Photo Essay: Petra, Jordan

Our gregarious guide Mohammad pointed to the intricate carvings on the wall, “It’s a urinal. I need two volunteers.” Naturally, we were picked to do something this humiliating. Facing towards the ‘urinals’ we were suddenly spun around by his hands. My hand touched Audrey’s fingers and at that particular moment I finally clued in to what was going on. This particular area was where marriage ceremonies took place and instead of our entire group laughing at us pretending to use the toilet, we shared the same genuine chuckles over the two of us involved in a mock wedding. Oh, how our families will be disappointed/shocked at having not being invited on our special day ;)

Many archaeological sites and/or UNESCO Heritage sites don’t live up to the hype. When I visited the Taj Mahal in Agra I felt a little underwhelmed. Although it was impressive I expected more. I suppose at times I suffer a little bit from my preconceived expectations: Paris Syndrome except in more exotic locales. However, I must genuinely admit that Petra not only lived up to my expectations – it exceeded them. The sheer size in combination with the impressive architecture helped me channel my inner Indiana Jones ;)

Once called the ‘rose red city’ this ancient Nabataean city in the southern region of Jordan is home to the most famous tourist attraction (Petra) in all of Jordan. The former capital of the Nabataean kingdom from the 6th century BC thrived until it was conquered by the Roman Empire in AD 106. As a thriving center for commerce and trade, Petra flourished until a fateful earthquake devastated the cities infrastructure in AD 663. Saladin’s conquest of the Middle East in 1189, rendered Petra abandoned with its memory lost to the west and east for centuries.

In fact, it wasn’t until the daring Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the – at the time – Bedouin inhabited city that it was put back on the world map. After numerous excavation efforts Petra is now Jordan’s principle tourist attraction since 1929. It’s well known in popular culture as the site where Indian Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed and recently in 2007 it was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the world. A distinction, that in my opinion, was rather tardy.

As a travel photographer, visiting Petra, Jordan is like a boy realizing a childhood dream of visiting a fantasy land.  It was hard to put my camera down; however, I did manage to spend plenty of time taking in Petra with my own two eyes and not just behind the lens.

As a travel photographer, visiting Petra, Jordan is like a boy realizing a childhood dream of visiting a fantasy land. It was hard to put my camera down; however, I did manage to spend plenty of time taking in Petra with my own two eyes and not just behind the lens.

The moment I realized the treasury was mere meters in front of me is one of the most distinct memories I have from Petra, Jordan.

The moment I realized the treasury was mere meters in front of me is one of the most distinct memories I have from Petra, Jordan.  Another top moment was hiking the monastery in Petra.

This is the iconic image from Petra, Jordan - a wide angle perspective shot of the treasury.  You won't have this place to yourself though as hoards of tourists, camels and even cats all compete for space.

This is the iconic image from Petra, Jordan – a wide angle perspective shot of the treasury. You won’t have this place to yourself though as hoards of tourists, camels and even cats all compete for space.

I've seen this man many times in photo galleries from other friends who have been to Petra.  It was almost surreal getting to take his photo.

I’ve seen this man many times in photo galleries from other friends who have been to Petra. It was almost surreal getting to take his photo.

The echoing sound of galloping horses is one in which you'll learn to familiarize yourself with when visiting Petra.

The echoing sound of galloping horses is one in which you’ll learn to familiarize yourself with when visiting Petra

A final shot I took (and edited in sepia) just before sunset.

A final shot I took (and edited in sepia) just before sunset.

Well, how could we resist not taking a lovey dovey couple shot in Petra, Jordan for our future grandchildren ;)

Well, how could we resist not taking a lovey dovey couple shot in Petra, Jordan for our future grandchildren ;)

This man isn't nearly as imposing as he seems.  In fact, I just had to pay him a small fee in order for him to let me pass.  He even let me take his photo ;)

This man isn’t nearly as imposing as he seems. In fact, I just had to pay him a small fee in order for him to let me pass. He even let me take his photo ;)

I often had to remind myself to turn around and look back.  Petra is so grand and massive that you forget sometimes to check your surroundings from the rear.

I often had to remind myself to turn around and look back. Petra is so grand and massive that you forget sometimes to check your surroundings from the rear.

There were no shortage of animal powered transportation options; however, mule certainly seemed less attractive of an option than going by camel or horseback.

There were no shortage of animal powered transportation options; however, mule certainly seemed less attractive of an option than going by camel or horseback.

No photo essay of mine would be complete with an obligatory shot of a roaming cat.  This one was slinking around some trinkets being sold outside of a small shop.

