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Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday night, visitors of Petra get the chance to experience something truly fantastical. The path through the Siq is lit up by up to 2000 candles and travellers gather by the visitor center, to walk through the lit up canyon to the Treasury together. The whole thing is led and set up by Bedouins, who will provide some music, some stories and also some tea.
As truly magical as the Petra by Night experience is, unlike most of the others, I wasn’t there for the ethereal sound of pipes and Bedouin voices or to hang out with the other 100 people who had joined the tour. Basically, I was there as an excuse so I could get into the otherwise fairly popular and sometimes crowded site at night and to take my photos undisturbed. By the time I headed towards the Siq in almost complete darkness, I had already spent the whole day in Petra and knew what the landscape looked like and where to get the best photos. I definitely recommend scouting out the place by daylight first, not only to get an idea of what to expect and a sense of the immense scale, but also to be on the lookout for cool shapes and good angles.
Some people call the experience too crowded or too touristy, and that might be true if you decide to hang out in the middle of the big group. If you’re in it for the photography, or just want a more quiet experience, it is incredibly easy to simply wait 5 minutes and let everyone else get ahead. After a while, I was alone in the Siq and had all the time I wanted or needed to set up the tripod, frame the photos and fiddle with settings – and all that without anyone else or their flashes disturbing me. Which actually is another reason to give the rest of the group a head start. Because everyone decides to fire their flashes like mad men, it can sometimes make for a cool effect on the canyon walls, but more often than not, that light pollution will just ruin your shots.
Even though I stayed behind the crowd and spent quite some time in the Siq by myself, I still only missed a small part of the performance down by the Treasury. A Bedouin sang some songs and entertained the people by telling them to all fire their flashes at once. That part was a bit weird and in my opinion an unnecessary disturbance of the serene setting. But I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on in the first place and spent my time there being busy with setting up the tripod at different angles. The Bedouins didn’t seem to care who did or didn’t participate in the whole show and I was left undisturbed in my wanderings around the site. All in all, I had a great time on the Petra by Night tour, although technically speaking, I didn’t take part in the tour at all.
The crowd sticks together and as long as you avoid them on the walk through the Siq, you will have a wonderful time.