Family Travel – Petra and Wadi Rum with Kids
Living in a developed country where hiking and walking and touristing are easy has turned me into an outdoor person. While my parents were visiting, I of course, dragged everyone along on my treks. Our second big trip was to Jordan. We drove down to the Eilat crossing through Mizpe-Ramon, spent one night in Petra, then continued onto Wadi Rum.
One of three enormous natural craters (as in, not created by meteors) in Israel and Egypt, Mitzpe Ramon was really cool. We paid to go through the museum and visitors center, including a memorial to Israel’s first astronaut. Much more interesting was walking around the top of the cater once we finished at the visitor’s center. It was stunningly beautiful, and an amazing place for a picnic lunch.
I could write pages and pages about the beauty of Peta. We crossed into Jordan at Eilat, a process which was mostly painless. There’s a parking lot at the border where my parents left their rental car, and then Dad and I proceeded on foot across the border, while Bertrand, Mom, and the kids drove. Dad and I caught a cab to Petra on the other side, and off we went!
We checked into Petra Moon Hotel, and were pleasantly surprised at both the size and the comfort of our rooms. It’s true that Bertrand and I paid to upgrade to a “family room,” but our room was even larger than expected. And beautiful! Nicer than the website had promised, that’s for sure. The next morning, we went downstairs for a delicious breakfast (buffet style – English, Arab, and American foods, seriously, it was great), checked out, and stored our bags in a back room at the hotel.
Petra was stunning. After paying for Bertrand’s and my tickets, we went in. Mom and Dad’s tickets were included in their Jordan Pass, and the kids were free. Again, I was glad that we got such an early start because wow. WOW. Petra was packed. We gave into the kids’ demands for a “free” horse ride from the entrance to about 1km into the park. I say “free” because while it’s included in the price of your entrance ticket, it’s basically an opportunity for bedouin hustlers to sell you on paying for more.
Of course we allowed ourselves to be hustled (Theresa’s #1 tip for traveling with kids: open the door when opportunity knocks). We got four horses, doubled the kids up with grown-ups, and set off through a back-country path. I say “back-country” because as we were heading off the tourist trail, a park official started yelling “Forbidden” at us in Arabic. Our guides soothed his ruffled feathers, and off we went. However, the trail was well worn, and had obviously been used frequently.
Two hours later, we saw this stunning vista.
It was beautiful. Amazing.
And next was the walk down. We’d previously refused donkeys for the kids, but our guides called ahead anyway and had two donkeys and their guides meet us at the end of the trail. Wise of them, as there was no way our kids could have done the trek down to the bottom of the mountain on foot. It was challenging for some of the adults too, although more so for the folks we met on the way down who were going up the trail.
The treasury was nice. I mean, not that it wasn’t impressive and amazing and mind blowing, but there were so many people around and so many hustlers and the kids were a hot mess. We didn’t spend a lot of time there. Instead, we walked the shady two km path back to the entrance.
We met our hustlers, I mean guides, on the way out, and they took the kids for one last ride (yes, of course we tipped them).
Petra was cool, and despite the many warnings we’d gotten from travelers about the difficulty of visiting with children, it is 100% doable with young kids (mine are two and four!). Peta’s huge. Insanely large. And there are some amazing hikes for the intrepid. If you are with folks who can’t walk or hike for miles, you can solve the problem by throwing money at it. Pay for horses and donkeys and carriages and donkeys, and you still get to see the major sites.
From Petra, Bertrand drove, and again, Dad and caught a taxi, to Wadi Rum. It was a little better than an hour drive, and we checked in just as it was getting dark (and definltey in time for dinner). We stopped on the way to pick up fruit, bread, and vegetables for snacks the next day, and they came in handy more than once.
Beit Ali, the “camp” we stayed at, is beautiful. It’s outside of the Wadi Rum nature reserve, but there’s not a lot you can’t access from there. We gratefully settled into our “tents,” and got a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we were up bright and early. First, we hiked the hill above the camp and discovered that Jasmine is an adventurous climber! While she may be shy when it comes to strangers, when it comes to finding a path, she is courageous, sometimes more so than we, as parents, would like. And what a view!
Then after breakfast, off to Wadi Rum itself. Man. Those bedouins were hustlers and liars. So much so that it actually detracted from my enjoyment of the trip. As my family’s chief logistician and planner, it’s frustrating to be taken advantage of. In any case, we eventually lined up a camel ride, and set off into the park. We spent a little better than an hour on the camels, just to the first stop and back. Our guides were terribly disappointed that we didn’t want to arrange a jeep tour then and there, but I had a bitter taste in my mouth from earlier, and they couldn’t seem to tell us how and when we would stop to buy lunch during the four hour tour.
So we went back to the camp for lunch, let the kids take a nap (and I got some reading done), then took a jeep ride from the camp in the evening. Our driver, Hussein, was actually one of the main supporting actors in the Oscar-nominated film Theeb. He was a great guide, taking us first to play in some sand dunes, then to Lawrence of Arabia’s cave, “the” mushroom rock, then to the top of some sand dunes to watch the sun set over the dessert.