Camels outside the Treasury, Petra, Jordan

Brief guide to Petra, Jordan


Described as ‘one of the most precious cultural properties of mans cultural heritage’ by UNESCO and designated as a world heritage site in 1985, Petra truly is an amazing site to see.

Petra is known for being the capital city of the Nabatean people. The Nabatean people were first mentioned in 647 BC, when the Babylonians depopulated much of Palestine. Many Edomites came down from Petra to claim the empty land to the west. In turn, the Nabateans migrated out of the arid Arabian Desert to the lusher and more temperate mountains of Edom, and, specifically to the hills above Petra. It wasn’t long before the Nabateans saw the potential in developing the valley floor. They soon gave up on their traditional occupation of raiding the plentiful caravans that passed and began charging the merchants for safe passage and a place to do business. Petra’s prosperity grew and grew, and at its peak it is said to have had a population of around 30,000. Petra passed from the Nabatean people to the Romans and then the Crusaders and around 1276 was deserted. Other than by the local Bedouin people, it is believed that Petra wasn’t seen for over 500 years. In 1812 a Swiss scholar, Jean Louis Burckhardt managed to enter the area in Arab disguise to make secret notes and sketches. It was then that the fable of Petra was brought to the attention of the world again. Since then tourists have flocked in their thousands to marvel at the red city.

Although much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place. It has to be seen to be believed. Petra is a vast unique city, carved into the sheer cliffs.

Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1 kilometre in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80 metres 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 (The Treasury). The Treasury is just the first of the many wonders that make up Petra. There is also a massive Nabataean-built, Roman-style theatre, which could seat 3,000 people. There are obelisks, temples, sacrificial altars and colonnaded streets, and high above, overlooking the valley, is the impressive Ad-Deir Monastery, a climb of 800 rock cut steps takes you there. From here you will have excellent views of the Jordan valley.

We feel that no trip into Jordan would be complete without a visit to Petra, for this reason, Petra is included on all of our tours into Jordan. When visiting Petra we recommend good walking shoes as you may be walking up to 6 miles, a sunhat, high SPF sunscreen and water are essential. On all of our tours you will be escorted by an expert guide. Horses are available from the local Bedouin people to the entrance of the siq, although the horses are not so well looked after. Our tours include a 1 day entry into Petra which can be upgraded to 2 days locally for around UK£7, tickets for Petra by candlelight should also be purchased locally for around UK£12, and this is when the whole of the Siq is lined with candles creating an extremely esoteric experience.

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