Imagine to have found a lost city. Imagine if you were roaming around with a different mission and along the way, you see a small opening through which you squeeze yourself in and then – You blink and rub your eyes to see what stands in front of you. Pinch yourself to believe it – for you have arrived and discovered a lost city called Petra.
That is how I believe this city must have been discovered by a Swiss explorer – Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. This would be his feeling when he must have just walked through the gorge to a jaw-dropping sight.
Petra offers various trails – some for regular tourists and some for hikers. The trails can be found here. And while you can decide on your trail, let me walk you through some highlights of Petra.
Siq at Petra
This is a mile long entrance to the grand city of Petra. This is a narrow gorge that leads to the main city. As you walk along theSiq, keep a watch on both sides to spot some interesting stuff. Around the first corner are some carvings of Gods called as the Djinn Blocks. These are about 6 – 8 ft in height and are said to be shrines of the Gods that protected the water supply to Petra.
Alongside the gorge, one can even spot the water channels and the clay pipelines that supplied water to the city from the Wadi Musa. Full of twists and turns, this gorge served as an official entrance to the city even in the olden times. As you follow the turns and twists, you end at a spectacular sight – the Treasury or Al Khaznah.
Al Khazneh at Petra
The view at the end of the Siq has never failed to amaze anyone who visits Petra for the first time. The treasury or Al Khaznehis a huge monument , several stories high, which is rumored to have stored the Pharaoh’s treasure. There is an Urn that hangs outside that was said to hold the treasure. There are a few bullet marks that were made by the Bedouins who possibly tried testing the legend. The architecture of the same is just amazing and one should soak the same in before actually entering it. The exteriors are more impressionable than the interiors.
The treasury is actually a misnomer as this structure is actually a burial chamber. Owing to its sheer magnificence, it was mistaken for a treasury. Recent excavations have brought up the burial chambers on either side of this building. For those of you who have watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades, you may just have a feeling of déjà vu.
Street of Facades at Petra
As you finish with the treasury, you can head along the Street of Facades to the next one. Along the street are the Nabateantombs at various levels. The same can be explored by climbing into them .The Rose red walls of the tombs are quite fascinating. The scale quite gigantic.
Roman Theatre at Petra
The street of Facades culminates into the beautiful Roman Amphitheatre. Though called Roman, this was actually built by the Nabateans. It is said to have a seating over 7000 people. Though the same is quite badly damaged owing to the natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, one can see enough to imagine what it would have been in their hey days. The entire theatre is built into the rock, which is quite amazing considering that rock was not brought in for it but was existing there. One can climb up the stairs and seating and have a view of what was to see in its Golden era.
Royal Tombs at Petra
A little ahead of the theatre, lies three magnificent tombs that are called the Royal Tombs. These are a set of 4 tombs – The Urn Tomb, the Palace tomb, the Corianthian tomb and the Silk tomb. By themselves, they are as impressive as the Treasury. One can climb up a huge flight of steps to visit the Urn Tomb and explore the same from within. The Silk tomb is so called, owing to the different color of the stone and this particularly stands out amongst all the others. It is not known who these tombs belong to, but its sheer beauty and grandeur suggest that it must have been someone of importance.
Al Deir or the Monastery at Petra
This is one of the largest carved structures in Petra and also, the farthest from Siq. Though called the Monastery, there is no accurate evidence of it having been so. The place is located at a height and if you have the stamina for it, you could visit it by climbing over 850 stairs for the same. There are a few donkey rides available to take you up. The structure is very impressive on the outside and the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking.
Petra offers more for the history lovers – from a high table of sacrifice to temples and museums. A day is just not enough for this mesmerizing wonder. Every nook and corner has a secret that is waiting to be unveiled – but that is the charm of the “Lost city of Petra”
Here is a useful site for a visit to Petra. The Fees for the entrance and the guides are as mentioned on this page.
Petra is open from 6:00am to 6:00pm, except in winter when it shuts by 4:00pm.
The only way to explore this city is by foot . Donkey rides are available for hire at the entrance of the city. However, be wary of the horsemen who will offer you a free ride but later charge you a tip. When negotiating the rates for the ride, the maximum suggest is 10 JOD. The rides are available at the key monuments as well to take you around.
Petra by Night happens on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 20:00 hrs. The tickets can be booked through travel agents and hotels. This is not included in the day pass.
There are plenty of hawkers and refreshment shops within Petra. However, there is only one restaurant her, close to the Monastery.
Drink plenty of water and carry the same around as the temperatures in this place can soar quite a bit. The best time to go to the Monastery for a climb is post noon as the sun tends to move away around then. Wear loose cotton clothes and comfortable shoes, preferably hiking ones. Carry enough toiletries and sun screen.
If you are a solo traveler, specifically a female traveler, you might want to read through this post for some useful travel tips to Jordan.
One can get to Petra by bus or taxi from Amman, Aqaba or directly from the airport. The buses are convenient and can be booked online as well. The timings are convenient and fixed. Click here for a quick access to these options.
There are plenty of hotels around Petra (in Wadi Musa) to stay if you are planning a longer visit.
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