Travel in Jordan: The Lost City of Petra

The lost city of Petra is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

15122995_10105983254287327_6722840199488012742_oThe history behind Petra stretches back over 2,000 years. The city was built by the Nabatean Kingdom, who were well-known for their innovative methods of harvesting water. This made Petra an oasis in the desert, and one of the main stops on the trading route.

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During that time, camels were the backbone of merchant trade.

Equally impressive was their talent in rock carving, which led them to create opulent tombs, temples, and religious sites. Petra would soon be known as the Rose-Red City, for the gorgeous pinkish hue of each stone facade.
DSC_7278In the first century Petra was taken over by the Roman Empire. Shortly after, the city experienced a devastating earthquake, which crushed their coveted water supply. That, along with changes in the trading routes, led the kingdom to crumble, and city to become abandoned for the next 1,500 years. 😮DSC_7438DSC_7477It was then, in 1812, a Swiss traveler named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, heard rumors of Petra, and decided he wanted to find and expose this abandoned city. Since the Arab nomads knew the way to Petra, he needed to figure out a way to ask them for a local guide. He decided the only way was to lie to them, telling them he wished to make a sacrifice there, in the name of religion. They cautiously led him to Petra, but Burckhardt knew this deceitful journey could easily risk his life.

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Royal Tombs

Once Petra was re-discovered by Burckhardt, this city became famous around the world. In fact, the city has made numerous debuts in Hollywood, most notably in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the final scene of the movie, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery burst through Petra on horseback, in search of the Holy Grail.maxresdefault

Luckily, exploring Petra now-a-days is much less dangerous. In fact, the country considers it one of its most visited tourist sites. 😀DSC_7466

Getting there

From Amman to Petra, I took a Jett bus, which cost 10 JD (14 USD) and took 3 hours. The bus only leaves once daily at 6:30 AM, so be prepared for an early morning start. 🙂20161120_061549
Accommodation 

In order to preserve the city of Petra, most visitors stay in nearby Wadi Musa. My hotel, Petra Gate Hotel, was a cheap 8 JD (11 USD), which was great! Petra is notoriously known as one of the world’s most expensive attractions, so at least the place fit in my budget. It was seriously no frills though, with no soap, no toilet paper, no drinking water, and no hot showers, so if you choose this place, make sure to bring supplies. 20161120_162122

The Lost City of Petra

Main Attractions

Luckily, the main attractions in Petra, lie along a direct route through the Petra National Park.petra-mapAfter leaving the visitor’s center, you begin to walk towards The Siq. DSC_7382DSC_7261DSC_7386The Siq is narrow gorge of natural rock splitting.DSC_7416 The rocks lining the gorge showcase both natural and man-made carvings.DSC_7267DSC_7285DSC_7385Additionally, walking through The Siq reveals both the geology of these vividly colored rocks, and the stunning monuments carved into the cliff side.
DSC_7281 DSC_7368One such monument is the Obelisk Tomb, which is said to house the remains of five burial tombs.DSC_7263As the journey continues through The Siq, The Treasury slowly unveils itself, through a small slit in the rock.  DSC_7375The Treasury is decorated with Corinthian columns, figures, and a funerary urn. It is believed to have been the final resting place for a Nabataean King, and legend has it, that the urn conceals a pharaoh’s treasure.DSC_7461At the entrance to the Treasury is currently a caravan of camels. They were historically one of Petra’s working animals, used to help carry goods across the desert to trade.DSC_7427While there, I attempted to sit on a camel, which was hilarious considering the fact that I was wearing a dress. 😛20161120_114649 (1)20161120_114726My camel’s name was Daisy, which seemed fitting since I once had a Beagle named Daisy, and I found this sweetheart was graceful to both stand and sit for me, as I posed against this beautiful backdrop.20161120_114854

Getting around: working animals

If the idea of all this walking sounds exhausting, don’t be discouraged about visiting. Petra is well-equipped with herds of working animals, ready to carry you throughout the city, without even breaking a sweat.
DSC_7264DSC_7363Horses and carriages are available at the main entrance, and later donkeys are available to climb uphill.DSC_7270DSC_7321Just be sure to consider whether the animal is able to bear your weight. As a rule of thumb, a standard 500 lb donkey can carry up to 25% of its weight. If you are over 125 pounds, please consider the stress and impact on that animal. 🙂

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donkey searching for treasure in the trash 😛

There are also plenty of street puppies in Petra, that are more than happy to join you on your hike. 😉DSC_7439Anyway, after The Treasury lies The Street of Facades, a row of Nabatean tombs carved into the mountain, and embellished with crowned and concave molding, known as Egyptian cavettos.DSC_7441Further along is the Roman Theater, which can accommodate up to 4,000 spectators.DSC_7297