No photo essay of mine would be complete with an obligatory shot of a roaming cat. This one was slinking around some trinkets being sold outside of a small shop.

The architecture and especially the intricate carvings boggle my mind.  At this point in the day we were exhausted from all of the walking we had done.  Worse yet was that the heat was really getting to us; however, we didn't want to miss out on climbing the steps to get a closer look.

The architecture and especially the intricate carvings boggled my mind. At this point in the day we were exhausted from all of the walking we had done. Worse yet was that the heat was really getting to us; however, we didn’t want to miss out on climbing the steps to get a closer look.

HDR photography came in handy every once in a while given the contrast between the harsh shadows and bright highlights.

HDR photography came in handy every once in a while given the contrast between the harsh shadows and bright highlights.

Fancy a camel ride?  A few days later we rode camels from our Bedouin camp grounds to the area where we'd eventually have breakfast.  Camels = 1, Sam and Audrey = 0  To say these lumbering beasts tenderized us would be quite the understatement.

Fancy a camel ride? A few days later we rode camels from our Bedouin camp grounds to the area where we’d eventually have breakfast. Camels = 1, Sam and Audrey = 0 To say these lumbering beasts tenderized us would be quite the understatement.

The rewards of climbing steps were that we had a great vantage point view over Petra.  On the right you'll notice many trinkets for sale.

The rewards of climbing steps were that we had a great vantage point view over Petra. On the right you’ll notice many trinkets for sale.

Aside from Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, I've never visited an archaeological site that lived up to its hype and impressed me as much as Petra, Jordan.  I only wish I had more time to explore its vast expanse.

Aside from Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, I’ve never visited an archaeological site that lived up to its hype and impressed me as much as Petra, Jordan. I only wish I had more time to explore its vast expanse.

As a travel photography tip, don't forget to look up at your surroundings.

As a travel photography tip, don’t forget to look up at your surroundings.

This Bedouin man was waiting on his camel for a tourist to come along an accept his offer for a ride.

This Bedouin man was waiting on his camel for a tourist to come along an accept his offer for a ride.

Our surprise wedding at Jordan, Petra was something we'll never forget.  Our families I'm sure won't either ;)

Our surprise wedding at Jordan, Petra was something we’ll never forget. Our families I’m sure won’t either as in the sense they weren’t invited ;)

In order to get a sense of the sheer size of these grounds, I've used people in the background as a scale.

In order to get a sense of the sheer size of these grounds, I’ve used people in the background as a scale. With more time I would have liked to have had the opportunity to explore more of the frontier areas of the city; however, with just half a day I think I made the most of my time here.

Petra, Jordan Travel Video

For this trip we partnered with My Jordan Journey.

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew Karsten December 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I think my favorite shot here is the one at the top of the climb where you can see the whole landscape.
Congratulations on the wedding! ;)

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 1:22 am

Thanks Matt! Best day of my life getting married and all ;)

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Maria December 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Sam you’re right on the money with your comment that time in Jordan is like realizing a childhood dream of visiting a fantasy land.
At least, from your photos it certainly looks that way.

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 1:28 am

Thanks Maria!

This is one place I’m dying to revisit again – hopefully soon :)

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Heather December 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm

These are great, Samuel! I love the unexpected camera angles, looking up at the camels and getting up close with the ruins. It’s nice to know that the site lived up to the hype! Now I want to go more than ever :-)

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:36 am

Thanks Heather!

I sure hope you get to go soon :)

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Ivana December 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Wow wow wow, the architecture is just spectacular!!!
And the orange colour is something that would make me walking there with open mouth the whole time.

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:41 am

Thanks Ivana!

It’s definitely a destination worth adding to your bucket-list :)

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Cheryl Howard December 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Beautiful photos as well. So glad you got to live out your childhood dream. And cute mock wedding. :D

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:44 am

Thanks Cheryl! We couldn’t stop laughing about the mock wedding ;)

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Natasha von Geldern December 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm

God how awesome, I really want to go! Beautiful and personal angles on a much-photographed subject.

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:44 am

Thanks Natasha! I hope you’ll be able to go soon :)

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Tiffany December 21, 2013 at 2:12 am

Great photos. That was an awesome post.

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:44 am

Thank you Tiffany :)

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Sam December 21, 2013 at 2:58 am

Awesome essay guys!
Love Petra! Its on the “one day” list!

