The lost city of Petra

The lost city of Petra located in Southern Jordan, is recognised as a world heritage UNESCO site. Visiting the area you can see why. Carved into the rock faces are the most remarkable facades constructed by ancient civilisations.

Petra’s landscape and climate alone is breathtaking. Red sand stone mountains jut into the bright blue skies from the desert floor. The heat is stifling and there is no evidence of rain.

Inhabitants known as the Nabataeans are thought to have settled in Petra as far back as the 5th century BC. They prospered due to their trade in spices through the Middle East acting as a go between, gaining profits from a sort of tax.

It is also believed that due to the entrance to the main city of Petra being through a narrow path (the Siq) between two large mountains, Petra was hard to attack and overthrow. Consequently, Petra thrived.

However, it remains a mystery how they got water for survival or indeed how they built their magnificent city.

Along the Siq/ canyon path, reconstructions of dams can be found. One theory is that water from flash floods was stored in these dams and irrigated throughout the city. Keep an eye out for elephant carvings along the Siq too.

Today thousands of tourists flock to Petra to walk through the canyon entrance, see the treasury, visit the tombs, monastery, theatre and hike the trails Petra has to offer.

We signed up for Petra by Night on our first evening in Wasu Musa. There were mixed reviews online and we were not sure what to expect. However, arriving at 6pm and itching to see the ancient site immediately we decided to go. Petra by night comprises a show in front of the Treasury. The show itself is underwhelming – a flute performance, a long winded story and a cup of sweet liquorish tea. Despite that, the experience is made worthwhile by seeing the Treasury lit up under the stars.

The next day in Petra we spent over 8 hours exploring. We entered via the tourist center, walked through the spectacular canyon to the treasury. From here we took a right across a bridge and joined the tombs trail.

From this trail we continued up and around the mountain on the Al Kabutah trail. This path leads to an impressive viewpoint of the treasury. Unofficial guides will try to take you up there from the treasury in 5 minutes, up a sketchy rocky path. There is no need to do this unless you are time limited. The official path takes around 40 minutes each way and is free.

We then rejoined the main path and hiked to the monastery – not to be missed. On the way down we stopped by the Lion’s cave.

On our return Petra had emptied out, it was almost 7pm (closing time) and most tourists had left. The unofficial guides had also calmed down. This was our favourite time of the day, the temperature was cooler and the crowds fewer.

  • The official guides cost 50 JD for 2.5 hours. We opted to explore ourselves as it was extremely hot and we wanted to go at our own pace.
  • Lots of unofficial guides will try to show you the ’best viewpoints’. We would recommend not being sucked in as you’ll be able to find them easily yourself. If you go past the tombs and take a signposted route to the right you’ll eventually reach an incredible view of the treasury from above.
  • Avoid the camel, donkey and horse rides, guides claim they are free but will take money from you. Plus some of the animals look a bit worse for wear with their owners hitting them and pushing them past their limits. One horse tried to knock his owner off in a bid to escape.

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