Petra, a prehistoric caravan city in Jordan, was lost to the Western world for hundreds of years. It is located in the desert between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea on an important crossroad between Arabia, Egypt and Syria. Petra was once a trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 BC and 106 AD. Petra is half built and half carved into the rock. The Nabataeans picked this location for the surrounding mountains with its windy entrances resembling a fortress. They were an advanced society with ingenious networks of water capture, storage and irrigation systems, hence creating an artificial oasis in the desert. Their architectural style is also a unique combination of Hellenistic and Nabataean, which we were told was their way of making traders visiting the city feel “at home” with architecture familiar to them.
Petra’s importance in trade waned after the Romans took over. The city continued to decline with the rise of sea trade, and Petra was abandoned near the close of the Byzantine Empire. Petra was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
We flew into Amman, the capital of Jordan, and was immediately transferred to Petra about 3 hours away. We stayed at the Movenpick Resort Petra right across from the entrance to Petra’s archaeological site. The benefit of staying here is you can enter Petra as soon as the site opens at 6am before the busloads of tourists arrive. Also you can do Petra by Night which is an after-dark excursion into the ancient city lit by candlelight. The square in front of the Treasury will be lit by candles and a bedouin musician plays while you sip some hot mint tea. The tour does not run every night so make sure you check and book in advance.
The lobby of the Movepick Resort Petra.
The lobby of the Movenpick Resort Petra.
Entering Petra bright and early.
Obelisk Tomb named after the four obelisks on top of the tomb. The top story of the tomb houses the tomb itself, while the bottom story contains a traditional Nabataean dining hall for funerary rites.
Entrance to the Siq
Eastern entrance to Petra through the Siq which is a narrow gorge.
Walk along the windy Siq which is about 1200m long.
On both sides of the Siq are channels to draw water into the city.
At the end of the Siq is the famed Treasury building.
The Treasury is only a facade with only a small hall inside probably used as an “admissions office” or a royal tomb.
Beginning of the Street of Facades which is lined with tall impressive tombs with large facades on their fronts.
The Street of Facades is a row of Nabataean tombs.
The Theatre is caved into the side of the mountain below the High Place of Sacrifice.
Petra is also referred to as the Rose City because of the rose-red colored sandstone.
The Royal Tombs from left to right: The Palace Tomb, The Corinthian Tomb, The Silk Tomb, and The Urn Tomb.
The Corinthian Tomb is similar in architectural style to the Treasury.
The Palace Tomb is similar in design to the Roman Golden House of Nero. Archaeologists speculate that the Palace Tomb may be designed as a backdrop for State funerals.
Colonnaded Street that used to run through the city center of Petra.
Qasr al-Bint or the Palace of Pharaoh’s Daughter
The Monastery is one of the largest monuments here in Petra and it is also the farthest from the main gate. You can hike 800 steps up or ride a donkey most of the way and climb up on foot the last bit.
The door to the Monastery is 8 meters high.
The Monastery was most probably a temple dedicated to the Nabatean king Obodas I who was posthumously diefied.
Leaving Petra through the Siq