The Monastery is an hour's climb northwest of the city centre
Petra was once a powerful trading post on the Silk Route and reached its zenith around the 1st century. It was abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire some 700 years later and lay more or less forgotten for more than another 1,000 years.
Geraldine Brennan, Times Online, 23 June 2007
In the 1st century BC Petra was the boom town of the ancient world. By the 8th century AD it had suffered two earthquakes and was virtually abandoned. It has been rediscovered by Westerners twice: by the Swiss traveller Jean Louis Burckhardt in 1812 - and Indiana Jones in 1989.
Petra is Jordan's most spectacular attraction. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive one so make sure to bring enough cash. A three-day pass will set you back a whopping JD 43 (this will increase to JD 60 as of 1 November 2010) whilst a two-day pass is only marginally cheaper at JD 38. If at all possible, stay for three days which will give you enough time to explore the major sights of Petra. Both stamina and good shoes or walking boots are required to explore the ancient rose-red city. A detailed guidebook is essential as signposting is virtually non-existent. Petra is open from 6am to sunset and it is definitely worth to start early on at least one day. There is nothing that compares with the magic to walk through the Siq at dawn and arrive at the Treasury virtually on your own. The Siq
The Siq is a spectacular sight on its own and certainly Petra's most dramatic natural feature. It is an impressive, narrow gorge that leads to the ancient city of Petra. The Siq is a natural feature and winds around between high sandstone cliffs for more than one kilometre. On either side, the sheer rock walls shoot up to more than 100m. Stepping out of the mouth of the gorge another breathtaking vision is waiting: the Treasury, Petra's most famous building. The Treasury
The first sight you see when emerging from the Siq is the Treasury, the most magnificent of Petra's sights. Everybody who steps out of the narrow Siq is stunned by the face of this temple which was built around 100 BC. It is carved out of solid rock and stands over 40 meters high. The outer Siq and the theatre
Behind the Treasury is the Street of Facades
which is lined with tall, impressive tombs. This street leads to the theatre
which was constructed in the 1st century and later enlarged by the Romans. The theatre could accommodate around 5,000 people. The High Place of Sacrifice
The High Place of Sacrifice is
The Treasury, as seen from the Siq, right before the passage ends.
perched on top of a cliff that drops off on three sides. The steep climb from the theatre up to the High Place of Sacrifice is well worth the effort. A narrow path and worn stairways lead through spectacular mountain scenery to the large platform that features a basin and a rock altar. It is believed that this place served as a venue for religious ceremonies including animal sacrifices. When you descend make sure to use the alternative route down the back side of the mountain. This route runs through Wadi Farasa and reveals many interesting tombs and carvings: the Lion Monument
which served as a fountain for pilgrims, the Garden Temple
with its water cistern and the Roman Soldier Tomb
with its Triclinium. The path continues past the Renaissance Tomb
and many other smaller tombs before reaching the ancient city centre. The City Centre
The Romans built a Colonnaded Street
through the ancient city centre. Today, only a short stretch remains. The ruins of various large temples line the hills on either side of the street. The Great Temple
is one of the largest complexes in Petra. It was discovered in 1992 and excavation is still ongoing. The
The plaza in front has been leveled
imposing Qasr Al-Bint Temple
is some 2,000 year old and the only surviving substantial stone-built structure in Petra. The Byzantine church
is located a few hundred meters off the colonnaded street. Each of the side aisles is paved with remarkably preserved mosaics. The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs are set into the rock face and amongst the most impressive of the more than 500 tombs to be found in Petra. Some of these tombs are thought to be those of Nabataean kings. The Urn tomb
features a beautiful courtyard with colonnades on two sides. Next to it, the small Silk Tomb
impresses with swirls of different coloured rock on its facade. Both the unique-looking Corinthian tomb
and the three-storey high Palace Tomb
are equally impressive. A bit further on is the Sextus Florentinus Tomb
which can be accurately dated to AD 130. The Monastery
The Monastery (al-Deir), Petra's biggest monument, is situated about an hour's climb north of the city centre. The hike up the 800 steps is actually not as bad as it sounds as there are plenty of flat stretches. Also, there are some minor points of interest along the way, such as the Lion Triclinium
Indiana Jones gift shop
The Siq doubled as the "Canyon of the Crescent Moon" in the third installment of Indiana Jones
which are ideal for a short rest. The best time to visit is in the afternoon when the sun is shining on the Monastery's facade. The Monastery is as beautifully carved - although much less decorated - as the Treasury. As with the Treasury the name is misleading; the Monastery was almost certainly built as a temple. Little Petra
Little Petra, or Siq Al-Barid, is a small canyon located to the north of Petra. A taxi ride takes around 10 minutes and should not cost more than JD15 including one hour waiting time (entrance is free). The narrow canyon is only 400m long but crammed with tombs, temples, houses and other evidence of human settlements. Don't miss the painted frescoes dating from the 1st century AD which can be found in one of the houses.
For further information visit the Jordan Tourism Board
is relatively expensive and it is difficult to find good value-for-money.
- Petra Gate Hostel is probably the best option for backpackers - basic but inexpensive, clean and very friendly staff
- The Mövenpick lies within metres of the entrance to historic Petra but is at the opposite end of the price range
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