Stalling Tactics (A blog about Petra, Pt.II)

This is Part Two of a Three Part post about Petra in Jordan. To read the first part, click here.

Tomb in PetraAll the guidebooks plead with you not to enter ancient sites without paying, as the money is needed to conserve the area. Well I say bollocks to that! If they’re going to charge £50 to get in, I think everyone should go to see Petra without paying. Boycott the box office. That might convince ‘em to be more careful about biting the hand that feeds them. Or robbing it blind.

The tombs at Petra have stood for more than 2,000 years. The place has hardly changed. It’s been attacked and conquered, sacked and relieved, stolen, lost and rediscovered by every civilisation this part of the world has known. Despite it being low season, the car park was rammed out with tour buses, at least fifty I reckoned. If just a thousand of us were there that day, the authorities had made fifty grand. What the hell kind of conservation they were undertaking on that budget? Building a life-size replica out of Lego?

Most of the tombs were closed anyway. No explanation was given – just steel or plastic barriers stretched across the entrance of all the most popular tombs mentioned in our guidebook. ‘With a funeral chamber in the upper story, it’s a must-see…’ the book gushed. Nope. A mustn’t see. A soldier with an AK47 was lounging against the entrance to Tomb #67.

“I want to go inside,” I complained.

“No. Is closed.” And he patted his gun.

Had I paid to get in I’d have wanted to swear at him, point out that I’d just paid his wages for two days of sitting there, stroking his weapon, telling people what they couldn’t do. But I hadn’t, so I didn’t.

The injustice continued on the souvenir stalls. Yes, an experienced haggler could barter a deal that made both sides think they’d won, but that wasn’t really the point; this is Petra: recognised globally (even if it is because of Indiana Jones), if not a Wonder of the ancient world then certainly a marvel. But it’s also a market. Hundreds of stalls line the trek through the canyon, selling buckets of fake silver jewellery and shitty beady necklaces. It would have been interesting, if every tourist site I’d visited so far hadn’t been lined with identical stalls selling identical ‘hand-made Bedouin products’. I was starting to think that these mysterious Bedouin were bloody productive, given that there were only a handful of them scattered around the remotest parts of the country. And as closer inspection of the trinkets revealed, at least some of them now lived in China.

I struggled to comprehend the depth of the scam; they charge us such a ludicrous sum of money to get in here that we don’t dare leave until we’ve walked every square metre of the place. Then they fill roughly 50% of those square metres with irritating locals trying to sell us stuff. Presumably they take a cut, in the form of licensing these people to continually harass the paying guests. So we’ve basically bought a ticket into an enclosed version of the tourist-scamming hell we’ve been trying to escape since we set foot in the country! Oh, somebody, somewhere high up in a Jordanian government building, is laughing into his quail omelettes.

Stall selling junk in PetraWe sped through the site barely pausing at the tombs, intent on making the furthest part of Petra before the crowds. There were steps we wanted to climb – eight hundred of them. They wound up the gorge to a distant plateau where the most impressive structure – the Monastery – was carved into the side of a mountain. The views were legendary and the trail, gouged out of the rock by hand centuries ago, was twisted and torturous. Precipitous, even, bordering on the downright scary. One one side, then the other – or occasionally on both – vertical drops for hundreds of feet led to a nasty finish on a carpet of fallen boulders. Narrow, steep, uneven – all these words were redefined by these monumental steps. Eight hundred – that’s about sixty-four floors of your average building. I loved every minute of it.

Well, apart from the stalls which lined the entire route.

What IS it about these people? WHY do they think I want to buy their shit? I had just run the gauntlet of over a dozen tatty stalls pushing exactly the same crud. At each, a fistful of filthy merchandise was thrust in my face and a voice pleaded with me to pay for it. I repeatedly fended them off whilst shouting “No, NO!” in five languages – one of which was even their own. So what in all the hells makes the stall holder at pitch #13, watching my progress from his ragged awning, think “Eh up! This guy looks keen…”

By stall thirty I’d started swearing at them. By stall ninety I’d run out of swear words and my throat was full of sand. Luckily enough stall ninety-five or so seemed to be selling cans of cheap cola – no doubt for the price of a Stella in a swanky Soho night-club. But between me and the outrageously priced beverages lay at least four more stalls. I could see the owners rubbing their hands in glee. “This one’s lost the will to fight already,” they were saying to themselves, “he hasn’t cursed anyone for ten stalls! Perhaps he will buy my shit just to shut me up. Quick! Rasheed! We must be extra persuasive…”

A young Arab clucked to his donkey as he rode down, leaning back against the incline. Sure-footed, the donkey plodded down step after step, picking a path so precarious it had me clutching at the rock wall for support. Of course there were no handrails.

“Hire a Porsche?” The man asked as he came level with us. “Air conditioned, see!” He waved his hand above the donkey’s ears.

I had to smile. “Sir, your Porsche is trying to eat my hat.”

With a chuckle he was off, slapping the ass of his… ass. It paid him no heed, taking its own sweet time to choose the footing.

“I think I’d be more scared doing this on a donkey,” Mum said.

“Me too,” I told her. “But mostly I’d be scared for your donkey.”

I had to run the next few steps.

Four door Sedan, One careful owner, Only 8,000,000 stairs on the clock

To Be Concluded…

18 thoughts on “Stalling Tactics (A blog about Petra, Pt.II)

  1. Yes, upon careful inspection of my “Genuine Bedouin Handmade Jewelery” it was labelled in tiny letters hidden by strings of leaky dried glue from what is blatantly a hot glue gun were the words…”Made in China”
    Sums Petra up really, a stunning wonder of the world worth a visit to marvel at what early humans were capable of building, while fending off an ENTIRE country’s worth of rip-off atrists and scammers! (Including whoever’s greedy idea it was to triple to entry price, putting it out of the reach of 90 percent of backpackers!!)

    1. I just can’t get past the fact that they charge so much to get in, which you would imagine guaranteed you a hassle-free experience – only to find that the inside is a hundred times worse than the outside, and you can’t get out or you miss the whole point of being in the country in the first place, namely Petra! Argh! Still, it was pretty!

  2. Ruins images are really amazing. When I completed reading at the bottom got surprised with 8,000,000 stairs on the clock. Looking forward for the next part in this section.


    1. Thanks! I’ll be posting the next piece on Monday, followed by some more posts about the rest of my trip to Jordan. I might also do a photo blog with some of the photos I didn’t use here – I ended up with almost 2000 pictures!

  3. Looks like you never got around to writing that Part 3 (ran out of money due to the Petra entrance fees?). Visited Petra a few years ago when it was that JD20 or less (it seemed like a lavish expenditure at the time, but now sounds quite a bargain in comparison). Plenty of grumbles from myself about the general tackiness too (trash ditched in caves, noise from generators running cold drink fridges right next to Al Khazneh, reverberating through the siq and the wider site, tacky sellers etc).

    Mind you, the town of Wadi Musa was kind of telegraphic of what was to come. What a dive that place is! Over the coming hours Petra began to grow on me though, despite the tackyness of that central route. I found that once you moved off that kind of ‘funnel of junk’ into side wadis and higher places, it was a different world. Much later in the day is also a good time to head to the area known as The Monastery too, because the warm setting sun shines on the stone, virtually everyone else has headed back to their hotels in Wadi Musa and sellers are already packed up.

    It means wandering back almost in darkness of course, but just moving into different areas and at different times makes all the difference. Very soon I’m heading back to Jordan briefly en route to Egypt, but I’m not sure if I’ll head to Petra again now the cost being so high (as they were in Wadi Rum, too). My only alternative is to perhaps attempt to get in there ‘unofficially’. After all, it is not like I ‘never’ payed them.

    1. Hi Alex! So sorry I missed your comment way back when! Yeah, I got behind with a lot of other projects and never finished this blog – but then, at the time I thought I only had two readers – and one of those was my mum!
      I have no problem whatsoever with skipping the entry fees – when they’re as ridiculous as that, it just serves them right! Petra is the kind of pace that would be simple enough to get into by going the long way around – but for that you’d need a guide through the desert… yeah, perhaps ‘simple’ was a bad choice of words there!
      Egypt is the polar opposite – although their tourist destinations are equally crowded, everything is reasonably-to-cheap – and as a consequence I spent far more money in Egypt than in Jordan! The thing about Jordan is there are so many sites, and although Petra is the famous one (entirely due to Indiana Jones) some of the others are much better, and much cheaper.
      Jerash, north of Amman springs to mind – an entire Roman city, some of it so well preserved it’s a wonder there aren’t people still trying to live in it! That REALLY blew me way. And I think the entry fee there was about £10. Value for money indeed – we struggled to see it all in a day, and it was truly awesome stuff. My vote for the smart money in Jordan is right there!
      Hope you carry on reading Alex!
      All the best,

  4. Hey, nicely written. Wouldnt you like to share how you’d managed to come in there without Ticket?
    Would be really, really great. Just steals me the money to spend at the Jordanian Economy elsewhere..

    1. We were really lucky! Having dinner the night before, at a cafe in the town near Petra, we sat next to a Australian couple. They’d been into Petra that day, but had walked around like crazy and seen all they wanted to see in one day. They’d bought the two-day tickets, which are much better value, only slightly more expensive that a one-day ticket. They asked if we would like their tickets, to use for the second day. We offered them some money but they were happy just to pass along the ticket! The next day we just pretended to be them – a young couple from Brisbane – and walked straight in! Only my Mum had to pay, so we all split the cost of her ticket three ways. Bargain!
      So, the night before your trip to Petra, hang around the hotel/hostel and chat to people who have been there that day. Surely there will be some who bought the two day ticket and don’t want to go back for a second day – it’s really hard work, walking around there for even one day!

