Family friendly? Fun for kids? Petra, Jordan has long been on my "bucket list", but little did I know that it is a perfect family vacation destination. Out of all the amazing and diverse places that we saw in Jordan, Petra was my personal favorite.
It is THE breathtaking iconic site in Jordan and more than lives up to it's mystical and magical reputation. Kids and parents alike will love magnificent Petra. No fears either, Jordan is a very safe, welcoming and peaceful place.
"...match me such a marvel, save in Eastern clime, A rose-red city, half as old as time" Petra by Dean Burgen
Talk about making history come alive, experiential, hands on learning and immersing in the culture. Could there be a better educational or unschooling assignment than this, which was both a blast and informative? Petra was a unique and enriching experience that our 10 year old daughter will never forget because there is no other place like it on earth.
Our wonderful guide Saleh was a Bedouin nomad who lived his first eight years in that nomadic lifestyle and also has a degree in archaeology, so was the perfect person to add insightful richness to this experience. I will be writing more about him soon.
Mozart wore a traditional Bedouin outfit called a thobe ( with her peace pants leggings underneath) and several people helped her with the head gear as it was put on three different ways by three different Jordanians. The young Bedouin kids she met there seemed to really like the fact that she was dressed traditionally and it's a fun way for a child to immerse in Jordan's culture as well as a perfect hand-made souvenir to keep forever.
To save money, we bought it at a small store in a Madaba called The Map Bazaar and I told her I would mention it here because of the great price. We haggled a bit and bought the 3 hand-stitched pieces for about 20 dollars. Bedouin artisans had a few simple stalls in Petra which sold pottery, jewelry, handicrafts and small bottles of colored sand made into patterns, so of course my little shopper had to check those out and bought one with a camel.
We're certainly glad that we got to see it, because nothing really prepares you for the mind-boggling experience no matter how many photos, videos or books you have seen and read about Petra. It's a magnificent place in the Middle East, full of grandeur and impressive history to share with a child.
I think it's better to walk in like DaVinci and our guide did, but due to my mobility problems, Mozart and I took a horse-drawn buggy which was more thrilling and bumpier than any theme park ride I have ever been on. She giggled all the way. I was totally stunned by the sheer size and outstanding beauty of the Siq which is the long entry to the historic Treasury. That said, it was too jarring for photos on the move.
The Siq is a majestic, narrow, flat gorge, a one meter walk of sand and stone into Petra, bordered on both sides by soaring 300 foot cliffs in a myriad of colors and formations that are simply dazzling and awe-inspiring, ending at the heart-stopping red sandstone Treasury that was carved by the Nabataieans over 2000 years ago. Our guide explained how they were experts at using water even for carving into the stone.
The morning sun was shining on the astonishing AL-Khazneh (Treasury) as we arrived and very few people were there at first, so we had it almost to ourselves. We had stayed at the luxurious Petra Movenpick which is located at the entrance so a very close walk away. But soon more people began to gather as you can see in this shot that we took after her camel ride violin playing, so it's a good idea to arrive early. The weather was perfect in May, sunny but cool and even at their worst, the crowds were not bad as the space is very, very large.
I wish I could have stayed a month in Petra as there is way too much to see in just one day. We did enjoy exploring the grounds, hundreds of elaborate tombs, intricate carvings, alters and the huge Roman-style theater. There are also two museums: the Petra Nabataen Museum and the Petra Archaeologcal Museum and the Ad-Deir Monastery. I think Petra is especially good for a little older child who can appreciate the history, read up on this topic and will remember the experience.
Here are a few websites to help entice and prepare your child for a trip to Petra: