Nine years ago, the only time we have previously been on a Cunard ship, the highlight of our cruise was a visit to Petra. We thought long and hard whether to repeat it, thinking it might be a disappointment on a second visit. And the price gave us food for thought. Two tickets on the Cunard excursion cost us $450, about £320. The Jordanian Government – who must be forever grateful to the Jordanian official who had the prescience to allow the denouement of the third Indiana Jones film to be filmed in Petra – now charge £50 to enter the site. On top of all that we were aware that just from this ship, there were 1300 of us descending on the now inappropriately named Lost City. We thought they’d swamp it.
Cunard organisation was at its best as we gathered in the theatre for our coach departure. We were on our way at about 8.30 and enjoyed the two-hour drive as we climbed the Jordanian mountains. We stopped – inevitably – at a roadside bazaar – a rather good one – before arriving at Petra at about 10.30.
We were so glad we visited again. £320? A bargain. Petra is fantastic, almost unbelievable in its beauty. Unique in terms of the sense of history, which overwhelms you when you’re there. And in no time at all the crowds dispersed, particularly as we climbed above the ruins:
This is the famous Siq, which leads to the even more famous Treasury, revealing it suddenly and dramatically:
And this is the Treasury:
But magnificent as the Treasury is, Petra is about much more. As you wander beyond the Treasury you pass tomb after tomb and then come to this beautiful amphitheatre:
It’s not built, but carved into the rock. And then further on, almost as stunning as the Treasury, but less frequently photographed, is this elaborate tomb:
We spent about four hours wandering and climbing the site as well as buying a couple of souvenirs and drinking some remarkably acceptable coffee at a scruffy little temporary cafe. After, we had lunch – provided as part of the excursion – in The Petra Palace Hotel. It was cold and tasteless. But it hardly mattered. Later, as we arrived back at the ship, and for no particular reason, there were more than twenty waiters serving us complimentary fizz.
Later, despite it having been a long day, six of us, largely from our table, picked up the Cunard Shuttle into Aqaba. There were only us and another couple on it, the remainder possibly having believed the Aqaba Port Lecture, which suggested that the shops all close at 5pm.
Aqaba, was really nice. It’s a real town, but a town on at the seaside and there’s a jolly atmosphere. There’s very little English spoken and using credit cards is not easy. But shops were willing to accept US$ and it felt friendly and safe. After a wander (and a re-stocking of tonic) we found a pleasant courtyard restaurant full of Jordanian families and had a very pleasant meal. For most of us that included barbecued meat, pitta and salad. A beer would have been perfect but, as were all the restaurants we looked at, this one was dry.
But we had a lovely meal, sat outside on a warm but non-humid evening and we were back at the ship by 11, just an hour or so before we departed for the Suez Canal. We ordered cheesecake and Apple Crumble from room service as we made our way back down the Red Sea.