Sandalled feet crunched in the gravelly, dusty path leading towards the Siq. Voices murmured and orangey light flickered inside brown paper bags guiding a path towards the lost city of Petra, and the wonderful experience of Petra at Night.
After a day spent wandering amidst the rose-red rocks of the otherworldly Petra, there was only time for a quick dip, shower and giant Middle Eastern feast before it was time to return for Petra at Night, an experience that surpassed by expectations even more than Petra had done earlier that day.
Petra at Night seduced me the first time I read about it. The candles, the music, the photo-opps sounded like an amazing experience, although I wondered if the reality would live up to the hype.
After seeing the wonder of Petra in the baking heat, I was ready to be wowed yet again.
We gathered inside the main entrance to Petra before being led into the darkness.
Seeing the path lit by endless golden bags of candles was so beautiful. Walking in the darkness was a bit of a challenge at times, as certain parts of the path were more rocky and uneven than others, but take it slow and steady and you should be fine!
In the daylight, the scale of Petra’s towering rock passageway makes you feel dwarfed. At night, the darkness has the same effect.
The rows of candles were glowing, romantic and more than a little magical. We followed their path into the Siq passageway and through the ancient rocks. The walk was quiet and with an air of expectation, all the while I was waiting to hear the traditional Bedouin music I had read about.
Soon we were emerging from the rocky ravine to the open area housing the famous Treasury, (the massive monument carved into the sandstone rock, made famous from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). A sea of candles greeted us and we were invited to sit in rows on mats.
Although the candlelight was too small to light up the Treasury’s imposing facade, our memory from earlier that day filled in the blanks. Knowing it was there, behind a curtain of darkness added to the enchanting feeling.
We sat cross-legged in the dirt as we waited for the rest of the group, the sea of glowing lights spread out before us like a warm blanket.
As soon as the stragglers were settled, tea was handed out from a large round tray carefully carried through the rows of people, the steam visible in the darkness.
And then came the music. A man began playing a flute with a tin whistle-like sound, its haunting melody filling the night air.
As a photography addict, it was a nice change of pace to sit in the darkness and not be thinking of capturing the moment.
With travel, especially long term travel, it can be easy to let the special moments pass you by, and it is only in retrospect that those moments become important travel memories. But sitting in the dark and the candles in Petra, I was fully immersed in the moment, knowing that it was one that would stay with me.
After the final note stretched into the darkness, echoing off the pink rocks, a man stood amongst the candles and told us a little about the history of Petra and the Bedouin people, and about the meaning of the music we had just heard. Then, lights briefly lit up the Treasury’s facade , the perfect finale to a perfect experience.
One negative note on the whole experience was there were a couple of people who were quite disrespectful during the event. Before the music started, the man asked everyone not to take flash photography. He even got everyone to count to three and use their flashes at the same time so we could try capture the Treasury and get it out of our systems. Despite this, people kept using their flash throughout the performance, which was pretty rude.
A couple near us kept making smart comments when the man was talking, and being really obvious that they thought the whole thing was stupid. I found this incredibly rude and mean. So, if you’re heading to Petra at night, try not to be that kind of person!
Petra by Night
Tickets for Petra by Night can be purchased at the Visitor Centre. We got ours as we were buying our day pass. You should get to Petra by around 20:15 pm. It’s much cooler at night than during the day, so you might want to bring a scarf, although the walk heats you up.
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
20:30 – 22:30 pm
17 JD, $24 USD, €21.50
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