Hot desert temperatures can sap your energy while exploring the ruins at Petra, Jordan, much of the year, but in mid-November, it is merely warm. And we were exhilarated to be there, kicking up dust with every step.

Some visitors cover their noses with handkerchiefs or tissues to breathe better while walking to see the Treasury — famous to film fans as the entrance to the temple holding the Holy Grail in 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

Petra has been drawing increasing crowds for a difficult-to-reach destination since the film and 2007, when it was named one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, chosen by popular vote. More than 620,000 visited in 2017, up 33 percent from 2016. Many arrive on excursions from Amman, Jordan, a three-hour drive; overnight trips from Israel; or via cruise ships docked at Aqaba, Jordan, about two hours away.

Petra was packed when we descended on it with many of our fellow cruisers from the 2,038 -passenger Celebrity Constellation. There were masses of other visitors too, from all over the world.

I had contacted Petra Nights Tours online to hire a private driver from Aqaba and a private Petra tour for $250 apiece, about the same price for two of the ship’s tours.

Ahmed, a slender, chatty Jordanian disc jockey, picked us up in Aqaba, where we could see Egypt and Israel in the distance. He stopped his car in the rocky red desert, to show where actor Matt Damon was stranded in “The Martian,” with Jordan standing in for Mars. He also pointed out a chapel where Moses’ brother Aaron is said to be buried.

I felt wise to have gone private. Then foolish when my husband and I arrived at the gates of Petra and met Ali, our official guide (no outsiders are permitted to give tours inside Petra), and realized no more golf carts or horse-drawn buggies were available to take us to the Treasury. I had declined booking one through Petra Nights Tours. iIt was a dumb move when one of us, who had Petra atop his bucket list for years, was struggling with a sprained ankle.

So we began our 1.5-mile trek, walking slowly with Ali, down the road of hard limestone pavers from Roman times and 20th-century concrete.

Golf carts and two-passenger carriages bounced past us on the narrow road wedged between towering rocks on either side. More than one tourist grabbed the orange blanket carriage top for safety. “Good picture!” shouted a driver as I clicked my iPhone.

“Now, Keith,” said Ali, as we stopped to listen to his story about man-size caves high in the sandstone rocks above us. “Now, Millie,” he said, while pointing to another cave, “That was for storage. Of course, we do not know what was stored.”

There’s some vague resemblance to photos of Zion National Park in Utah, but Petra (“rock” in Greek) has no cousins. Many of the burnt orange, taupe and brown rocks along the walk to the Treasury are carved with columns and other designs.

Petra was a center in a trade route in the Middle East during its years of grandeur, which many say began in the first century BC. Some say it was viable for 400 years, others a thousand. There were temples, and gardens fed by a creative water system.

There are so many points of interest. And all the while, young men were attempting to sell “silver” bracelets for $5, and scores of little boys held up identical packets of 14 postcards for “one dollar.” One smiled, saying, “Make my day! One dollar!” “He is an orphan,” Ali said. Of course, we bought them.

When we finally arrived at the Treasury, things were a bit chaotic in front of the unforgettable temple facade of columns. A shop shack sold souvenirs and Queen Noor-approved jewelry for charity. There were camels. “It’s free to get on one, but $5 to get off,” joked guides.

Another mile or two beyond the Treasury are excavations, one organized by Brown University. There are ruins of former houses of the wealthy on one side, the middle class, if there was such a thing, on the other.

We walked farther, wondering how we’d get back to the entrance, 2 miles or more now, much of it uphill.

Ali looked worried. Keith’s face showed his pain. Ali made calls on his cell. A few minutes later, he led us to an ancient Mitsubishi pickup, where a driver welcomed us, and I paid him $60, a bargain. We bumped along the ancient stone road, passing ongoing excavations, and rode out of Petra through a little-known exit.

We reunited with our driver, Ahmed, at a restaurant where we apparently were the only Americans in the huge crowd. 

Back on the ship’s elevator, a bunch of us laughed and talked about the special place that is Petra. Then someone said, “Look at our shoes.” They all were covered with dust, a souvenir of Petra.