  5. Warning.. Beware of the Jordan Bedouin bezness.
    All the boys from the bedouin village by Petra, Wadi Musa, Wadi Rum are scammers and liars!
    Eamad, Ghassab, Khaled Albdoul, Athman Salm, Ahmed Alfaqeer, Mohammed Alfaqeer, Mohammed Ali Albdoul and Ahmed known as Johnny Deep.
    Their business is to fool and cheat all the girls they can into falling in love with them.
    They do it for business – to get sex and money.
    They often have 2-5 foreign girlfriends at the same time. Their family knows and lies as well. All the “nice” people you meet lie! They all lie for each other because they all want something… Gifts, sex, money, phone, computer, cloths, gasoline, a donkey, even camels…The money they get from girls they use to get other girls.
    They will make you believe that they are different from the others and you will see the love in their eyes. But it is not true! Don’t ever trust them! They are all the same. They do anything to fool you!
    They will take you to caves in the mountains, to the most beautiful views, they will make fire and cook for you, take you to their family, dance, drink, watch the sunset and sunrise on a blanket under the ‘shooting stars’.
    They do business with girls! They go with tourists and then they charm the girls to believe that they are in love with them. The truth is that they just want sex. When the girl goes back home, they will make friends with her on facebook, messenger, skype, email or phone. They are on all social media and have a lot of different accounts and names, so all the girls they trick don’t know about all the other girls. They will try to get you to come back to Jordan. And if you go back – they will pick you up in the airport or hotel, but when you leave they go pick up the next girl or a new tourist. If you had sex with one of them please go to your doctor and get tested for all sex diseases (HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea etc.) and Hepatitis B. They are whores, gigolos, scammers, trick thieves and they have sex with all possible. It is like trick rape, so don’t ever think that is true that a Bedouin boy from Petra loves you or want to marry you!
    They will all tell you that you are special and that they love you, but also tell you lies about that their donkey died, their car is broke, their motorbike was stolen, they have to go to the hospital, someone complained about them so they have to go to jail. They often pretend to get into trouble and want you to send money through Western Union. They come up with the craziest stories – Only to get the money from you!!
    They look like Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), most of them have kohl in their eyes, wear scarf’s or have long hair. If you are with your husband or boyfriend they will fool him too, they will let you believe you are his best friend but also try to fuck your wife or girlfriend!
    Names of boys doing this for fulltime business (with variations of their names): Eamad, Ghassab, Khaled Albdoul, Athman Salm, Othman Salm, Mohammad, Ahmed Alfaquer, Alfaqeer, Alfageer, Alfakeer, Mohammed Alfaquer, Alfaqeer, Alfageer, Alfakeer, Mohammed Albdoul, Albdool, Bdool, Bdoul, Mohammed Ali and Ahmed known as Johnny Deep (but they are not the only ones). They are all the same.. All the boys, men, girls, women and kids in the village is making business and living by cheating tourists.
    And you will believe every lie they tell.. They are really good at this business!!
    There are thousands of stories from girls around the world who experienced this, but-
    The government in Jordan knows about this problem but they don’t do anything about it!
    The police know about this problem and should warn all tourists especially in hotels, in Wadi Musa and around the main gate to Petra about these people, but they don’t.
    The embassy and the airport of Amman and Aqaba should warn all women who come, and especially the women that come more than one time, but they don’t!
    Jordan is the ‘peace’ safe country in the Middle East, so they don’t want to destroy that image for the rest of the world.
    It is also good for the Jordanian economy that all these girls keeps coming and it is very bad for tourism if the world knew the truth about the secrets of beautiful Wadi Rum and Petra.
    Join the new group that wants to stop this and tell your story – Share the names and the lies:
    We understand if you want to be anonyms, so create a new anonyms facebook account (like they do!) and join the group. Together we will open this story to the world and try to get the authorities in Jordan to warn about this and stop it!

    1. Wow, that’s pretty harsh! Luckily while I was there I stayed nice and close to my girlfriend. But that sounds scary! And I know this sort of thing happens all over the world, too.

      1. I will not stand up for every guy in Petra, I don’t KNOW them, but I will tell you about ONE guy, Ahmed.
        Even if it bothers me that everyone calls him Johnny Depp, because I think he is a full person, I will too so everybody can know about who I will talk about.
        I already wrote on the FB page, and I will write here the same things.
        What bothers me is that NOBODY is writing with his/her real name except from Ahmed himself. (see
        Another thing that bothers me is that I wrote on Mary Smith’s FB group that I AM HIS GIRLFRIEND NOW and no other girl stood up saying the same…
        So…where are all this girls?
        Please write me, telling me that you are his HABIBTI now as I AM…
        I have plenty skype conversations or pictures showing that…do you?
        Here is my email: feel free to share, nobody is going to kill you…

        You know what is astonishing me?! I haven’t been asked for money, but he paid a lot of money to stay with me in Aqaba and in Amman…

        Again, if you want to ruin somebody’s reputation you should have DETAILS to share with us…
        you say that they will take you to the desert, to have dinner with friends and family, to tha caves to see the shooting stars and the fact that they did this with you and with all girls means that they are treating you as all the others and they probably will scam you…
        I would like to ask you how many others things there are in Petra that you can do…For sure Petra is a beautiful place, but you cannot say there are much more things to do than the ones you describe…

        Moreover that is their life and I am happy I had the opportunity to share it with them.

        I would never say that there are no scammers in Petra because I don’t everybody, so probably what you are doing is the right thing. It is always good to be carefull trying to remain openminded…

    2. Hi Mary I’m Athman Salm and I want you to erase my pictures and the comments that you made about my person because I’m about to sue all of you having in my hands all your IP addresses and how you are as well after a big investigation.

      Just for you to know:

      The Penal Code of Jordan defines defamation and libel to include attaching false accusations to a person or treating a person disrespectfully through speech, writing, drawings, and other forms of communication.

