Horseback riding in Jordan : 3 wonderful days in Petra
14 May 2018
Living in Jordan, it would be a shame not to enjoy the wonderful little local arabian horses! Horseback riding in Jordan is really exciting. This is why I tested for you ( and for me 🙂 ) a 3-days hike in and around Petra with a couple of friends.
Outdoor equestrian activities are not really emphasized in Jordan. And worse, many expats and tourists can testify that the animals are sometimes not treated as well as they should be, even if things are improving. And one cannot say that using the horses between the Petra visitor center and the Siq entrance can be called “horseback riding”, as it is only a mean of transportation.
However, good news ! When you dig into it, it is possible to actual horseback riding around, with actual good horses, with an actual guide, with an actual program.
A hike (really) well organized.
Luckily, we crossed the path of Hashem October 2017 during a 4WD itinerary in the northern area of Wadi Rum, which is not really crowdy as it is outside the protected area. He was then horseback riding with half a dozen of female tourists for several days, and all of them seemed delighted with their experience. So I duely took the phone number of Hashem, waiting for a couple of female friends visiting us in Jordan! This visit finally happen at the end of April 2018: so here we are, all three together, eager to do a 3 days horseback riding!
The contact with Hashem was easy from the beginning. He proposed us several tailor-made options, depending on our available time and our location preferences : he offered us the choice between Petra and Wadi Rum. Hence, we took the 3-days pack in Petra, as we attended to the full moon desert marathon in Wadi Rum two days before.
The climax of its program is the Treasury itself. Hashem offers the possibility of riding the horses from the Roman road to the Treasury, and then head through the Siq to exit the site. The only condition is to cross the site very early in the morning, in order to preserve the business of the other bedouins, as far as the animals are concerned (donkeys, camels, and so on…). As a matter of fact, the use of animals is very regulated in Petra, in order to allow the local tribes (B’doul, mostly), to make the most of the tourist game :
- horses from the visitor center to the Siq entrance, or with a carriage to the Treasury (al khazneh)
- camels or donkeys from the Siq exit to the Roman area
- otherwise, donkeys,and especially to climb to the Monastery (ad-deir).
We should have though slept inside Petra protected area. But as you will soon find out, that did not happen as planned…
The horseback riding, day by day:
In order to choose appropriate horses to the riders needs, Hashem met us the day before the hike to explain us the program ans discuss on our actual horseback riding actual level.
Day by day :
Day 1 : at 9 o’clock, we meet Hashem’s team in its stable in Wadi Musa. A taxi brings us to the surroundings of Shobak, where the horses are ready to go. Our backpacks are transfered in a pick-up, we’ll get them back after today’s hike.
We start with a quiet 2 hours-slot on the heights between Shobak and Petra, with a beautiful view of the Wadi Araba all along the path. Lunch break under a shelter from the sun. Stewardship is managed by Hashem’s cousin and uncle, and we ate delicious homemade Jordanian dishes. We have a long break until around 3:30pm, followed by another 2 hours horseback riding final slot for the day. Landscapes around are beautiful, we regularly meet Bedouins living all year long into a tent with their heird. Goats , sheeps and camels punctuate our hike.
In the evening : bivouac in a wadi, in order to shelter from the wind, which will blow quite strong this night. Two tents are allocated to us, and they are spacious enough to feel comfy with all the stuff: mattresses, blankets, sleeping bags…For sure we didn’t feel cold at all! On the menu tonight: lentil soup, barbecued chicken and vegetables. Simply delicious.
Day 2 : Early morning wake up… The wind has turned and is blowing strong. Let’s not hang around too long, we’ll feel better and warmer on a horseback. So let’s go !We begin to approach Petra, which I recognize in its round sandy rocks. We stop shortly at Little Petra. Hashem stays with the horses so that we can (re) discover the small city , on foot. The lunch break will be held under a large Bedouin tent. We leave around 4 pm to enter the protected area of Petra. Here, we’re supposed to sleep at the foot of Mount Aaron (jabal Harun). The sky is unfortunately more and more threatening … The storm finally fell on us, just after crossing Um Sayhoun checkpoint. This village was created in 1985 a few kilometers north from Wadi Musa, in order to “extract” the Bedouins living until then in the historical site of Petra.
