Petra is a historical archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma’an. Known around the world for its famous architecture, it has earned the name “Rose City” due to the colour of the stone it was carved from.
A must-see attraction when in Jordan and a permanent resident on many a bucket list, here are the top reasons as why you really need to visit.
Also known as the Path to Petra, The Siq is the main entrance into the ancient city. A narrow gorge (as wide as 9.8ft in some areas), it is believed that The Siq is a natural geological fault that split apart due to tectonic activity, but was then later further shaped by water like other slot canyons. It was also used as the grand caravan entrance into Petra. Along the Siq are a number underground chambers, the purpose of which archaeologists are still unsure of.
Al Khazneh – The Treasury
The Siq leads travellers to this particular wonder. The Treasury is one of the most elaborate temples Petra has on offer and was originally built as a mausoleum and crypt back in 1st Century AD during the reign of Aretas IV Philopatric. Surrounded by folklore and legends, some believed that Al Khazneh got its name by functioning as the treasury of the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time of Moses. It has since been featured in several films such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where it was the resting place of the Holy Grail.
Street of Facades
Next to the Treasury lies a Nabataean built street that connects the Treasury to the heart of the ancient city. Age-old hand carved tombs line the street in rows, with the size of the tomb and level it was on giving a hint to the dead resident’s wealth in life. The rich had the largest and highest tombs whilst the poorer got the smallest and lowest.
Build around the same time as the Treasury, the Theatre was first built by the Nabatarans and was later enlarged by the Romans after they acquired the city in 106AD. They destroyed a street of houses and tombs in order to extend the rear so it could then accommodate 3000 people. They also improved the acoustics of the theatre and added a drain which could take the runoff water around the sides, in order to protect it from the elements.
The Royal Tombs consists of the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and Urn Tomb. They sit side by side overlooking the rest of the city. As expected being built for royalty, all three have a more ornate design to the other tombs in the city. Some believe that the Urn Tomb is the resting place of the Nabataean King Malchus II, whilst others consider it to be the tomb of Aretas IV.
Also known as al-Deir or ad-Dayr in Arabic, the Monastery is easily one of the most impressive sights Petra has to hold. Situated an hour’s climb north from Petra’s city centre, the beautifully carved architecture isn’t as ornately decorated as the Treasury. It does however make up for it in its size as the doorway alone is several stories high. The Monastery was most likely used as a Nabataean temple for religious ceremonies and some believe it may have been dedicated to the defied Nabataean king Obodas I.
High Place of Sacrifice
If you can manage a 40 minute to an hour climb, the High Place of Sacrifice is located at the top of the mountain and you won’t be disappointed. At the top of the mountain is an area known as the Attuf Ridge. On the ridge are two imposing obelisks that are over 6m high and carved out of solid rock. As one of the obelisks features the typical Nabataean style of carving, it has been speculated that they could represent the male and female Nabataean dieities.
Petra by night
Undeniably Petra by day is stunning and breath-taking and you might think that surely it cannot be topped. That is of course until you go on a night-time tour. The Siq is softly lit by hundreds, if not thousands of candles along the trail towards Petra. As you walk slowly down the path a hush falls over the group as silhouetted shadows move along the curved walls. Soon after, the route opens out towards the Treasury where you are met and entertained by story tellers and musicians. Clearly an experience to not be missed.