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Rose Red PetraPetra, Jordan

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walking through the SiqThe spectacular rose-stone city was built in the 3rd century BC by the Nabateans, an Arab people who inhabited what is now southern Jordan. They carved palaces, temples, tombs, storerooms and stables from the rocky cliffs of sandstone, tinted many shades of rose, salmon and pink by the mineral content of the rock. From Petra they commanded the trade route from Damascus to Arabia, and through here the great spice, silk and slave caravans passed. In a short time the Nabataeans made great advances - they mastered hydraulic engineering, iron production, copper rafining, sculpture, stone carving - all probably because of their great success in commerce. Archaeologists believe that several earthquakes, including a massive one in 555 AD, forced the inhabitants to abandon Petra.

walking through the Siq

Walking through the Siq, the secret entrance to Petra.

The Khazneh or Treasury

The Khazneh, with two camels resting.

the treasury at sunset

The Khazneh at sunset.

walking through the SiqPetra is approached through a narrow 1.2 km defile known as the Siq. This is not a canyon (a gorge carved out by water) but rather one huge block of stone that was rent apart by tectonic forces. Just as you start to think there is no end to the Siq, you catch your first tantalising glimpses ahead of the most impressive of sights, the Khazneh, the so-called Treasury. Carved out of solid iron-laden sandstone to serve as a tomb, the Treasury gets its name from the story that pirates hid their treasure here. The interior is merely an unadorned square hall with a smaller, similarly empty room at the back. (Sorry all you Indiana Jones fans, but that's all there is.)

Ad-Deir, the MonasteryThe other monument that shouldn't be missed is the Ad-Deir (the so-called Monastery). It is reached by a long, rock-cut staircase on the far side of the site. On the way up, look out for the Lion Tomb - although the eroded lions astride the entrance are difficult to see at first. The Ad-Deir has a similar facade to the Khazneh, but is far bigger and the views from the cliff-tops nearby are stunning (especially facing out to Mt. Haroun).

on the path to Ad-Deir, The Monastery

On the path to Ad Deir, the Monastery.

Ad-Deir, The Monastery

Ad Deir, the Monastery, the hills in the background.

Colours in the rocks on the way to Ad-Deir

Colours in the rocks on the way to Ad-Deir.

Other interesting sites include the 8000 seat amphitheatre, the Qasr-al-Bint (one of the very few free-standing buildings), the colonnaded street, the Temple of the Winged Lions, the ruins of a Byzantine church with possibly the world's oldest Byzantine mosaic, and the facade known as the Royal Tombs. Walk to the Royal Tombs, the Um, the street of facades, the amphitheatre to examine the eroded facades and colourful interiors.

the amphitheatre

The amphitheatre.

The Roman Gate

The Roman Gate at the end of the Colonnaded street.

the colonnaded street

The colonnaded street, looking back toward the street of facades.

Before the Intifada, Sept 11, unrest following the occupation of Iraq by the USA, and a resurgence of religious factionalism in the region destroyed Jordan's tourist industry, the entry fees for Petra were 20/25/30 Jordanian Dinar (JD) for a one/two/three day pass. (At the time of writing in 2004, 7 JD = $10 US.) In December 2002 the fees had been reduced to JD 11/13.50/16. Student entry fees are just over half the standard admission price. For the adventurous, it is a great time to visit Jordan. There are few tourists so it's easier to see the ancient sites. Prices are lower on many attractions from entry fees to camel rides and souvenirs.

caring for his camel

Caring for his camel.

Bedouin child

Bedouin child.

friendly camel

The friendly camel.

embroidered blazer While visiting Petra, don't forget to explore the many souvenir shops located in the town of Wadi Musa, and at Petra itself. Some are owned and operated by independent merchants. Others are associated with charities founded by members of the Royal Family to improve the lives of the impoverished residents of the isolated mountain villages. Along with the T-shirts, kaffiyehs (traditional Jordanian male head dress) postcards, guidebooks, coffee table books and other expected items, one can find wonderful embroidery (embroidered blazer in photo), pottery and glassware, jewellery, and other local handicrafts.

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Visit the other pages in the Jordan section. Click the link to go to the page.

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This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

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