Petra, the rose red city

Whilst visiting Eilat, in Israel (separate post about Eilat coming soon!) we border hopped into Jordan to visit the ancient city of Petra. It was a very early start and the coach trip up the Kings Highway took a few hours, but it was a trip that would prove to be worth it. Jordan is a great country, an expanse of dusty red/brown desert that rises and falls stretching on for endless miles. Mountains line the roadside, only punctuated by the occasional site of a Bedouin tent and its occupants.

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Close to the entrance of Petra National Park

Arriving in Wadi Musa, the small town where Petra is located, we joined our guide and followed him as we walked through the gates into Petra National Park. Nothing can prepare you for what you see as a visitor, neither can you truly describe to others how incredible Petra is. At first it doesn’t seem like much as you walk a dusty, open path with not much on either side, save for rocky inclines. After ten minutes or so however, you happen upon the Triclinium tomb and some Djinn blocks – ancient structures built by the original inhabitants the Nabataeans 2000 years previously – the first sign of what is to come. They are impressive, but you wonder if it was really worth the visit, but the trip doesn’t end there.

 

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Inside the gorge walking down to the main part of the city

The path continues steadily on, and suddenly it plunges down through a crack in a rock, between two large edifices of pink stone, once sliced open by an earthquake. Along this path you begin to catch remnants of ancient reliefs, carvings, cobbled flooring and an ancient water irrigation system, as you marvel at the incredible gorge that nature created.

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Catching site of “El Khasneh” at the end of the gorge
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“El Khasneh” (The Treasury)

Suddenly, without warning, the path ends and that’s when your visit to Petra really begins. At the end of this gorge stands the impressive El Khasneh (The Treasury), an ancient temple built by the Nabataeans. Turning to your right you suddenly discover that it’s just the first of many ancient sights, as your vision fills with the remnants of ancient tombs, temples and rock-cut houses.

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Some of the Royal Tombs
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Some of the Royal Tombs
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The Colonnaded street and other ruins
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The Roman Amphitheatre
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Rock-cut tombs/dwellings

Seeing and experiencing Petra was something I’ll never forget. Petra is a huge ancient city, albeit in a semi-ruinous state, that had belonged to the caravan people who had worked the old spice road, around 2000 years ago. Many of its buildings were carved directly into the rock face which meant they haven’t been destroyed by earthquakes, and are still visible. Sadly not all of the city survived though and the central part is fairly ruinous. Despite that, it’s an incredible place to explore, and just when you think you have finished seeing everything, you find another sight to marvel at. There are the Royal Tombs, Colonnaded Streets, a Roman Amphitheatre and The Monastery, the list is endless and there is so much to see and experience. The rich colourful rock, giving Petra it’s nickname of the Rose Red City, is so vibrant in places and marbled in texture, mixed through with hues of white and grey. You really do get a fascinating insight into the people who built the city and used to live there. No vehicles are allowed into the ancient city, and so most visitors make the trip down on foot, but there are horses, camels and horse drawn carriages for those who need transport.

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Me inside El Khasneh, a little overwhelmed by it all!

I love Petra, it’s in my top three of favourite places visited and I hope to be able to go again one day. Today the site is well looked after and protected, and sits on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It’s a place that many don’t know exists, a hidden historical gem in the Jordanian desert, and one that is definitely worth visiting and will welcome visitors with open arms.

  • Have you ever been to Petra? If so what did you like the most about it?

Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

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