My watch started beeping at 5 am. FIVE. If it’s not for work, nobody wakes up at five, unless they are boring, old, or both. Or… if they really want to visit Petra but have to get to Wadi Rum by the afternoon.

I like to think of myself as neither boring nor old, so take a guess what my reason was.

View of Petra from the Monastery

One of my best friends, Claire, and I recently had a “reunion to rock the ages” in Jordan. (And, yes, we really did use that term. We are cool.) We only had five days, as Claire has a big kid job, and had a few things on our “must-do” list. Visiting Petra was one of them.

Petra is the ancient capital of the Nabatean people, founded sometime in the 5th century BC. It’s famous for appearing in “Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade.” Oh, and its amazing stone cut architecture, water ducts, and beautiful rose red color.

Donkeys in Petra, Jordan

It is really hard to describe. Essentially, it’s an ancient city with a lot of really old temples and other things carved into sandstone. Not only does it look awesome, but it feels awesome to just be somewhere SO FREAKING OLD.

Since we had to leave that afternoon for a stay in the Wadi Rum desert, Claire and I wanted to get to Petra as early as possible, so that we wouldn’t run out of time.

Enter the five o’clock watch beeping.

Claire drinking water - Petra, Jordan

I’m not going to lie – I was none too happy when my alarm went off. Especially being that we had found the only decent gin and tonics in the entire town (country?) the night before at the Cave Bar.

But, arise we did, and ate a quick breakfast at the Saba’a Hotel. The Saba’a was a really nice place – clean, good location, with a beautiful rooftop balcony – but the male owner was a bit annoying slash creepy. So, single ladies, maybe look elsewhere. To find hostels in Jordan (and everywhere else in the world!), check out HostelWorld.

The Siq - Petra, Jordan

We got to the entrance gate right as Petra was opening (6 am) and handed over a painfully large wad of cash (50 Jordanian dinars, $70 US). Now normally, friends, I would never advise you to wake up at 5 am. Trust me. But this, this is worth it.

The Siq is a narrow canyon that leads into the city of Petra, and walking down it in the early morning was our favorite part.

Horse cart coming through the Siq - Petra, Jordan

It is winding, mysterious, and in the morning light and silence, truly breathtaking. Using our (some would say over-) active imaginations, we pictured caravans and spices, genies and Aladdins. Who knows if Nabateans were even into genies, but we sure were.

There were a few other travelers on our path, but not many. Occasionally, a horse cart would clip-clop down the path, the sounds of its hooves echoing throughout the canyon. Can we say PERFECT?

View of the Treasury - Petra, Jordan

Even when we arrived at the Treasury, the most famed site of Petra (better bust out Indiana Jones on VHS again if you don’t remember it — btw, remember when Burger King gave away Indiana Jones VHS tapes? those were the days), we were able to take photos in peace.

Just us, the camels, and the coolest 18 year old Japanese-Norwegian kid EVER — for proof, look no further than the pix of him dressed up as Indiana Jones, whip and all.

The real Indiana Jones at Petra, Jordan

We then hiked up to the Monastery, which was tiring but rewarding, and ate our lunch up there with great views of the surrounding valleys.

View of the Monastery, Petra

Neither Claire nor I are big “let’s stay and look at every single nook and cranny” people, and after almost five hours in the park, we decided we were good.

We started to make our exit around 11 am. The difference was astounding. People and vendors were milling about everywhere, and it would’ve been impossible to get a photo in front of the Treasury without Johnny Hiker and his five cousins in the background.

The Treasury in the afternoon - Petra, Jordan
The Treasury in the afternoon – a bit hectic!

Not to mention, the sun was high overhead and the heat was beginning to stifle. I would not have wanted to climb to the Monastery in that!

The walk out of the Siq, though, was really what cemented it for me.

The best time to visit Petra is in the early morning.

Gone were the images of camel caravans and jolly Nabateans that we had in our heads. In its place were big groups of German and French tourists bustling around in faux-safari clothes and hiking poles.

The Siq in the afternoon - Petra, Jordan

Quite smugly, Claire and I turned to each other and high-fived. (That’s what happens when you’re friends since you’re five years old.)

Susan and donkey at Petra, Jordan
Of course, one of the five pictures I took of myself is with a donkey.

We dominated Petra by visiting it in the morning, and you should, too. You can thank me later.

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