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:35 am

Thanks Sam,

Definitely considering bumping it up the list a bit – it’s worth it ;)

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The Travel Liz December 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Awesome photos!
( :

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:35 am

Thank you Liz :)

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Nancy December 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I very much enjoyed your post. I have been fascinated with Petra for years. It is on our list of must see places. We have traveled with our family to 16 countries in the last year, but have not made it there yet. Do you think that a 7 year old would be able to handle it?

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:33 am

Hey Nancy,

I think it’s a destination that is accommodating enough for kids. I can imagine children would love visiting Petra and also camping out with the Bedouins in the desert.

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Nita December 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Wow!! Truly impressive. All amazing pictures and what a fantastic vdo too; the meow meow song made me laugh! I’ really want to visit Jordan even more now :) Enjoyed your post!

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Samuel Jeffery December 22, 2013 at 2:32 am

Thanks Nita,

I get a bit nutty when I’m around cats ;) I definitely recommend visiting Jordan soon if you get the chance!

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Lisa Niver Rajna December 22, 2013 at 7:09 am

Sam,
Thanks for reminding me how great Petra is. I want to go back to Jordan and visit more places.
I have to admit the lovey dovey shot is MY FAVORITE! Glad to see you enjoying yourselves!
Happy Holidays!
Lisa
We Said Go Travel

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Samuel Jeffery December 23, 2013 at 8:21 am

Thank you Lisa!

Happy holidays to you as well :) I hope you’ll get a chance to revisit again soon :)

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Londoner Kate December 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Oh wow the colours and contrast in these shots are stunning. I’ve clearly been missing out on your photo blog for too long!

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Samuel Jeffery December 23, 2013 at 8:27 am

Thank you Kate! I’m hoping to share more photos from Jordan soon :)

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Muza-chan December 22, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Great photos, Samuel…

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Samuel Jeffery December 23, 2013 at 8:23 am

Thank you!!! :)

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Laura @Travelocafe December 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm

As usual your photos are amazing! I have also enjoyed very much the video on Petra and the CATS… OMG! The CATS! LOL!

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Samuel Jeffery December 27, 2013 at 12:18 am

Thanks Laura!

It’s an amazing place to visit and it’s also a great place to pet cats…haha

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Derek Cullen December 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm

You’re right it is truly exhausting the place is huge, god I wish now I spent more time trying to capture better pics. These completely put them to shame lol Pic number 3 is fantastic, Good job and congratulations!
Derek

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Samuel Jeffery December 27, 2013 at 12:23 am

Thanks Derek,

I was really lucky to have good weather on the day that I went. I hope you’ll get a chance to revisit again soon!

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Jenna December 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I enjoyed the perspectives you used here, especially the one looking up at the camels. What an amazing place!

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Samuel Jeffery December 27, 2013 at 12:01 am

Thank you Jenna! It sure is an amazing place :)

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Shing December 27, 2013 at 12:32 am

Orgasmical photos! Exploring Petra last year is one of my all-time travel highlights – don’t you think walking through the Siq to the Treasury is the perfect way to built a sense of anticipation??

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Samuel Jeffery December 27, 2013 at 12:33 am

Shing,

I agree with you! It’s such a magical place. I really want to return again soon.

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Kieu December 27, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Love the colors- Petra is high on my list!!

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Samuel Jeffery January 10, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Thanks Kieu! It’s an amazing place. Hope you guys get to go soon :)

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andrea December 30, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Amazing photos! congrats :)) great memories of Petra, hope to go back one day :)) Happy Holidays!

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Samuel Jeffery January 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Thanks Andrea!

It sure is an amazing place. Happy New Year!

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Ruann (Solo Travel Uncut) January 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

Wow! What an experience it must have been. Things often look less impressive on photos than they really are, but each one of these speak tales of majestic architecture and scenery that’s leaving me speechless. Great photo essay man!

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Samuel Jeffery January 10, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Thank you Ruann! It sure was an experience I’ll never forget :)

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Samantha @mytanfeet January 2, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Amazing photos!! Would love to visit one day…looks surreal. Congratulations!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:51 am

It is a surreal kind of place! Hope you can go there soon!

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Aubrey January 2, 2014 at 7:59 pm

And another place added to my travel bucket list! Gorgeous photos, Petra looks breathtaking. I especially love the second shot, the peekaboo view through the rocks.

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:54 am

Definitely bucket-list worthy! I’d go back again :)

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Angie Away January 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Wow, the angle on your first photo just allowed me to get a glimpse of your excitement, almost like I was right there next to you. From the architecture to the people, it is just all very beautiful in every way.

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:56 am

Thanks Angie!

Coming around that corner is something I’ll never forget. I really hope I get a chance to return again someday.

