Jordan: CITY OF PETRA (3)

Jordan: CITY OF PETRA (3)

There was Petra in some movie (and it wasn’t the Indiana Jones III) when I saw it for the first time. I was sure that it was just another movie set, because “there is no way that this really exists”. Well, you can get the picture of how surreal the sight is, even in person!


Indiana Jones at the entrance

Ancient world wonder

Still, in the heart of Jordan, this Arab country between Israel and Saudi Arabia, there lies the legacy of ancient Nabataeans we know so little about. Tourists from all around the world flock here just because of Petra and then they discover all the Middle Eastern beauties.


The beginning of the Siq

It’s not just that the city of Petra is an ancient town tucked in by mountain range and not that easy to spot from the valley outside, but also the stone it’s been built in is very special. And when about 2,000 years ago that beauty of nature was put together with the human artistry, magnificent city sprung up, the one that leaves you standing in awe!


Narrow passageway

This wonder of the ancient world was constructed in such a manner that if anyone wanted to enter, it would require him to go through a long gorge called the Siq while the narrow road curves so that he wouldn’t be able to see what’s behind the next corner or how long the path is. There is just about enough space for two small carriages to pass by one another.


Carriage ride into the city

While I strolled through this majestic mountain gorge with the view of the rock colors ranging from white and yellow to pink and brightly red, it was easy to imagine what the everyday life was like once, in this ancient city of the Arab tribe that originated from Yemen. They say that these rocks were once at the bottom of the sea and that those fossil deposits are actually the reason for such a palette of colors. When the stone gets wet due to rain, it changes from pink to being more yellow, so don’t be surprised if the town looks „a bit different“ from the photos you have seen.


The first glimpse…

Nabataeans, masters of trade

Originally nomads, the Nabataeans began to settle in this area around the 6th century BC, but only in the late Hellenistic and in Roman times did their capital achieve the importance to which its monuments still bear witness. It is believed that the actual city has been built between the years of 9 BC and 40 AD, and that it was even visited by the famous Roman Emperor Hadrian. Its glory was somewhat over shone at the end of the 2nd century AD when the center of the Arab trade practically moved to Palmyra. (You can read more about Palmyra here.) There are no Nabataeans anymore and we don’t really know what happened to them. Still, they have left such marvelous buildings and tombs dug into mountains’ stone, that one has to sense the greatness of their city!


…The second…

Petra was almost impregnable, although it was later under the rule of foreigners. There were Egyptians here, Romans, Crusaders, Turks. The city was the safe haven for caravans coming from the South of Arabia, packed with spices and silk from India and Africa, and frankincense which was especially interesting. The tree of frankincense produced the incense which was widely used during the rituals of god offerings, but it was also considered to be a sort of medicine. So, Nabataeans have done pretty well regarding trade and customs, and they were the important link between the East and the West, balancing among the great powers such as Egypt and Persia.


…And there’s the Treasury!

Horses or carriages

Before you reach the old city of Petra, you will come across the new settlement totally adapted to numerous foreign visits. A lot of hotels have risen up, stores, internet cafes, and it’s quite a good idea to spend the night here so that you can fully enjoy the majestic ancient city.


Camels in front of the Treasury

In order to get into Petra there is a fee of about 30 JD (almost equal to 30 Euros), and you will be greeted by the unavoidable posters of Indiana Jones (Petra was the star location in the third sequel!). The entrance fee is 20, but you will pay an extra 10 or so for the association that takes care of horses here, because you can go through the Siq by foot, riding a horse or in a small carriage. There is about 800 meters to go in order to step into the actual gorge. If on a horse, you will be asked to give few dinars of baksheesh. If you fancy a ride in the carriage all the way through the Siq, it will cost you around 20 JD. It’s not a bad idea when going back after you are already tired of walking, but when you enter the gorge, it would be such a pity not to be able to stop and admire the striking sandstone cliffs when ever you please.


Colorful hall inside

Along the gorge walls there is the canal dug into the rock which brought water from the nearby torrent. Hence, even if under the siege, the city was always sure to get enough drinking water.


