Most Petra tourists stay a night or two in Wadi Musa. Paul Read investigates the best eating and drinking options to be found in the town.
Wadi Musa is a modern and modest town which appears to make much of its income from tourists to near-by Petra. The town is hardly atmospheric, just concrete buildings, dusty streets and a little run down. Apart from Petra there is probably no good cause to visit. While there isn’t a great night life in Wadi Musa, there are some good restaurants and a couple of nice bars. After a hot and dusty day in Petra it’s a good way to wind down.
Many of the cheaper independent Wadi Musa restaurants don’t serve alcohol, so you might want to hunt down one of the few bars in the town. Unfortunately, bar prices tend to be expensive, so many visitors aren’t tempted to have more than one or two glasses.
Right at the entrance to Petra and connected to the Crowne Plaza Resort Hotel is the fantastically atmospheric Cave Bar. While it’s very tempting to sit in the sun outside the bar, don’t forget to take a look inside the original 2000 year old Nabataean tomb; they make great use of the nooks and crannies for atmospheric candles.
At first glance, the bar looks quite reasonably priced, but note the menu doesn’t have the 26% tax and service charge included; that £4.50 beer actually comes in at £6 or so (6.60 Jordanian JD).
You can choose to dine at the Cave Bar if you wish, and we enjoyed our good quality table barbeque, with three types of meat on skewers to cook on a table top box of charcoal; the waiter can help you cook if you get distracted by conversation, the local bar cats or the beer. Our meal cost 28 JD per person, but you can choose cheaper meze type meals if you prefer.
Alternatively, you can rub shoulders with the rich and elderly tourists in the slightly stuffy atmosphere of the Movenpick hotel bar, just a little further into town from Petra. Prices are similar to the Cave Bar, and while the Moroccan theme is stunningly executed, it can’t compare to the original temple surroundings of the cave bar.
There is also an irish style bar further along the main street, but it seemed really quite standard.
Also on the parade of shops close to the Petra entrance is the Red Cave Restaurant (no relation to the cave bar); this is an obviously cheaper establishment, but a very nicely done out long and skinny restaurant; with a long wicker arch entrance. This restaurant specialises in selling Bedouin food – largely meat and bean stews and the usual vast quantity of hummus. While there is no alcohol on sale, the wonderful lemon and mint drink on offer is like a Mojito without the Rum. We didn’t miss the alcohol. Our hummus and Greek salad was particularly tasty, and the main chicken and tomato stew with rice was also very edible if not particularly memorable. As prices are cheap, it is worth ordering a salad with the main course; not because the portions are small, but the meals tend to lack green.
We also ate at the basic Al-Deir, which is halfway up the hill towards the more “local” side of town and away from the Petra side. In an attempt to look like a traditional Bedouin tent, the restaurant has red striped wallpaper covering the walls and ceiling! The Al-Dier offers excellent food, and I particularly enjoyed the traditional Chicken Mansaf, which was Chicken cooked in yoghurt and lemon. It tasted very delicate and quite difference. My beloved went for the safer option; lamb mince kebab with flat bread and rice; again a nice meal.
Meals in both the Red Cave and Al-Deir cost around 8JD a head.
There are quite a number of shops catering for the tourist; I particularly liked the Wadi Musa Ladies Society shop selling knick-knacks and a handy Petra map. It’s also handy to buy water and drinks for Petra, although there are plenty of stalls on the site if you run out.
There are plenty of hotels in Petra; we stayed at the basic but friendly Sun Set (http://www.petrasunset.com) at the Petra side of town where rooms were 45 JD for a double. It is worth asking for a packed lunch for your Petra exploring, as it is plentiful and cheap, and you avoid dining in the soulless restaurant in Petra itself. Rooms are clean and tidy and a basic meze breakfast is also on offer.
Those wanting to splash out on a little luxury can choose the hotels attached to the best bars in town, the Crowne Plaza Resort in probably the best location, on the edge of town and near the start of the route down the siq to Petra, where rooms are approximately 120JD a night in low season, or at the Movenpick, in another handy location and at a similar price.