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the theater seen from above

One of the highlights of Petra are its Royal Tombs. The tombs are comprised of four grandiose buildings lining the hillside, said to have housed the remains of Nabatean royalty.DSC_7303DSC_7448DSC_7310Check out those beautiful color patterns! ❤DSC_7311One of the main public fountains in Petra was The Nymphaeum, which sourced water from the nearby valley, and is now shaded by a 450 year-old pistachio tree.DSC_7294One of the principal shopping areas in Petra was the Colonnaded Street. 
DSC_7314One of the main archaeological attractions in Petra is the Great Temple. Its decor showcases intricate floral bands and limestone columns imprinted with Mediterranean leaves. It was actually discovered in the 90s, by archaeologists from Brown University, and their excavations continue to this day.DSC_7476DSC_7475One of the most religiously significant temples in Petra is Qasr al-Bint. In Arabic, it means ‘Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter’ and this temple was built to honor the Nabatean Gods.
DSC_7318DSC_7317DSC_7315As a grand finale to the walk through Petra, visitors are left stunned by its magnificent Monastery. G0172630_1479647237563_highIt’s one of the largest monuments in the city, and was used as a meeting place for religious groups.DSC_7328Visitors are able to take tea and rest alongside this architectural beauty, and pat themselves on the back for a long, hard hike.DSC_7355DSC_7354 For ‘the best view’ of the monastery, you can climb to a tea house atop the mountain rock.DSC_7340DSC_7351DSC_7343I found that the view of the surrounding desert was equally stunning, and made the climb well-worth it. 😀15068535_10105983297256217_1968772082073179117_oThis pathway takes about 4 to 5 hours to walk, including rest stops and photo ops, in order to capture these beautifully sculpted rocks. DSC_7322DSC_7319Luckily, Petra is full of shops and restaurants, so you always have the opportunity to rest. 🙂DSC_7312

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souvenir shopping break 😀

Additional Attractions

After seeing the main sites in Petra on my first day, I went off the beaten path on day two. My first stop was to the viewpoint overlooking The Treasury. This took about an hour of uphill climbing, in addition to the hour-long walk from the visitor’s center. DSC_7479The lookout point was from within this cozy tea shack, which offered a striking birds eye view. 🙂2016-11-21 12.21.12 (1)The next hike was to the High Place of Sacrifice, which was originally a Nabatean sacrificial altar. Among the ruins is a circular basin, which was used to receive blood of sacrificed animals, as well as, a water basin for purification.

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courtesy of Google images

It also overlooks the city of Petra, and entails around 2-3 hours of hiking.DSC_7453DSC_7487

Side note: Solo Female Travel

A lot of people asked me how it was as a solo blonde female, traveling in a Middle Eastern country. For this, I’ll give you two examples. On my first day I paired up with a guy from New Zealand, who quickly became my partner in crime. 🙂DSC_7304He kept me company on this long day’s hike, and I learned quite a bit about his offshore job in Dubai. DSC_7471We may have been harassed a bit to buy souvenirs, but that’s to be expected in any tourist site.DSC_7435On my second day I went solo to see if I was received any differently. Surprisingly, I found the people to be even more helpful than on day one. 😀

I did a bit of bartering for souvenirs, chatted with the Bedouins for a bit, and locals even helped guide me to the Place of High Sacrifice. Overall, I found it is definitely a safe place for solo female travelers, which I give two thumbs up! 😀

Petra By Night

As a pièce de résistance in Petra, visitors have the option of visiting the ruins at night. The tour costs about 24 USD, where visitors are taken to The Treasury, guided only by candle light. I decided to spend my money elsewhere, but for those with a bigger budget, the nighttime views of the treasury looked absolutely stunning. 😀

Petra by Night
courtesy of Google images

Cost: A one-day pass to Petra is 70 USD, which makes it an incredibly expensive place to visit. A two-day pass to Petra is 77 USD, which is only a few bucks more. I think two days is well-worth it, considering Petra is over 2,500 acres, with many hiking routes, hidden caves, and carved inscriptions. You might as well spend at least two days there, considering you came all this way. 😀
DSC_7259DSC_7329Luckily, I pre-purchased the Jordan Pass, so there was no fee for me to enter the site. Other costs, like soda and water, were about 1 USD, and I also ended up by some camel pants for about 4 USD. ❤DSC_7491Overall, I felt the park did a nice job of maintaining the grounds. The walkways were well-equipped with plenty of trash bins to keep the place looking clean, and the guides were very helpful in directing tourists to any site that they wished to visit. DSC_7269Click here for up-to-date information on ticket prices in Petra, and hours of operation.

Anyway, that wraps up my time in Petra. From there, the New Zealander and I journeyed to Wadi Rum, for a night of camping with Bedouins in the desert. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂

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