Subject: JORDAN
You can walk into Petra. I'd suggest that, if you want to ride a horse, you do it on the way back when you're tired. You don't ride in on horses. If I remember correctly, theyare not allowed to bring horses through the siq. But there are lots of horses at the entrance that will take you as far as the beginning of the siq.When I first entered Petra (first thing in the morning), there were loads of locals trying to get me to ride in on horseback, but I preferred to walk. However, on the way back, some 11 hours later, I was falling off my feet and SOOO glad to be able to climb up on a horse and let him carry me out.

I'd like to pass on some useful advice that someone gave me before I visited Petra (this is only really useful if you go on your own). Petra opens at 6:30am, and I was planning on being there as soon as it opened. The advice was: Head straight for the monastery (a 45-minute walk - or more?). Resist the temptation to stop along the way to admire the ruins or to take photos - you can do that on the way back. It's best to climb up to the top of the monastery (a 45-minute climb) early in the morning while the air is still cool. It starts to get hot early, and if you do the climb first thing in the morning, then later when it starts getting hot, you'll be glad you already did the climb when it was cooler. When I was there, I reached the top of the monastery by 8am and spent 2 hours up there. On my way down, at 10am, I passed loads of people on their way up, already hot and sweaty, asking me how much further it was.

There are a lot of Bedouins that make their living in Petra, and one offered to take me up by donkey to the high place of sacrifice to watch the sunset, after which he would take me back to the Bedouin village in Petra by camel and would get one of his relatives to drive me back to my hotel. The sunset didn't turn out to be such a big deal, but riding camel-back to his village was a thrill. He even showed me how to sit Bedouin-style on the camel. It took us 45 minutes to get to the village by camel, and after a half hour, we were riding in pitch blackness. When we got to his hut (4 walls, a cement floor, no roof), I met some of his relatives, and was motioned to have a seat with them (on the floor). I was waiting for him to find a relative to drive me back to my hotel, when suddenly his wife appeared with a huge, round aluminium tray with food on it - rice and chicken. She set it down on the floor in front of us, and I suddenly realized I was invited to dinner! That was a real thrill (my only problem was, being 100% left-handed and this being a Muslim country - where you don't use your left hand because it's unclean - I had to eat with my right hand. I could barely coordinate it to bring it to my mouth!

Laurie Mexico City