A visit to Petra has been on my travel wish list for as long as I can remember. I have always been a geography and history lover, and I can remember reading about the intriguing “lost city” of Petra and looking at beautiful photographs of this ancient Middle Eastern city. I have been waiting my entire life to visit Petra, never did I think I would actually be able to see this ancient rose-colored city with my own eyes! Even as I share my visit with you, I still can’t believe that I have actually visited Petra! I am truly grateful to have had this once in a lifetime experience! Keep reading for a journey through Petra!
History of Petra:
Petra is more than two thousand years old! Once a thriving trade center and the capital city of the Nabataean empire, after a large earthquake and changes in trade routes, Petra was abandoned (except the local Bedouin people) for hundreds of years. In 1812, a Swiss explorer, Johann Burckhardt set out to “rediscover” the “lost city” of Petra. Since then, the beautiful ancient city of Petra has increasingly attracted visitors from all over the world. In 1985, the Petra Archeological Park was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1989 Petra was featured in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and in 2007, it was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Located in the southwestern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, amidst rugged canyons and mountains, the ancient city of Petra is carved into the magnificently colored (red, pink, coral, and white) sandstone cliffs. The Petra Archaeological Park consists of approximately 65 acres (264,000 m²) and to truly explore all of this ancient city, visitors would need at least 3-5 days! I had just one day to explore the main sites of Petra, as I booked a tour from Tel Aviv to Jordan (visiting Petra and Wadi Rum) with Tourist Israel.
Standing above the mountains that hold the ancient city of Petra!
5 Things You Need to See in Petra:
I am still in awe of this magnificent city! Nothing I write or the photos I share can justly describe the beauty of Petra! You truly have to experience Petra with your own eyes and mind to be able to comprehend this vast and magnificent Wonder of the World! As I could write for days about Petra, I will just highlight the main sites in this ancient rose-red city! Let the journey through Petra begin:
The Bab Al Siq:
In Arabic this means the “gateway to the gorge” (Bab=gateway, Sig=gorge). With monuments and tombs carved into the rock by the ancient Nabataeans, visitors get their first glimpse of the intricate carvings of this ancient civilization.
The narrow gorge leads visitors on a spectacular 1 km (not quite a mile) walk towards Petra! The dazzlingly red, pink, and purple hues of the naturally carved gorge, seem to change colors with every step! The stunning cliffs soar 80 meters (approx. 263 feet) above, making visitors feel so small in the vastness of the gorge! The Siq’s twists and turns, gravel and sand below your feet, and the sun’s rays shining from above make for a dramatic entrance into Petra!
The Treasury (Al Khazneh):
The Treasury is the highlight of Petra. With a beautiful red-carved façade that has intricate details of Corinthian columns, decorative bands, female deities, mythological figures, and other creatures that have withstood thousands of years of weathered elements. The magnificent Treasury is 30m wide (approx. 98 feet) by 43m high (approx. 141 feet). The original use is still a mystery, but most scholars believe it was the tomb of a prominent Nabataean King.
Words cannot describe how beautiful the Treasury is! After walking through the dazzling Siq, the moment when the Treasury appears before you, is truly a special moment! I stood in front of the Treasury, towering above me, with all its Jordanian glory, with tears brimming in my eyes! After traveling thousands of miles from home and enduring the heat of the day (over 90°F=32°C), I became so overwhelmed with emotion! It was a long way from home for this Ohio girl, but standing in front of the Treasury, the world seemed to stop, my mind filtered out the other tourists, the local Bedouins, the camels, horses and donkeys, and for that brief moment in time, I felt Petra was all mine. I stood in awe of this magnificent site, in awe of the long journey to Petra, and in awe that I can see the beauty of this amazing world with my own eyes!
A glimpse of Petra (a short video shot from my phone):
This semicircular amphitheater is carved into the solid rock. With Roman design influences, the Nabataeans built this theater to seat 3,000 people (originally), later the capacity was increased to hold 7,000 people!
The Royal Tombs:
Consists of four tombs with impressive carvings of columns, pillars, and inscriptions. These tombs are believed to house the remains of Nabataean dignitaries. Unfortunately, due to erosion, the carvings are less detailed than those of the Treasury.
There was so much of Petra that I didn’t get to explore! If your schedule allows, I would recommend an overnight visit to have 2 full days to explore the park. I truly didn’t want to leave Petra, one day just wasn’t enough!
Tips for Visiting Petra:
- Be sure to carry plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout your visit! (there are a few restaurants/shops within the park)
- Apply sunscreen and take a hat and sunglasses.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes. With sand, gravel and uneven terrain, I would suggest closed-toe tennis shoes or hiking boots.
- Save your energy for the walk out of Petra! The walk through the Siq is downhill, thus the way back is uphill. There are horses and carriages that will take you back to the entrance (for a fee). A horse ride (one way) is included with your entry ticket, but handlers will demand a tip and not let you off the horse without paying. Be sure to negotiate beforehand!
- Please be mindful of the animals’ condition. These animals (camels, donkeys, and horses) work very hard in the hot/humid temperatures. If you see an animal that looks distressed, please report it to the park officials. The park has done many improvements regarding the care of the animals over the past few years, please join in the care by only utilizing animals that don’t look overheated or whose handlers are not abusing them.
- Explore, photograph, and enjoy the magnificent rose-colored ancient city of Petra!
I hope you enjoyed my brief tour of Petra! If you have any questions or comments, please share below!
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