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Jorja Alcorn January 4, 2014 at 11:59 am

Petra, Jordan is always been my dream place to visit. The carved structure is so surreal and fantastic which makes me think at first that it is not true. Such a great place!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 6:02 am

I have to agree with you Jorja. I couldn’t believe how detailed and intricate the carvings were. I can only imagine how it must have been before it became ruins.

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Stephanie January 5, 2014 at 4:24 am

Petra is on my travel wishlist for this year. Your photos and words are beautiful. Makes me more excited!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 6:01 am

Thank you Stephanie!

I sure hope your plans come true and you do go this year :)

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ardun January 8, 2014 at 5:09 am

Great shots Sam! My wife and I went to Jordan in April last year and loved it. The views from the Monastery were epic too!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:57 am

That’s cool! I’m guessing it was a lot warmer during that time of year!

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Steve @ Travelling Cheaply January 8, 2014 at 8:44 am

Ha I can never think of Petra without instant images of Indian Jones – The lost Crusade coming to mind! :)
The perspective on that camel shot blew my mind! Ha

Looks like you guys had a wicked time!

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Samuel Jeffery January 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Thanks Steve!

I’m dying to get back again soon :)

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apol | Wanderful Together.com January 11, 2014 at 8:07 am

Have to save a lot for this!
I think I’ll love Petra more than Angkor Wat!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:59 am

I honestly think I like Petra more than Angkor Wat having been to both.

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Barbara January 11, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Stunning photography and I loved the video as well. Congratulations on your wedding, what a spectacular way to start your married lives together!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 4:50 am

Thanks Barbara :)

What a funny marriage it would have been had it actually be real ;)

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Erin January 16, 2014 at 9:08 pm

What a magical place. How long do you recommend visiting Petra and the surrounding areas?

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:43 am

Erin,

For Petra I’d recommend at least two days. If you’re pressed for time I would then head to Wadi Rum for a couple of days in the desert :)

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Brit February 12, 2014 at 10:19 am

Amazing pictures! Makes me want to go. My favorite is the sepia shot. The light is beautiful. Also, congratulations on the wedding. (smile)

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Samuel Jeffery February 12, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Thanks Brit! Hahaha, we didn’t plan on getting married there but you know how that goes…

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Alyssa March 3, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Love these pictures! You really have a talent. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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Samuel Jeffery March 4, 2014 at 5:45 am

Thank you Alyssa!

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Mike of Mapless Mike March 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Beautiful photographs, Samuel! I’m newer to your site and have very much enjoyed all your stories and photos. I’ll be taking a leap of faith and quitting my job and starting my own adventure soon of teaching English in Spain. Reading your site has removed any hesitation or worries I’ve had. Thank you!

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Samuel Jeffery March 4, 2014 at 10:59 pm

That’s awesome Mike! Congrats on taking the leap :)

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Yana March 13, 2014 at 3:56 am

Posts like these makes me regret not appreciating Petra when i went there….I guess i’ll have to go back ;)

BTW, weddings and all…My mother was offered 150 camels by a jordanian in Petra if she agreed to give me to him. Yeap.

Congrats!

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Samuel Jeffery March 13, 2014 at 11:36 am

LOL, 150 camels! That’s quite an offer ;)

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Vid March 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Hey Sam,

Such wonderful pictures. My favourite has to be of the sun coming up behind the rocks/wall. Brilliantly captured. When we went to Petra, it was a half day trip. I really wanted to stay overnight to capture the place at night. There are just way too many people during the day, don’t you think ? (from a photography point of view).

Would love to return some day. And Oh, BTW, congratulations to you and the Mrs. ;)

Cheers

Vid

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Samuel Jeffery March 18, 2014 at 2:06 am

Thanks Vid,

Indeed, early in the morning and late at night would be the best times to go. Apparently at night there is hardly anyone!

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Christine |GRRRL TRAVELER March 22, 2014 at 6:06 am

Funny mock marriage story! And what a wonderful site. Your photos capture it well!

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Samuel Jeffery March 23, 2014 at 1:39 am

Thanks Christine! It is one of those places that totally lives up to the hype :)

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Sonia May 27, 2014 at 9:14 am

Great pics!
We had a lovely time in Jordan as well – here is the link to my blog…hope you enjoy it:
http://tickingthebucketlist.blogspot.in/2014/04/jewels-of-jordan-floating-on-dead-sea.html

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Mary @ Green Global Travel July 24, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Stunning photos! It looks like it was an incredible visit, and the “marriage” was a cute touch! Thanks for sharing your trip!

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