Our anxious two hour drive from Wadi Rum took us through winding desert mountain roads scattered with bedoiun tents and cattle until we reached our next destination. Petra is one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”. This magical place was originally built more than 2200 years ago and inhabited by the Nabateans who were from ancient Arab tribes. However, evidence suggests the city was inhabited since prehistoric times. Over centuries Petra was ruled by different empires including the Greeks and the Romans. This varying cultural influence is very strong throughout the architecture around Petra. It’s called the “Rose-Red City” for its magnificent uniquely colored limestone cliffs.
Upon entering Petra, we walked through the Siq, which is a long narrow corridor tucked between enormous 80m high rock cliffs. At every corner and turn we were anxious to see what awaited us at the end of the walkway. Many tourists opt to take camel, horses, donkey or horse drawn carriages so we had to be careful not to be trampled by them trotting along.
After zig-zagging 1.5 km through the Siq, the sun radiates at the end of the walkway. We could see a glimpse of the glorious Treasury beaming through the narrow gorge. At the end of the Siq lies the Treasury, which served as a tomb for an ancient king in 100 BC. It was named the Treasury for its fable that an Egyptian pharaoh hid his treasures there.
The Treasury, as well as the tombs found at Petra, are cave-like structures with decorative facades etched into the enormous mountain cliffs. One of the most spectacular for its size and artistic detail, is the Treasury, which is 43m high and 30m wide. As we walked further down the sandy rock “Street of Facades”, we encountered dozens of smaller tombs carved into the mountain side. At first glance, we thought they were cave-like dwellings for the thousands of inhabitants of Petra. But as we took a further look inside, we found small rooms holding stone coffins in the walls.
Walking further down the path, we came to the Theatre, which held between 3000 and 8000 guests depending on the era. The Theatre was build around the turn of AD by the Nabateans. Its grand stadium seating was carved out of the large rock gorge. It was later reconstructed by the Romans around 100 AD, so it has simularity to the Roman Colleseum. The Roman influence can be seen throughout the structures of Petra. We encountered tons of Italian tourists here….. more so than any other place we’ve traveled.
The Royal Tombs are found just across the way from the Theatre. These are some of the most impressive tombs built for Kings and Royals during the early 1st century. We explored inside and outside and found very impressive rock stone colors and carvings throughout. Brett stopped for a chat with a Jordanian policeman wearing traditional uniform and a gun from the early days.
We tackled the long trek of 800 steps up and over the Ad-Deir mountain to the Ad-Deir Monastery. It resembles the design of the Treasury, except larger in size, measuring 50m wide and 45m high. It was built as a Nabataean king’s tomb during 3rd century BC. The building is thought to be a church during the Byzantine era, thus called “The Monastery”.
After exploring dozens of tombs, we set off on the steep hike up to the “High Place of Sacrifice” known as Al-Madbah (The Alter). During ancient times, the top of Jebel Madbah mountain was a venue for important religious ceremonies involving sacrificing animals, as well as funeral rites.
It wasn’t until we trekked up to the top of the mountain, that we realized the magical essence of Petra. We could see the entire city and all its attractions with one single view. We picnicked in the shade atop a hidden rock cove for about two hours…. writing this entry with great spirit and admiration.
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