The giant red mountains and vast mausoleums of a departed race have nothing in common with modern civilization, and ask nothing of it except to be appreciated at their true value – as one of the greatest wonders ever wrought by Nature and Man.
Although much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place. It has to be seen to be believed.
Petra, the world wonder, is without a doubt Jordan’s most valuable treasure and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2000 years ago, turning it into an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.
It is not permitted for motorized vehicles to enter the site. But if you don’t want to walk, you can hire a horse or a horse-drawn carriage to take you through the one kilometre Siq. For the elderly and/or handicapped, the Visitors’ Centre, close to the entrance of the Siq, will issue a special permit (at an extra fee), for the carriage to go inside Petra to visit the main attractions. Once inside the site, you can hire a donkey, or for the more adventurous, a camel – both come with handlers and take designated routes throughout the site.
Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80m high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).
This is an awe-inspiring experience. A massive façade, 30m wide and 43m high, carved out of the sheer, dusky pink rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. It was carved in the early 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people.
Despite successive attempts by the Seleucid king Antigonus, the Roman emperor Pompey and Herod the Great to bring Petra under the control of their respective empires, Petra remained largely in Nabataean hands until around 100AD, when the Romans took over. It was still inhabited during the Byzantine period, when the former Roman
Empire moved its focus east to Constantinople, but declined in importance thereafter.