      Jordan’s existing Press and Publications Law, in articles 5, 7, and 38, and the penal code, in articles 122 and 188 to 200, among others, contain numerous content restrictions, criminalizing defamation including libel and slander, including against entities that are not people such as government institutions, symbols, and religions. These laws make violations a criminal offense carrying prison terms, contrary to recent definitive guidance on the right to freedom of expression by the UN Human Rights Committee, in its 2011 General Comment No 34.

      Website editors may be required to take down certain types of offensive comments once they are brought to their attention, but where the volume of comment postings is high, such as on Facebook or Twitter, or the available capacity for reviewing postings is low, such as on personal blogs, it may be unreasonable to expect website managers to preview postings before publication, Human Rights Watch said.

      In cases of defamation of individuals’ reputation [on the internet], given the ability of the individual concerned to exercise his/her right of reply instantly to restore the harm caused, the types of sanctions that are applied to offline defamation may be disproportionate.”

      Even you are talking about the Petra Government let me tell you that you would have imprisoned for six months anyone who made “unjustified” allegations of corruption. In 2010, the government passed a Law on Information System Crimes, which in Article 8 imposed fines of JOD 100 to JOD 2,000 (US$140 to $2,800) for sending or publishing anything defamatory to another person through information systems, including email, text messages, or the internet.

      1. Wow! Dude, that sounds pretty intense… but personally, I would advise you to chill a little, on the threat of legal action. Do you really think it will matter to the world at large what someone comments on a crummy little blog like mine? Is that really worth the effort and considerable expense of an international lawsuit? I mean, I’ve been targeted pretty harshly before – even had a gay porn site created exclusively from my wedding photos, by some nut-job I pissed off in Vietnam. But I’m not going to sue him, am I? That seems like way too much effort. And might even have the opposite effect, of convincing any onlookers that I’m trying to hide something…

  6. Hahaha, all that made me laugh. But aww, you are being at bit harsh. At least the Bdul inside Petra are selling you something, however fake or Chinese it may be.
    There are also plenty of Bduls and Bedouins that go for the female tourists, charm their socks off, fake a relationship until they are blue in the face. BBQ and parties under the moon and the stars, dinners with the family who are oh so warm and welcoming. It’s their favourite pass time as it pays off big time.
    The female tourists goes back home and will be smothered in lovvyduvvy text messages and calls. It works? Okay then he will start sharing all his misfortunes. From his poor donkey/horse/camel that he can’t afford food for/is dying or already dead. To his sick mother that is in hospital every other week, rotting teeth that need to be fixed, and the garage bill that needs to be paid. And off she goes, tapping in 3/4 figures into the Western Union transfer form…to find out a lot lot later, she has been had.

    I do agree with you that Jordan in general is disgustingly expensive, compared to their average wages (400 – 650 JOD). Yes the tourists are charged triple and more, for every single thing, whether you go to a bakery or a small grocery store. even in local shops. There are tourist prices and local prices with a huge difference between the two. Petra/Wadi Musa is worse of all. And by the way if you are an Arab national the entrance fee is dropped drastically. Read somewhere around 13 JD? Dress like an Arab 😉
    Wadi Rum is the place to be, not Petra.

    1. Yeah, that sort of scamming happens all over, especially in the developing world. Hell, I know a few people who fell for something like this in Thailand! Wadi Rum was amazing though, I loved the time I spent there. Even though my camel spent the whole time trying to bite me…

    1. I’m sure it is safe! You’d have to be cautious of course, like anyone traveling alone, specifically a women. But I don’t feel that Wadi Rum is any more dangerous than any other place! You should see the scams in Vietnam, for example! All I would warn against is the romantic interest any local men may show in you. Most of the horror stories I’ve heard relate to Western women starting relationships with dashingly handsome young Jordanian men, and ending up being treated like virtual slaves and/or being robbed. But for a holiday? Should be safe enough!

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