Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Petra by Night? More like Petra by DOWNPOUR!


Petra by Night is a lovely introduction to Petra — you visit the famed Treasury while it’s illuminated by candlelight as soft music plays and they serve tea.

Under normal circumstances, it looks like this:

Image: Debraj

It didn’t exactly happen that way for me.

The weather had been good all week, but it began to rain lightly as we arrived in Petra.  My guide Ibrahim grabbed me a scarf and told me that despite the rain, Petra by Night would in all likelihood still happen.

Ibrahim dropped me off with a group of young backpackers (“All of you, take care of my daughter!” he called out as he walked away.  “Thanks, Dad — see you in a bit!” I returned) and we made our way to the Siq.

It was a lengthy, dark journey to the Treasury.  As I mentioned in past Petra posts, the walk to the Treasury is a long one — you walk through a winding and winding Siq, feeling like you’re at the bottom of a canyon, and it will probably take you around 30 minutes.

At night, this path is covered with lanterns: candles inside paper bags.  It was easy to find our way through the Siq with these lights to guide us, and I chatted with the backpackers, who, like many tourists, were visiting Jordan in conjunction with an Egypt trip.

It was still raining lightly — not quite enough for an umbrella, so I simply bundled my scarf around my head and kept walking.

And there it was: my first glimpse of the Treasury.

Only as we walked in, it had begun to rain much harder.

What had started out as mildly annoying had become irksome — I was getting soaked through my jacket and freezing cold.  My umbrella was up, but most people didn’t pack these, and they were huddling together along the edge of the rocks.

And then the ridiculous thing happened: we were actually invited INTO the Treasury.

I didn’t know it at the time, but getting invited into the Treasury is a VERY rare occurrence and should be treated as a special opportunity.

At that point, sh*t just got real.  Thunder rang out and it began downpouring as lightning flickered overhead.

How on Earth were we supposed to get back?!

At any rate, the locals didn’t seem panicked.  They went on with the music show and served us tea, which I downed in a gulp.

Soon after, we were released.  I knew that if there were an emergency, they could drive in trucks if they needed to.  Maybe they’d do that with us.

Nope.  We were released and told that we could walk back.

The only problem?  The Siq had flooded.

Picture this scene: what was once a narrow but mostly dry canyon had now, essentially, become a furiously flowing ankle-deep river.  The lanterns were long gone — with no shielding from the rain and water, the entire region has gone pitch black.

And we had to walk back through 1.5 kilometers of THAT.

I stupidly hadn’t brought my flashlight, so I used my phone to navigate the pathway through the Siq, jumping around the deeper parts of the river.  (A smarter decision: wearing waterproof hiking boots.)  I splashed around and ducked the sheets of water, trying to keep myself from tripping on hidden rocks.

The Siq is in danger of flooding whenever it rains.  And I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to find my way out — or worse, that I would end up trapped inside as the river rose higher and higher.

And then, after countless twists and turns and screams and impromptu waterfalls and refreshes of my iPhone screen, I burst out of the Siq.  From here on, I knew I’d be safe.

I returned to our meeting point soaked to the bone.  I didn’t have to say a word.  Rami, my driver, took one look at me and began giggling.

“Yes, I thought it would rain,” Ibrahim said.  “It rains in winter.”

“Then why did you let me go in there?!” I admonished him, smacking him on the arm.

“Tomorrow will be better,” Ibrahim told me.  “It only rains at night.”  He was right.  The next day was lovely.

Okay.  If you are planning on attending Petra by Night — and particularly if you’re planning on visiting during the colder months (I went in November), please pay CLOSE attention to the weather.  Wear waterproof boots and bring a flashlight, no matter what.

As cool as it was to get to set foot inside the Treasury, I wouldn’t recommend Petra by Night in the rain.  In better weather, I’m sure it’s absolutely lovely.

Though we didn’t know it at the time, my friend Lily from Explore for a Year was there, too!  Read her account here.  You can see me in the fifth photo!

Many thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board for hosting me in Jordan.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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11 Responses to “Petra by Night? More like Petra by DOWNPOUR!”
  1. Amanda says:

    I was going to say, “I feel like I’ve read this before…” Haha, but that’s because I read Lily’s version! Crazy that you both were there and didn’t even know it!

  2. Lily Leung says:

    Hi Kate,

    Thanks for sharing this story – it’s so interesting to read someone else’s account of the same event! It’s hilarious we were both there on the same night without knowing it, but I’m glad we saw each other again the next day, even if briefly 🙂

    – Lily

    P.S. Where in the fifth photo on my post are you?!

  3. Rich says:

    Hey Kate,
    A very nice post. When I was in Petra, it was quite hot, and at night they sprayed massive amounts of chemicals for the flies. I know this because we spent the night there illegally, and I, as an American, was reported missing to the CIA.
    Part I Indiana Jones Stays Illegally in Petra
    Part II The CIA Investigates the Missing American
    You can read about our Petra adventure at these links.

    PS- I cannot believe you got INTO the treasury Kate! so LUCKY 🙂 truly, I am a tad jealous

  4. I wonder how many times per year they get rain like that? You must have had a unique experience. I too had a strange experience at Petra by Night which you can read about on this link if you wish.


  5. Petra and the Treasury is somewhere i have always dreamt of going! Ill try to go during the day or pray it doesnt rain at night 🙂

  6. Kemal Kaya says:

    It was a very busy trip indeed but very much worth it. The next day I went to Petra, climbed the 1000 steps to the monastery. Took a lot of pictures there too and I share a selection of those pics soon on my blog.

  7. Sim B says:


    I absolutely luv your post. I will be going to Jordan and was wondering whether you would pass on your guides details? Or maybe some advise on where to find a great guide

    Thanks for your help

  8. Jenni says:

    I’m currently looking into this but think I might skip the night tour now and go in the day instead the thought of getting trapped in a flood must of been scary

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