No visit to Jordan is complete without a visit to Petra (also known as the Rose City). Besides being one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, Petra is also one of the Seven new Wonders of the World.
(A word of advice – Hire an English and Arabic speaking local guide. No matter how much information you may have read on the Internet, nothing makes you feel safer than having a local guide.)
Our tour guide Basel Al-Affifi proved to be a walking talking encyclopedia who knew the history of his country inside out. Lucky for us, his fascination with Petra was palpable. As we left the Visitors Center and entered into Petra, we were transported back into a lost world that instantly captured our imagination with its raw beauty. The sun played hide and seek with the rocky red peaks, giving rise to the Chiaroscuro effect that was visible everywhere.
Walking, albeit at your own pace, is the best way to experience the magic and beauty of Petra – the path is lined with deep mysterious caves, temples and tombs that date back to over 1,000 years. For those who are hesitant to walk the distance, there are camels, horses and donkeys to help you along.
Much has been written about this amazing place, so I will not go into its historical details. However, my camera did go a bit overboard trying to capture the spectacular sights everywhere. So, will post a few of my favorite pictures here.
Pyramid Tomb of Nabataean King Aretas III
Every stone cut carving tells a story!
Meanwhile a few brief well known (and not so well known) facts about Petra:
- Petra is a land of the desert nomadic tribe of the Nabataean Arabs and dates back to 312 BC. It was built entirely from stone by hired Greek artisans and has 3,000 temples, tombs and rock abodes.
- It was the centre of commerce and culture and was the trading route for silks, spices, gold, ivory and textiles from as far away as India and China.
- Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city in the 4th century AD.
- After the earthquake it became a lost city for over 5 centuries, known only to the Bedouins and was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812.
- Petra has appeared in novels, plays, music videos, poems and films, a city that enthralls and beckons by its mystery and unparalled beauty. More recently, it has also been recreated and featured in video games, such is its magnetism.
- The Jabal Haroun Mountain (South) called ‘Aaron’s Mountain’ is the location of the Tomb of Aaron, the brother of Moses.
- Since 1985, Petra has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of my most happy memories of this place is the walk on the narrow passageway or ‘The Siq’ that leads to the ancient main entrance of the magnificent ‘Al Khazna’ or ‘The Treasury’, a royal memorial and tomb. Basel, our guide, timed this walk in such a way that we were at the entrance at the exact time that the Al Khazna was bathed in the final glow of that day’s sunlight. An unforgettable sight!
Paid 2 dollars to pose here. The guard on the right kept talking of Salman Khan.
The road leading to ‘The Siq’ has a gorge with rocky jagged peaks reaching up to the sky. This was the place where ‘Indiana Jones – The Last Crusade’ and ‘Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen’ was shot, so yes, it was great to be there. ‘The Mummy Returns’, ‘Sindbad and the Eye of the Tiger’ among others were also shot in Petra. So too, a song from Krishh 3 (Bollywood). Those who have seen these movies, will agree that Petra on celluloid, is nothing short of stunning.
Basel told us that the ‘The Siq’ was 1200 meters long and the rocks that line the sides rise up to an impressive 80 meters.
A Bedouin playing a haunting tune on his Rabab!
The Roman Amphitheater cut out into the rock!
Towards the end of this road, is a clearing and past this, is the Roman Amphitheater which dates back to 4 BC. It is sculpted into the mountain face and can easily accommodate 4000 spectators. This part of Petra also has souvenir shops, a couple of restaurants and washrooms.
There are trails going up the tomb embedded cliffs, where you can hire a donkey with his Bedouin and get that once in a lifetime view of Petra from the top. I climbed a few rocks so my hubby could get a picture of me from the base of the mountain. Met a Bedouin and his donkey coming down the mountain trail. He suggested I ask my husband, if he wanted to go up the trail with him. Obviously he guessed, I didn’t have it in me, to get on his donkey and traverse to the top:)
The Tombs Embedded On The Rock Face.
I read that the Smithsonian Magazine has sited Petra as one of the 28 places you should visit before you die.
So glad I made it here:)