Because of the thunderstorm, Hashem is not relaxed. He thus advises us to sleep in a hotel tonight because we nobody knows how long the storm will last. Also, he thinks that dangerous flash floods could occur in the surroudings. So, we take shelter in a Nabataean cave, with camels and donkeys on the verge of going back to the village after work.
A 4WD soon shows up to pick us up. Hashem puts the 4 horses in a caravan, and goes up to Petra through the Siq in order to bring the horses back to the stable. This storm will unfortunately prevent us from sleeping near the temples. And, worst of all, it will not be possible to cross the site on horseback next early morning! Disappointment, but of course, “safety is paramount!”. Also, we learnt afterwards that Petra was entirely evacuated that day by the rangers, all tourists extracted from the site in 4WDs. It took our pick-up an hour to be able to cross a submerged wadi, because of the flood…And Hashem managed to pass through the Siq with water to the knee of the horses .. Even the guards didn’t want him to cross with the horses. In short, it was not a time to put a rider outside!
Two hours later, we can finally join a camp, change ourselves and put on dry clothes! We find a shelter in a camp next to Seven Wonders, on Little Petra. Not the best camp we’ve been in, but every place around is packed with tourists, including the Seven Wonders, which we enjoy and where we usually stay when visiting Petra.
Day 3 : Blue sky…finally ! 🙂 We find our horses in the stable ready for the last day. Direction: the heights of Petra, and especially the high place of sacrifices, which we reach from the top. We leave the horses for a 15 minutes climb. The view on the wadi is just breathtaking. Time to have a last lunch near an olive grove, and we come back to the stables for 3.30 pm, so that we can walk into Petra to finish the day.
The debrief of the hike:
What we liked :
- Awesome landscape, and this feeling of being the only humain beings on Earth
- Hashem’s horses : composed with arabian horses (at 80 % at least). They are adapted to the level of the riders. The three of us have highly appreciated the qualities of our horses.
- Our guide : We took good note of the excellent treatment given by Hashem to his horses : back protected with thick carpets , light Norton saddle, elastic strap, and extra protection for the horses that needed one. Saddles and bridles were put off during the lunch, horses got well fed , and covered by blankets at night. Hashem is open-minded to every subject we want to discuss, and he gave us plenty of historic information on Petra.
- Stewardship: for each break, our backpacks were given to us in case we needed something in it. And food was excellent!
What we didn’t like :
- the limited choice for the canters and gallops, but we were warned before by Hashem: Wadi rum was more suitable than Petra for this kind of pleasure! 🙂
- ..and the weather, but life is life!
Which means that we will definitely renew the experience in the next months, but this time in wadi rum!
Practical information :
How much ?
Around 120 JOD/day, inclusive. horse / lunch / dinner / night under a tent / breakfast, without the entrance fees in Petra (think JORDAN PASS!! ). The rates are actually comparable to what they are in France, and you have to know that horseriding in Jordan is clearly a luxury activity.
You should definitely be a good rider to join the team. You will spend several hours on your horse per day, tracks are often rocky and/or slippery, and the horses are arabian. All in all, you have to be reasonable and realistic on your own level.
Spring and fall are certainly the best seasons here. Winter is fine but it is very cold and windy, and summer is definitely very hot. However, watch out if you plan your hike as there could be storms from November to the beginning of may (you could have guessed 😉 ).
Hashem can adapt to your wishes. However, he usually propose 6 days packages, from monday to saturday, from Petra to Wadi Rum. This offer includes : 1.5 jours around Petra (including the touristic site itself) , 2-3 days in the mountains towards Wadi Rum, and then 1.5 to 2 days inside Wadi Rum. 160 kms in total, with increasing daily hiking slots. He works with three french agencies (Randocheval, UCPA…) and 3 others (one german, one british and one swedish ).
Point of contact :
If your phone is equipped with whattsap, just text Hashem at +9627 7979 0718. He will then call you back, and plan in detail with you . Of course he speaks english. His stable are located in Wadi Musa.
Feel free to contact us for further info. Also, I’d be more than happy to join for a horseback riding hike if I am available !
And finally, a short video to share this good moments with you:
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