The Lost City of Petra – Simply Amazing!
There is no question that one of the most fascinating places I have visited in my many years of travel, is the city of Petra in Jordan. It will be hard to describe with words and pictures, but I will try.
The adventure starts just getting to Petra (not an easy task). I traveled from Israel and crossed the border at the King Hussian crossing which is easier than the other border crossings. Then the trip down from Amman Jordan to Petra is about 3 hours. While the tour I was on stopped in Amman for a few hours, I did not find it all that interesting. Amman is a very populated city and not all that beautiful. Once you get to Petra you can either stay in a hotel in the town of Petra (many to choose from), or, stay in a Bedouin Camp (locals have inhabited the land there for centuries). The camps are pretty darn nice and comfortable.
Now, the big deal has arrived and it’s time to enter the lost city of Petra. First, a bit of history: It is estimated that the city was built about 100 BC and was abandoned in the 3rd century. It was built by the Nabataean, the tribe that occupied this region. They actually controlled many cities in the region but Petra was built as the capital city. This region sits on a major trade route and the Nabataean became quite wealthy because of this and Petra was a result of that wealth. Petra is completely fascinating for many reasons, but here are a few. First, it is built into the sandstone mountains with about 800 buildings and caves. Second, it is extremely well protected. In order to get to the city, you need to walk through a natural narrow path about 10 feet wide in between two mountain peaks. This created a natural barrier and protection for the city. Third, it was built-in a desert and the nearest water source was miles from the city.
Let’s start our journey through Petra. I will use a good number of pictures instead of words to illustrate the magnificence of Petra. When you visit Petra, put on your walking shoes because if you walk the entire city and up to the Monastery, you will be walking all day and it is well worth it.
Entering the City of Petra – As I mentioned above, the entrance to Petra is both quite dramatic and naturally protected by mountains that soar into the sky. There is a naturally created path that exists between these beautiful red sandstone mountains (the color is similar to the Grand Canyon for those of you reading this from America). You literally weave through over a mile long path with mountains on either side of you. From what I could tell, this is pretty much the only way to get into the city because the rest of it is surrounded by mountain ranges.
The Treasury – The very first thing you see once entering the city of Petra is the Treasury. You literally walk through a sliver between two mountains and the Treasury appears right before your eyes. It is stunning to say the least. The architecture style is a mix between Greek, Roman and Arab. Now, you might think there is something incredible inside, but unfortunately it is just a carved out cave. There are a number of theories about how they built this without modern-day staffing, one of those being a large sand pile that was used to work from top to bottom.
The Tombs – Unlike the Romans (and many other ancient civilizations), the Nabataean wanted to be buried inside the city. I guess to stay relevant even in the afterlife. These tombs are dotted all over the landscape of the city and like in other grave stones, the larger and more elaborate ones were owned by the rich families of Petra.
Amphitheatre – It is thought that this was actually built by the Romans who occupied in 106AD until an earthquake finished off the city in 363AD. There were a number of other Roman ruins that can be seen such as, the temple and merchant stores, but the Amphitheatre is definitely in the best shape and most striking creation by the Romans.
Monastery – Leaving the main area of the city, the Monastery is miles away from the city center. It is quite a hike through the tough terrain to get to the Monastery, but it is well worth it. The Monastery is the largest building in Petra. It does seem quite similar to the Treasury and very well-preserved.
The Jordan Valley – Once you reach the Monastery and after just a few more mountain peaks, you arrive at the highest point in Petra with stunning views of the Jordan Valley. After hiking all the way up to the Monastery you do have to take that little bit of extra energy to check out those views.
Royal Tombs – After climbing down the mountain from the Monastery and making it back to the city center, you look to your left and see the last major set of buildings (or carvings) which are the royal tombs. They are huge and take up the side of a mountain.
After passing the Treasury for one last time, the journey to exit the city of Petra through the narrow mountain passageway will take about another hour or so.
The journey to the lost city of Petra was definitely worth it. Both visually stimulating with the red, orange and golden sandstone mountains, but also all the interesting stories of the Nabataean civilization and way of life is inspiring and intriguing to learn about.