What Not To Wear: Petra Edition

I went to visit one of the new “Wonders of the World” the other week as part of a trip around Jordan for a friend. Personally, there is little attracting me to Petra anymore – I find monumental architecture far less exciting than a flint scatter in the middle of nowhere. But first-time visitors to the country always want to see it, and it’s hard to wiggle oneself out of that trip.

The two-day visit to Petra couldn’t have come at a better time than just before the New Year: the weather was perfect for long walks through the city, not cold and with enough sunshine to freshen up my tan with a new layer of red-turned-brown. Unlike last year, there wasn’t even a threat of snow or the danger of being cut off from the world because all the roads were washed away. But if I had thought that I would be spared the inexplicable clothing decisions of Western tourists, I was quite wrong. At least there weren’t any women in shorts and tank tops, as tends to happen during the hot summer months despite warnings that such attire would really not be appropriate in Jordan.

Petra SiqJerash StreetThe problem, this time around, was much more the lack of appropriate walking gear than the lack of clothes on one’s back. Petra is not a museum with linoleum floors and wheelchair ramps; in fact, if you’re in a wheelchair, tough luck, as you probably won’t even make it to the entrance gate. In many ways, despite the development of the area for tourism, Petra is still rather wild. The siq contains some stretches of the Roman cobbled street, which – like, for example, the colonnaded street in urban Jerash – is not something for high heels or weak ankles (or indeed horse carriages, but that doesn’t stop anybody from trying). And that’s the easy part of the site. While the main route through the ancient city is fairly well “paved” by thousands of feet every day, some of the most rewarding places you can see in Petra are found at the top of hundreds of stairs cut into the soft sandstone.

“950 stairs to the monastery, madame! Take a donkey up, just 20 minutes! Walk 1 hour!”

It’s not a hard walk up to the Monastery, just a little steep if you’re out of shape, and a little pressured by the faster climbers in the group and the masses of donkeys carrying fat people to the top. And it’s definitely worth it; if not for the archaeology, then certainly for the amazing views across the Wadi Arabah. But it’s not the staircase to the upper level of the museum. Every tour leader will tell you that; every guidebook will warn you about that. And yet there’s people in footwear that I wouldn’t recommend for visiting “tamed” archaeological sites anywhere.


Riding BootsWearing riding boots (and see-through riding pants) when climbing – not donkey-riding – up to the Monastery.


Nobody looks twice if you’re appearing a little rough and disheveled from your long hikes around Petra. There’s no 5-star restaurants at the top of the stairs that you need to be dressed like a mannequin for. A cup of tea is 1 JD for everybody. If you fall on your ass in white trousers, which you most likely will in those boots, you’ll look like an idiot for the rest of the day, and you’re probably not going to get the red sand out for a few washes yet.

I wonder if it is a real concern to some people to distinguish themselves from the local appearances.



Handbag and a suede suit.


To be honest, I never understand the handbag thing. You automatically lose one hand because you keep having to hold on to the bag so it won’t slip off your shoulder, which means your balance is off even on level ground. And if you fall, you’ll land flat on your face because one hand alone won’t hold you up.

And a suede suit? It’s not a catwalk! It wasn’t even cold. Although there were a lot of people running around in thick ski jackets and with fleece hats and gloves while the sun was shining brightly down on them. I don’t understand that either. Just because the calendar says it’s winter doesn’t mean it’s freezing cold.




Other amusing clothing decisions include tight jeans that are bound to burst when you need to stretch a little to climb over a boulder (and look, there’s the boots again!) – although it doesn’t look like these particular people on their out ever left the main route; the always-worrying display of bare legs; and those little shoes that will fill up with sand in no time and are rather unlikely to support your ankles across terrain any rougher than the hotel carpet.

I simply don’t get it. How hard is it to pack a decent pair of walking shoes if you’re going on a tour across a massive archaeological site? Or to pack some less revealing clothes that you can actually be active in? Maybe a tour to Jordan should include a Friday-morning trip to the Abdali market to purchase some cheap second-hand clothes for the journey. It would certainly be more of a cultural experience than overnighting at the Movenpick Hotel and be bussed around everywhere without any contact to the local population.


~ by theraaa on January 6, 2008.

5 Responses to “What Not To Wear: Petra Edition”

  1. Welcome to the book club!

  2. Nice post, unfortunately when I visited Petra I was too much of a selfish, whiny, and spoiled pre-teen to enjoy the place. I remember making a huge deal because sand got in my sandals and I didn’t want to walk anymore I just wanted to sit in one place.

    Anyway, were you able to find “shadow of the wind” yet? I’m glad you’ll be joining us in the blogger book club!

  3. Most of the time, sitting in one place watching people is all I want to do.

    I have Shadow of the Wind and have already begun reading it. It’s mesmerizing!

  4. Hey mr.landscape give us a name that we can call you by! is theraaa your name?

  5. That’s Miss Landscape 🙂

    Theraaa has been my online name for 10 years, so let’s keep going with that until I’m all fed up.

    Posting is a bit thin right now, as I’m trying to find the best place to ditch my parents.

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