PETRA

“A Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time”

The giant red mountains and vast mausoleums of a departed race have nothing in common with modern civilization, and ask nothing of it except to be appreciated at their true value – as one of the greatest wonders ever wrought by Nature and Man. Although much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place. It has to be seen to be believed. No doubt, Petra is the world wonder, the most valuable treasure, and greatest tourist attraction. It is a symbol of Jordan. Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of “the 40 places you have to see before you die”. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.” And in a sonnet by John William Burgon Petra is called as “a rose-red city half as old as time”. Petra lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah, the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Due to its breathtaking grandeur and fabulous ruins, Petra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on December 6, 1985. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, was a center of the caravan trade, an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra possessed the advantages of a fortress. The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought, and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.

The Petra Archaeological Park

The Petra Archaeological Park covers a 264 dunum (264,000m2) area within Wadi Musa. The area encompasses a breathtaking landscape of pink-hued rock mountains, the focus of which is the amazing ancient Nabataean city of Petra, which was carved into the rock more than 2,000 years ago. The entrance fees are considered fairly steep compared to other Jordanian attractions. Visitors can purchase tickets at the Visitor’s Center for 50 JD/person for a one day pass, 55 JD for a two day pass, 60 JD for 3 days. Do not purchase tickets from dubious scalpers around town! Time permitting, the two-day pass is recommended, as there is much to see and do in Petra. For more than one day, the ticket office can ask for your passport as the ticket has your first name on it.

Siq

Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80m high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury). As you enter the Petra valley you will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of this place and its outstanding architectural achievements.

Treasury (Al-Khazneh)

Upon exiting the Siq, visitors can view the jaw-dropping grandeur of the Treasury (al-Khazneh in Arabic). Be sure to note the urn atop the Treasury structure. It has been rumored that the urn contained a Pharaoh’s hidden treasure, and the urn bears the bullet pock marks where Bedouin travellers throughout the years have tested the theory. The Treasury is an awe-inspiring experience. This is merely the first of the many wonders that make up Petra. A massive façade, 30m wide and 43m high, carved out of the sheer, dusky pink rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. It was carved in the early 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people.

The amphitheatre

A little further from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, which could seat 3,000 people, so placed as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-coloured mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures, and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.

Ad-Deir Monastery

There are obelisks, temples, sacrificial altars and colonnaded streets, and high above, overlooking the valley, is the impressive Ad-Deir Monastery. The Monastery, the largest carved monument in Petra, dates back to the 1st century AD. The interior, like that of the Treasury, is puny in comparison to the facade. The more than 800 steps up to the Monastery can take over an hour; many visitors choose to ride donkeys up to the top

Royal Tombs

On the side of the valley opposite the Roman Theater and a short walk up the hill, are the Royal Tombs. The name was given because they are quite grand in scale compared to the others in the area, but it is unclear for whom the tombs were originally constructed

You can hire a horse-drawn carriage

It is not permitted for motorized vehicles to enter the site. But if you don’t want to walk, you can hire a horse or a horse-drawn carriage to take you through the one kilometre Siq. For the elderly and/or handicapped, the Visitors’ Centre, close to the entrance of the Siq, will issue a special permit (at an extra fee), for the carriage to go inside Petra to visit the main attractions. Once inside the site, you can hire a donkey, or for the more adventurous, a camel – both come with handlers and take designated routes throughout the site. At the Visitors Center, you can hire a guide from about 10 JD and up (depending on what you want to see). You may want to take advantage of the knowledge of the Bedouins who work in Petra. Many of them were born and raised in Petra, and will gladly share their knowledge with you for the price of a camel or donkey ride. Alternatively, major hotels can rent you a portable Easyguide audio guide (JD 10/day) for commentary in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Easyguide is also available as a mobile phone service on all Jordanian mobile phone networks, a map  is needed to use this service.  

“A Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time”

The giant red mountains and vast mausoleums of a departed race have nothing in common with modern civilization, and ask nothing of it except to be appreciated at their true value – as one of the greatest wonders ever wrought by Nature and Man. Although much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place. It has to be seen to be believed.

No doubt, Petra is the world wonder, the most valuable treasure, and greatest tourist attraction. It is a symbol of Jordan. Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of “the 40 places you have to see before you die”. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.” And in a sonnet by John William Burgon Petra is called as “a rose-red city half as old as time”.

Petra lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah, the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Due to its breathtaking grandeur and fabulous ruins, Petra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on December 6, 1985.

It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, was a center of the caravan trade, an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra possessed the advantages of a fortress.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought, and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.

The Petra Archaeological Park

The Petra Archaeological Park covers a 264 dunum (264,000m2) area within Wadi Musa. The area encompasses a breathtaking landscape of pink-hued rock mountains, the focus of which is the amazing ancient Nabataean city of Petra, which was carved into the rock more than 2,000 years ago.

The entrance fees are considered fairly steep compared to other Jordanian attractions. Visitors can purchase tickets at the Visitor’s Center for 50 JD/person for a one day pass, 55 JD for a two day pass, 60 JD for 3 days. Do not purchase tickets from dubious scalpers around town! Time permitting, the two-day pass is recommended, as there is much to see and do in Petra. For more than one day, the ticket office can ask for your passport as the ticket has your first name on it.

Siq

Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80m high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury). As you enter the Petra valley you will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of this place and its outstanding architectural achievements.

Treasury (Al-Khazneh)

Upon exiting the Siq, visitors can view the jaw-dropping grandeur of the Treasury (al-Khazneh in Arabic). Be sure to note the urn atop the Treasury structure. It has been rumored that the urn contained a Pharaoh’s hidden treasure, and the urn bears the bullet pock marks where Bedouin travellers throughout the years have tested the theory. The Treasury is an awe-inspiring experience. This is merely the first of the many wonders that make up Petra. A massive façade, 30m wide and 43m high, carved out of the sheer, dusky pink rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. It was carved in the early 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people.

The amphitheatre

A little further from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, which could seat 3,000 people, so placed as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-coloured mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures, and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.

Ad-Deir Monastery

There are obelisks, temples, sacrificial altars and colonnaded streets, and high above, overlooking the valley, is the impressive Ad-Deir Monastery. The Monastery, the largest carved monument in Petra, dates back to the 1st century AD. The interior, like that of the Treasury, is puny in comparison to the facade. The more than 800 steps up to the Monastery can take over an hour; many visitors choose to ride donkeys up to the top

Royal Tombs

On the side of the valley opposite the Roman Theater and a short walk up the hill, are the Royal Tombs. The name was given because they are quite grand in scale compared to the others in the area, but it is unclear for whom the tombs were originally constructed

You can hire a horse-drawn carriage

It is not permitted for motorized vehicles to enter the site. But if you don’t want to walk, you can hire a horse or a horse-drawn carriage to take you through the one kilometre Siq. For the elderly and/or handicapped, the Visitors’ Centre, close to the entrance of the Siq, will issue a special permit (at an extra fee), for the carriage to go inside Petra to visit the main attractions. Once inside the site, you can hire a donkey, or for the more adventurous, a camel – both come with handlers and take designated routes throughout the site.

At the Visitors Center, you can hire a guide from about 10 JD and up (depending on what you want to see). You may want to take advantage of the knowledge of the Bedouins who work in Petra. Many of them were born and raised in Petra, and will gladly share their knowledge with you for the price of a camel or donkey ride. Alternatively, major hotels can rent you a portable Easyguide audio guide (JD 10/day) for commentary in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Easyguide is also available as a mobile phone service on all Jordanian mobile phone networks, a map  is needed to use this service.

 

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