The Ancient City of Petra
By Daniel Alcalá |
Petra “The City of Stone” is also known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Discover why.
TRAVEL TO JORDAN’S LOST CITY
Petra is an archaeological site located in Jordan, in the Middle East. There you can visit the remains of an immense city carved in red and pink stone. Its architecture and its uncountable tombs adorned with classical façades are so admirable that, in fact, the city has been commonly called the eighth wonder of the world apart from having been granted the title of Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO.
The city was founded over 2600 years ago by an Arab tribe called the Nabateans. Little by little it became a common stop for merchants who traveled from China and India to Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome on the journey across the silk and spice routes.
AL SIQ CANYON AT PETRA
Before you can begin your visit in Petra you’ll have to walk through the passage of the Siq, a narrow canyon with walls that rise over 262 feet! Their dashing red colors and waving textures will impress you. The Siq is a little bit over 1 kilometer long, so we recommend wearing comfortable shoes, especially because no motorized vehicles are allowed in that area. Actually, your only alternatives will be to walk or either rent a horse or a camel. The adventure will continue as you reach the façade of Al-Khazneh, a tomb that was built in the first century and that is better known as the Treasure. If you are a Hollywood fan, you’ll recognize the site as the Half Moon Canyon from the movie Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, although unfortunately you won’t find the Holy Grail inside.
THE CHURCH OF THE PAPYRI
After exiting Siq, you will find a Bizantine church to the right. It’s paved with polychromatic marble. Observe the floor because it’s full of mosaics with human, bird and animal images shaped by geometric shapes. It was probably built in the late fifth century A.D. and destroyed by a fire in mid sixth century. Inside, 150 carbonized papyri were found. Collectively, these are known as “The Petra Manuscripts”, as they represent one of the largest collections of written material. Therefore, this church has gained popularity as the Church of the Papyri.
QASR AL-BINT, A PRISM-SHAPED BUILDING
Qasr al-Bint is one of the few remaining non-cave buildings in Petra after an earthquake that took place in 363 destroyed half of the city. Its cubic prism shape will truly impress you. Its walls are 23 meters tall, while its central location within the city makes it stand out in the skyline. It was built in the Nabataean period and the materials with which it was erected are large blocks of yellow sandstone that were transported from a quarry located a few hundred meters below the Siyagh River.
ARCHITECTURE OF PETRA
You’ll notice that the architecture resembles the Greek and Roman styles not only in the tombs but also in the theater that harbors 3000 people. This is because in the year 100 A.D. the city was dominated by the Roman Empire. Yet, apart from obelisks, columns and temples, you’ll also find one of the best-known attractions in Petra, the Ad-Deir, a monastery located “only” 800 steps above the ground. Trust us, the effort of climbing them will be worth it.
SUNSET IN PETRA
Go to the viewpoints that are located near the monastery and enjoy the spectacular sunset. You will be able to see how the sun disappears in the horizon while its rays are projected on each of the stones the make up the mausoleum. You can also see beyond the valley, as sunset falls over Israel and Palestine. Take your time to create a wonderful postcard.
THE HIGHEST POINT IN PETRA
The sanctuary of the prophet Aaron is located at 1,350 meters above sea level, so it is the highest point in Petra and it rewards visitors who manage to climb to the summit with spectacular views of the entire region. Climbing up takes up from 2 to 3 hours, that’s why we only recommend it for people who are in good shape. Still wear appropriate footwear and carry a water bottle.
PETRA BY NIGHT
DINKtravelers recommends visiting the site in the morning so you can appreciate the whole of Petra, but don’t forget to return after dusk for the show “Petra by night” a one and a half-hour tour around the city lit by 1,800 candles that ends in a Bedouin music concert at the Treasure.
As far as lodging goes, don’t worry. The nearest city is Wadi Musa, only 2 kilometers away, and it harbors several resorts.