The crown jewel among Jordan’s many storied attractions is no doubt the ancient Nabatean rock city of Petra, and we had planned to spend one day in the region along our southbound journey through the country.
We’d be taking the JETT inter-city bus from Amman to Petra, which would get us into Petra at around noon. We’d then spend the rest of the day exploring Petra, before catching another bus – this time an unadvertised tourist bus that makes daily trips between Petra and Wadi Rum – early in the morning.
We therefore needed only a one-night hotel stay in Petra, and lo and behold, there was a single Marriott-branded property where I could redeem Bonvoy points for a free stay: the Marriott Petra.
As a Category 4 hotel, a free night would cost me 25,000 Bonvoy points, which I considered to be roughly even compared to the cash rate of around $250 for that night. Since I had already spent a fair bit of cash on hotel stays for this trip, I went ahead and redeemed points on this occasion.
The JETT bus dropped us off at Petra’s central bus station, which is located immediately next to the entrance to the Petra visitors’ centre and the site of the ruins. However, I was disappointed to learn that the Marriott hotel is in fact located quite some distance away, about one kilometre south on the King’s Highway that runs through Jordan.
While the hotel does provide a shuttle bus, it only makes the journey to Petra in the mornings and from Petra in the evenings, which wasn’t useful for us since we needed to check-in to our hotel, leave our bags there, and then come back to visit the ruins.
So we had no choice but to pay for a taxi at the cost of 5 JD ($9) one-way, which, as was a bit of a recurring theme during our time in Jordan, felt like a bit of a rip-off.
The drive to the Marriott took no more than 10 minutes, although it’s worth noting that the King’s Highway is located at a much higher altitude than the ruins of Petra, so the drive between the hotel and the visitors’ centre includes quite a few heart-stopping moment along the hairpin bends.
The hotel building is made of sandstone, and sits all on its lonesome on the side of the King’s Highway, with nothing but the vast endless desert in every direction. The ever-familiar Marriott logo almost looked out of place in such a barren setting.
We made our way into the lobby, where we waited for the hotel associate to finish helping another guest before completing our check-in.
I was happy to hear that our room was available already, even though it was well before the published check-in time. Furthermore, we had been assigned a Mountain View Room, and since this Marriott didn’t have an Executive Lounge (which was fully understandable, since I imagine 99% of guests are here on holiday), we’d would get to enjoy breakfast in the restaurant the next morning from 6am to 10am.
I asked the associate if they served dinner at the hotel, fully expecting to be quoted a disproportionately high price given my previous experiences in Jordan. And indeed – it was 20 JD ($37) per person!
With that, Jessy and I both agreed that we’d buy some cup noodles at the grocery store next to Petra later and just eat those.
We collected our room keys and made our way to Room 305, intending to quickly drop off our stuff and catch our taxi back to Petra.
The highly variable elevation in this region means that the Marriott Petra is in fact built into the hillside, with the lobby on the fourth floor and the guest rooms located beneath it. We therefore made our way down the stairs one level to reach the third floor.
We’d find Room 305 at the end of the hallway, after passing by the hotel’s central atrium that reaches all the way down to the first floor.
The room was essentially a cookie-cutter Marriott hotel room. Occupying most of the space was the king-sized bed, which wasn’t too comfortable but functioned well enough for a one-night stay.
Then there was a desk and television facing the bed, and two chairs on the far side of the room.
There’s very little else to say about the room, besides one thing: see those “upside-down T-shaped” designs etched along the top of the wall? Those very same designs are also etched onto the outer walls of the Petra visitor centre. You can imagine my rush of satisfaction when I made that connection.
Anyway, you’ll find the pantry in a small alcove by the hallway, with all the essentials we needed to make some instant coffee and some cup noodles later that night.
Opposite that was the bathroom, which is again very nondescript. From left to right, there was a shower, toilet, bidet, and sink. To be honest, the bathroom felt a little grimy to me, and I didn’t enjoy spending too much time in it.
Indeed, this entire hotel felt like it was past its prime and not quite up to the standard set by other full-service Marriotts around the world, but I suppose it still gets a fair amount of traffic as a primarily leisure-oriented hotel and one of the only “five-star” properties in the region.
Anyway, after chugging some instant coffee and gulping down our welcome amenity of Arabic sweets and sparkling water, we quickly hopped back in our taxi to go to Petra.
After a long day in the sun at Petra, we were disappointed that the Marriott’s advertised shuttle bus service for our return journey at 4pm never arrived, even though I had been assured that we did not need to make reservations.
I had to call the hotel to figure out what was going on, and the front desk manager told us he’d send a driver over, who showed up in a standard 4x4 that certainly didn’t seem like a shuttle bus of any kind.
Only when we arrived back at the Marriott did I notice that the shuttle bus was still sitting in the parking lot and had never left. I don’t know exactly what happened there, but let’s just say the hotel’s shuttle service may not be all that reliable.
Having been worn out by the unrelenting heat during our visit to Petra, we decided to take a dip in the swimming pool. Sadly, the pool wan’t very clean at all, which is kind of a problem you might expect to have at a desert hotel with the occasional gusts of wind blowing through the mountains.
We only jumped in the water briefly before sitting back on the lounge chairs. Unfortunately, the floor around the swimming pool was equally as dusty, so it wasn’t a very pleasant experience altogether.
At least the artificial grass surface that the hotel has installed around here is quite nice, though, and allowed us to enjoy some nice views of the sun setting over the nearby mountains.
We opted not to partake in the overpriced buffet dinner, instead treating ourselves to a classic travellers’ meal of cup noodles, fruits, and snacks. Instead, I wandered around the hotel to check out some of its other features before retreating to the room for the night.
The hotel doesn’t have a gym, but does offer a Dushara Spa for guests looking for a spa treatment. There’s also a gift shop in which you can purchase Petra-inspired souvenirs (somehow, I’m skeptical as to how fair the prices are…)
Besides that, the only other noteworthy features were the seemingly endless communal seating areas on the lobby floor, which seemed to stretch on and on throughout the building.
The next morning, the hotel had arranged for us to get on the 6:30am bus to Wadi Rum (I’ll talk more about this bus in the next few installments), which gave us a 30-minute window to eat a quick breakfast at the hotel.
The breakfast buffet was jam-packed with people even at this early hour, no doubt trying to finish breakfast early so they can beat the crowds to Petra in the morning. Jessy and I grabbed some quick bites – for a hotel that was rather disappointing in many ways, the buffet selection was actually very good, and there were even a few live cooking stations that you could order from.
In light our grievances with how steeply priced everything in Jordan seemed to be, we also sneaked a few items out of the buffet and kept them with us for the onward journey, although it was only later that we realized we should’ve sneaked out a whole lot more!
As the only Marriott property near one of the “new seven wonders of the world”, the Marriott Petra is no doubt a popular hotel choice among travellers visiting the famous ancient rock city of Petra, and can also represent a good use of your Marriott Bonvoy points.
Nevertheless, I can’t say that I was impressed by any aspects of the hotel – the room was past its prime, the location was out-of-the-way, the shuttle service didn’t run properly, and the upkeep of the swimming pool was mediocre at best. I’d therefore recommend the Marriott Petra only for its convenience if you’re visiting Petra as a Marriott loyalist, and not really for any real quality on the hotel’s part.
By the next time I visit Petra, I’d expect to have a little more disposable income, so I’d probably splurge for the Mövenpick Petra, which looks very impressive and is also located much more conveniently right next to the visitors’ centre.