After our visit to Mt. Nebo and Madaba on Day 3, we headed south to the ancient city of Petra.
We overnighted in the Petra Marriott, a wonderful modern oasis in one of the driest places on earth. I’m not sure what I expected, but I really loved this hotel. Not just for being so clean and modern but for the wonderful view that came with it.
Here’s a satellite photo to give you an overview of the area.
A few shots of the hotel and the tourist town of Petra outside the entrance to the ancient city.
Putting down our trip to Petra in words is difficult. Arriving at the entrance gate, I confess that I knew very little about this site. I had seen photos of the famous Treasury edifice, and, like most people, have seen the famous scenes of the Holy Grail from the film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” A wholly unsatisfactory preparation for this experience.
So, what is Petra, really?
The Petra Archeological Park is a protected area managed by the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. It is a United National World Heritage Center.
Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabataean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture. – UNESCO
The city, once with a population of 30,000 people, was the capital city of the Nabateans and a major caravan route connecting Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.
Well worth your time is this episode of NOVA that gives a much better explanation than I can of the ancient city and the sheer brilliance of the artistry of the architecture and the science that it took to support such a city in one of the driest places on earth.
PETRA ON FOOT
We arrived at Petra early in the morning, passed through the area of shops just outside, and began the 1+ mile hike to the entrance of the siq.
The siq is the famous narrow gorge that leads into the ancient city. Narrow, rocky and sandy, with towering walls, it is perfect protection for a hidden city at the distant end. The siq would not only make the city easy to defend, but it would certainly impress any visitors who made their way there.
We were lucky to go first thing in the morning. There were very few other people, which made it easy for our guide David to speak with us, but we also had the full attention of all the people selling trinkets or offering donkey and camel rides. It made it all the better as far as I was concerned!
Here are just some of the photos that I took along the siq, the Treasury, the Royal Tombs, the Street of Fascades, the Theatre and the Colonnaded Street. Absolutely fascinating and so cool to imagine what it was like when the Nabateans lived here. If you look closely, you can see how they took Roman and Greek influences and yet came up with something unique.
The real work of visiting this amazing place came when we accepted the challenge to hike up to “The Monastery”. In reality this site, about an hour’s hike up from the main city, was probably some sort of temple rather than what we would call a monastery.
The hike is quite strenuous but very interesting. The twists and turns in the trail, constantly moving upwards, give new vistas at every turn. There are small shops selling trinkets, food, water and jewelry in occasional spots along they way. The sheer effort that it takes these shopkeepers to maintain their stalls is impressive!
Well worth the effort, most of our group made it to the top to see this massive edifice. The main door alone is more than 2 stories high. I can only imagine what it must have been like when it was in its prime.
I’ll close with this little tidbit. According to the Health app on my iPhone, our jaunt through Petra and up to the Monastery was over 12 miles of hiking, 21,000 steps, and 68 floors climbed. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but … wow! What a hike!
Next up: We wrap up Day 4 in Wadi Rum