Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses) is the closest town to the Petra Archeological Park in Southern Jordan. The town offers a base for visitors to Petra and has several eateries, many hotels and tourist amenities. There is no accommodation within Petra itself which is an archaeological park, so the closest place to stay is Wadi Musa. The town’s economy is largely dependent on the tourism industry servicing visitors to Petra. Wadi Musa is the perfect place for visitors to Petra to stock up on anything they need, buy souvenirs, eat, find convenient accommodation and meet the locals.
Wadi Musa gets its name from a story that tells of the prophet Moses passing through this valley. Not far from here is “Ain Musa” (Moses’ Spring) the site where Moses is said to have struck a rock which began to gush with water. Today a triple-domed structure protects the famous rock on top of a hill. Wadi Musa was also called the “Guardian of Petra” due to its location.
Wadi Musa dates back thousands of years and has been inhabited probably as long as Petra itself. There is archaeological evidence of a Nabataean palace in Wadi Musa and a Roman bath system. Today the town is home to several tribes including the Hassanat, Nawafleh, Masa’adeh and Amarat; not far away is a Bedouin settlement.
Welcome to Wadi Musa
Wadi Musa is built on hills overlooking a valley and its brown sugar-colored buildings appear to have grown organically from the surrounding desert. When the sun goes down the buildings of Wadi Musa are bathed in many shades of gold, brown and cream. To add to the exotic atmosphere there is the echo through the streets of the Adhan calling Muslims to pray from the mosque’s minaret. Taking a walk around Wadi Musa you can see mostly modern buildings, signs in English and locals trying to sell their wares. However there are places where you can still get a glimpse of the traditional way of life, for example the historic quarter of Elgee and the local mosque.
Most of Petra can be seen from the 4km-long main road which slopes downhill towards the entrance to Petra. Residential areas spread out on either side of the main road. About halfway down the main road is the “center” of town and continuing down there is the Tourist Strip with a concentration of hotels, cafes and restaurants on one side of the street facing the valley on the other side. A little further along the Tourist Strip is the Petra Visitor Center and finally the ticket office and entrance to Petra.
What to Do in Wadi Musa
The main reason to visit Wadi Musa is to relax before or after a long day of touring the sites of Petra. Those looking for a little local culture can enjoy a smoke at one of the shisha bars (hubbly bubbly or hookah); sample traditional dishes; take a traditional Bedouin cooking class; enjoy a Turkish bath; a massage or make excursions to the surrounding desert or Bedouin camps. The town offers limited entertainment but there is an Irish Pub and the Cave Bar which has been called the “oldest bar in the world” as it is inside a 2,000 year old cave. Walking through the town you can spot a few interesting landmarks like the war memorial in the center of a roundabout. There are also markets and vendors along the streets selling tourist-oriented items.