequented and iittle-arly waiting to be discovered! The truth is somewhat different, as even arriving before 10am we could count no fewer than five buses spewing out tourists to wander around this interesting Nabatean site.
Even with all the tourists, there was still plenty of room for us to wander around without feeling overcrowded and take in what was on offer. Located off the King’s Highway barely 9 km up the road from Wadi Musa after the village of Umm Sayhoun, this Nabatean settlement provides an amazing free introduction to the main sights at the Petra Archaeological Park.
Entry to the main site begins at Siq al-Barid (the “Cold Siq”), which isn’t nearly as long as the Siq at Petra but provided great atmosphere for exploring this ancient site.
There are a set of reasonably steep stairs at the back of Little Petra, which are worth ascending in order to reach the Hidden Canyon on the other side.
In contrast to the other side, there was next to no one down in the Hidden Canyon, as just about everyone who walked to the top of the stairs, choose to then descend the same way. It was a good decision to head down to look at the canyon as there was more room and peace to contemplate times gone by.
All up, we spent close to an hour and a half at Little Petra which provided a nice little taster of things to come.
Always looking for interesting routes to run, I noticed that two kilometres up the hill from our accommodation was the Moses’ Spring, a possible location for the site where Moses supposedly struck the rock with his staff producing water for the thirsty Israelites.
The building housing the spring, isn’t about to win any architectural awards and while the site is supposed be visited by pilgrims, the entire time I was there (about ten to fifteen minutes), the only people I saw were locals filling up their plastic water containers.
There’s not a whole lot to see here and is unlikely to take up more than ten minutes of anyone’s time. For what is an important biblical site, it seems like it is on no ones agenda (let alone bucket list) and simply illustrates in a country with so many important pilgrimage and historical sites, that what might be an important site elsewhere, is simply relegated to the mundane here.
No need to introduce where we’re heading to next…. Petra we’re coming!