We were all a little late getting to breakfast on Thursday morning.
There had been various optional activities available the previous night. One was ‘Petra by Night’, where they light a lot of candles as you walk down the Siq to the Treasury, where you sit and listen to some traditional music. We decided to skip this as our kids had done enough walking, and besides, any one attending was asked to stay quiet. Our children are not capable of being quiet so we gave it a miss. The people who did go enjoyed it but agreed it wasn’t really suitable for younger children.
Others in our group went to the local Turkish baths and had a great massage and hose down. This appealed to me more but I didn’t fancy it with two kids tagging along, so we all got an early night.
The plan was to board the coach around 8:30am and head out to ‘Little Petra’ for a look around, before driving on to Wadi Rum for our desert camp experience. We didn’t get to leave until 9 ish but no one was that bothered.
Little Petra, or Al Beidha, wasn’t that far away from Wadi Musa, the town we were staying in. Maybe 15 minutes? It was an interesting drive through the distinctively shaped rocks and mountains, and at one point we could see down into Petra itself on the left. It seemed amazing to us that it was actually so visible from the road, when it had remained hidden for so long, but then we remembered that the road we were on probably didn’t exist in the 1700 and 1800’s!
We also passed the settlement that the Government provided for the Bedouin people who used to live in Petra itself until 1984. You can see these buildings on the top of the cliffs from the bottom of the ruins which was unexpected.
Little Petra was used as a gathering place for the camel caravans; the camels and their handlers would camp outside it, while the leaders would report to the ‘information office’ and give details about numbers and cargo.
You can see the stairs have been worn almost flat by the feet that have traipsed up and down them over the centuries. DS thought it was a slide.
There were a number of interesting buildings carved into the rock, and some still had their facades. There were also stairs at various places in the rock, some seemed to lead to nowhere, others had obviously been used to get to the upper stories of dwellings. This one was quickly scrambled up by the bigger kids, but we kept DS on the ground. There was nothing to stop him dropping off the edge if he stumbled.
We spent around half an hour looking around Al Beidha; the sophisticated water channels and storage systems were especially interesting. Water is very important when you live in a desert.
Then it was back on the bus for a couple of quick stops; one to buy some beer for the desert, and one to buy water and supplies for Wadi Rum. The beer cost 5 dinar per can ( about £5!) in Wadi Musa, so we were limited to one can each at that price.
A couple of hours later, we arrived in the desert proper and our guide went into the information centre to find which camp we were going to use. We had been told our company uses two camps; one that you have to use jeeps to get to, and one that the bus can drive up to. We all preferred the sound of the first but ended up in the second. We were told there would be another group joining us later, they were a bunch of Jordanian doctors from Amman.
It wasn’t as remote as we thought it would be. We could see a small settlement about a kilometre away, and beyond that was a railway line, over which phosphate trains rumbled noisily by at intervals. But at the right angle, it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere and at least we didn’t have to go far to get off the bus.
We were assigned tents to sleep two people in, so were spread over three tents. There wasn’t much room between the beds, but we ended up dragging an extra mattress into two of the tents, between the beds and having the older two girls sleep in with us, 3 to a tent.
The tents were baking during the day, so once we’d put our bags away, we all went back to the central communal tent that was shaded by one of the rocks, to relax for a bit before we headed off on a jeep safari. The kids played outside on the edge of the rocks. They spent a lot of time trying to make sandcastles but of course this wasn’t a success with the dry desert sand.
The jeep safari was great fun.
I thought it would be really bumpy but the sand made it very soft and we slid around a bit which made it quite exciting. First of all we sped along over some sandy plains, past a camel train to another camp where we drank sweet tea and they tried to sell us some souvenirs. There was also a dodgy engraving in honour of Lawrence of Arabia. Then it was back into the 4WDs , all Toyotas of course, and we spend past some truly stunning rock formations to see some 3000 year old notes left by camel traders.
We all thought these looked like they had been made just last week!
Then we went up and down a few sand dunes, including one that we paused at the top of for ages before tipping over the edge. The jeeps stopped at the bottom and we had about half an hour to climb up and run down the jeep until everyone had too much sand in their shoes.
Then it was back to the camp in time to drink our beer and watch the sun set.
The sand rocks went such gorgeous colours as the sun went down and a caravan went slowly past in the distance. This idyllic picture was only slightly spoiled by the head Bedouin’s mobile phone going off quite clearly, Dom Jolly style. They all seemed to have mobiles and it was funny watching them ride along while chatting on the phone.
Soon it was dinner time, which was an upside down variation on chicken, cauliflower and rice. Luckily there was plenty of bread for DS and we also fed him one of the cereal bars we bought with us.
We sat around talking for a couple of hours after the sun went down, while the kids ran around between the tents shrieking and playing tag. Someone started a fire, so the men hunkered around that but we all went off to bed around 9pm.
I had intended to sleep outside but didn’t feel comfortable doing that knowing there would be other people in the camp. We did stand outside and look at the stars for ages though; they were magnificent .
Unfortunately this is where the night went pear shaped. The doctors sharing our camp finally showed up just before we all went to bed and proceeded to yell and shout and run around the camp nosily until at least 2am. Then we heard the call to prayer from the local settlement about 4am, and then there was more prayer around 5am. The kids managed to sleep okay but I was lucky if I got 3 hours of sleep the entire night.
It reminded me of why camping is really Not For Me.