View of the Siq from the Treasury

The majestic Treasury

After the tortuous path of the two-kilometers Siq continues, widening out at times or suddenly narrowing, the majestic facade rises up before you, the one that Petra is so famous for! Coming out of the gorge, the rose colored building begins to appear, revealing itself more and more with every step you take. And then you finally step out of the Siq, and there it is – the surreal Al Khazneh!


The ancient Amphitheater

Although the function of the monument is still controversial, it is most likely that it served as a tomb. Never the less, because of its construction Bedouins called it „the pharaoh treasury“ and the name thus stuck with it. It was probably built during the rain of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD). There was an interesting legend that a pharaoh came across Petra while going after Jews, and he hid his wealth in one of the urns using magic. You can see the signs of rifle shots fired by the Bedouins in the attempt to pierce the tholos, hoping the „treasure“ would fall down.


Shisha pipes on display

After you see the Treasury facade, you will probably expect to see the same magnificence inside. But, bear in mind that the whole structure was dug into the mountain rock of spectacular colors. So, there is one huge hall and once again, you will stand in awe before the colors! (Forget about all you have seen in the Indiana Jones movie where there are numerous long corridors and halls that allegedly go from here.)


Stroll around the city

The theater for 3,000 spectators

But that’s not all! To the right of the Treasury the ravine progressively widens on the way to town. There you will see the huge Theater, built entirely out of the mountain in the 1st century AD. It consists of 33 tiers which can accommodate around 3,000 spectators.


Roman remains

On the rock wall northeast of the Theater, s series of splendid royal tombs are visible. Probably one of the most imposing monuments of the sight, Ad Deir or the Monastery will greet you at the end of the ancient settlement. It might have been built as the temple by the Nabataeans, but it was later used by monks. The building stands high up into mountains, its layout recalls the facade of the Treasury. The urn above the entrance is nine meters high!


Beautiful ancient mosaics

True legend

At the beginning of the 19th century Petra was a town hidden in the mountains, forgotten by the outside world. No European has stepped in here since the time of the Crusaders, not until 1812. There were only rumors among the explorers and a legend of „a lost city somewhere in the Middle East, carved into rocks“.


Resting in the shade

But since 1812 visitors from all over the world have been rushing to this city, mesmerized by its ancient beauty!


The full Jordan SERIES


38 comments on “Jordan: CITY OF PETRA (3)

  1. I’m sure that the spectators in the amphitheatre sat on tiers, rather than tires, but it is certainly a compelling image!

    A place on everyone’s bucket list.

      1. Not at all. Feel free to remeove my comment. Trust me, the struggles I have with autocorrect! And then there was the episode last month, when my keyboard was a bit sticky and it wouldn’t always show the letter “t”.


        1. Heheh, I had a similar one few months ago – my keyboard didn’t do “s” any more!
          I had no idea that soooo many words actually include “s”! Did copy/paste of the letter and was even proud of “how smart I was” to think of such temporary solution.
          Well, at least until I got to the capital S! 😀 😀

  2. Hi Danijela,

    Don’t worry, if I was to go back to this spectacular place again, I would most likely decide to sit on a tyre rather than a tier 🙂

    It’s funny reading your post because it reminds me of how little attention I paid to the history of what I was looking at back in 2010. So thank you for informing me on that! I always love your take on exciting places like this, thanks for the write-up and reminding me of the amazing places which I seem to have forgotton about 🙂


    1. Hehehe, thank you, Derek, so kind of you. 🙂
      Oh yes, I’m a bit of a history buff. I’m sure it shows throughout the blog. 😀
      Never too late to learn something more, right, especially about the place you’ve already been to. 😉 So glad that I’ve reminded you of your visit to Petra.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Jordan has so many amazing things to offer and I wonder how beautiful all of them are.. Your post is really very wel written . You have described each place so wonderfully. Must say pics looks amazing too. Thanks for sharing .

    1. Oh, thank you, it means a lot! <3
      There really is a lot to see in Jordan, it's not just Petra that's attracting visitors. You're welcome to browse the Jordan series on the blog, it's all there. 😉
      Thank you! 🙂

  4. Petra is sooooooo high up on my list and I hope 2018 is the year to visit it. I have been dreaming of walking through the Siq and seeing that treasury, I even want to do Petra at night. Your pictures and post have got me so restless. Fingers crossed!

  5. Your post virtually took me to the place I so want to visit! PETRAAA!!! The city has been on my Wishlist since forever and your pictures made the past of Petra come alive! So pretty and intriguing! The gorge is just so mystic!

  6. Reading this is making me want to get to Petra as soon as possible but there is no way in hell I would go to a tacky Indiana Jones gift shop! 😀 I had all that in the Tunisian Sahara with Star Wars 🙂 Loving your photos. 🙂

  7. When I saw the third Indiana Jones I really wanted to visit this place, even though i didn’t know exactly where it was. Now I really want to see it in person! Thanks for the great article with great pictures. I really liked the one with the camels sitting in front of the Treasury.

  8. I really enjoyed this overview of Petra. It’s been on my list for a while now, but I hadn’t yet looked into everything available in the area. I’ll definitely save this post to reference for my trip, thanks!

  9. Lovely post…I loved all the historical details you shared! I am also so fascinated about Nabateans and after my visit to Petra did a lot of research to understand them better. It would be awesome to explore some of their other settlements too someday…

    1. You’re right, it would be fascinating to visit places of their legacy in Saudi Arabia, Palestine, even Egypt. But to tell you the truth, I don’t really know how much there is to see and if there are any significant monuments remaining in these countries. Do you have any info about it?
      Thank you, so glad I’ve met another Nabataeans fan. 😉

  10. This was such a great read! I love all the history and mystery surrounding the Nabataeans and their city. I didn’t realize just how much more there is to Petra and the surrounding areas. You’ve really made me want to visit soon. Thanks so much for sharing this information and for the inspiration!

  11. Jordan especially Petra is so high on our list. Walking through those gorges and seeing colorful stones will be just like a dream come true. I want to see how the stones turn more yellow in rains.These structures are just mind-blowing. Loved the details and pictures you shared,

  12. I’ve seen Petra featured in many movies too – generally your ancient adventure films like the Mummy, or Indiana Jones – definitely a wonder of the ancient world. It’s incredible how they carved a city into the mountain. Even more incredible how the outside world could have forgotten about it for so long until 1812!

    I would love to visit, and I can imagine it’s a pretty timeless place, especially when you’re making the walk through the gorge – it would be just as travelers from back in the day would have experienced – the stone and the way the sun bounces off the walls. Incredible experience!

  13. Petra is really enchanting and intrigues with its ancient history that dates back to 6th century BC. We love history and culture and Petra for us is definitely the stuff that dreams are made of. We have not been there but hope to get there someday. In the interim we had the vicarious pleasure of experiencing the place through your post and the lovely pictures that bring alive the majesty of the place.

  14. Petra really does look like a movie set. I still would love to know what possessed them to build Petra in the desert.

    There is always a little truth to rumors. I figure at some point someone is going to find an ancient city of the El Dorado legend in the Americas.

    1. Hehehe, something like that.
      I remember watching the Treasury scene in the Indiana Jones movie again after I came back from Petra. And when they walked in, I was like: “No, no, no, that’s not what it looks like inside, nope!” 😀 😀

  15. Both Petra and Jordan seem truly astonishing and definitely worth being on anyone’s bucket list, Danijela! I have learned so much from your post! How many days would you recommend staying in Petra to see all the highlights?

    1. There’s no need to stay there for long. I covered it all in two days, and I didn’t sleep there.
      If you spend the night in Petra, you’ll be able to see the ancient city in a different light, all mysterious and romantic in the dark. Two days are more than enough.
      Thank you for your kind words, so glad you found the post useful. 🙂

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