This wonder of the world is the most valuable treasure in Jordan, and also its main tourist attraction in the country.
A unique city sculpted on the rocks by the Nebauteus, the Arabic people who once lived in the Jordan deserts around Petra, a place that became a very important mark of the Silk route and other goods that were transported between Saudi Arabia, China, Greece, Egypt, Syria, and Rome.
Petra and as the Nabateans used to call it “Raqmu” is one of the most famous cities in Jordan due to its archaeological and architectural history. The city is also known as the Rose City due to its pink rocks formations.
Petra was established in 312 AC, and it became the capital of the Nabateans people, who were referred to in the Bible. They inhabited the region of Petra between the IV AC and II DC. Petra was also a very important commercial center between the Arabic peninsula and Damascus in Syria, and today Petra is the most visited tourist attraction in Jordan.
The Romans conquered Petra in 106 A.C, and they turned the territory into a roman province. During the second and third centuries, Petra continued to grow and in the seventh century, the Romans lost the power of Petra to Islam.
In the 12th century, Petra was once again taken by different leaders and for a while, Petra was hidden until it was found by Swiss explores Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who was responsible to announce the city into the world with his poem “a rose-red city half as old as time.”
One of the Seven Wonders of the World
In 2007, Petra was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and UNESCO described the city as “one of the most precious properties of the cultural inheritance of mankind.” Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
Where is Petra located?
Petra is located in the territory between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, in the mountains of the east side of the Wadi Araba. In the city of Petra, many ancient monuments can be found such as the Roman Theater, the Royal Tombs, and others.
Ruins of Petra (Places to visit in Petra)
There is a lot more to see in Petra other than the beautifully famous Treasury. With 60 square kilometers site, there are numerous attractions there. You will find below covered the main sites that you should see when you’re visiting Petra.
Bab el Siq
Bab el Siq is the gate of Siq, the main entrance to the city. As you arrive, you will see three square blocks carved into the rock, then you will see the tomb of the 1st century A.D. The bottom is where you can find the Triclinium, a banquet room. On the opposite side of the cliff, you will see a double inscription in Nabataean and Greek.
The Siq is a strait measuring more than a kilometer long and 80 meters high. Walking through the Siq is an impressive experience; the colors of the rock formations are magical.
Siq is the old entrance that leads to the city of Petra. The Siq starts at the dam and ends at the opposite side, in the treasure area. Siq is a divided rock that has about 1200m in length and a width that varies from 3 to 12 meters; the height of the rocks can reach up to 80 meters. Most of the Siq rock is natural, but there is another part that was sculpted by the Nabataean people.
On both sides of the Siq, there are channels to draw water from the valley of Moses (Wadi Musa). The ingenuity is incredible on the right side, you can see that the water flowed through pipes made of ceramics, while the left channel was all carved in the rock and covered with panels made of stone, spaces can be found just to filter the water.
Right at the beginning of the Siq, it is still possible to see the original dams of the Nabataeans, creations that prevented the Siq from being flooded.
Al Khazneh (The Treasury)
The entrance to the city of the Nabataeans is made through the Siq, a strait measuring around one km long, flanked by rocks that reach up to 80 meters high. A walk through the Siq is a unique experience. The colors and rock formations you will see are impressive.
During the walk as you reach the end of the Siq, the great treasure begins to emerge, the postcard Al-Khazneh, one of the ruins of Petra, the most famous among them. The natural beauty and the remarkable architectural features of this place will blow your mind.
A simply fantastic experience, the façade is 30 meters wide and 43 high. It was sculpted directly on the pink rock itself. The construction was made in the middle of the first century to be the tomb of a great Nabataean King; the place undoubtedly represents the genius of these ancient people.
The Treasury is one of the wonders you can find in the ruins of Petra. There are several, or rather, hundreds of tombs made in the rock, Roman theater, obelisks, temples, altars for offering sacrifices and colonnaded streets, and, high up in the valley, there is the sumptuous Ad-Deir Monastery.
Petra Royal Tombs
Downhill from the Theatre is a larger thoroughfare. Within its west-facing cliffs, there are some of the most impressive burial places in Petra, known collectively as the ‘Royal Tombs’. They look particularly stunning bathed in the golden light of sunset; there are four of them one next to the other. However, they suffered flood damage over the centuries which lead to some of their facades no being as well kept, possibly part of the reason they are not as famous as the Treasury. There are steps that lead up to them and you can actually visit the inside of these tombs.
The Urn Tomb
The Urn Tomb is one of the four royal tombs in Petra. Built during the second half of the first century by King Areta and his son Malco II, It had two layers of safes and is thought to be the tomb of King Nabateno, Malco II. It has a huge terrace and a majestic Doric patio, carved in the rocks.
A rare inscription inside one of the rooms indicates that the site was converted into a church in 447 AD by Bishop Jason. The interior of the tomb measures 18m by 20m.
The Silk Tomb
Located right next to the Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb measures to 10.8 meters wide and 19 meters high; it has a central door and 4 columns. The name was given due to the color of the stone used in the construction.
The Corinthian Tomb
The Corinthian tomb's facade measures 27.55 meters wide and 26 meters high. It is very similar to the Silk Tomb, but it does not have as many decorations on it. There, you will find 4 sinks or basins of water that were probably used in cleaning or purification rituals of the body. Inside the tomb, there are still four rooms.
The Palace Tomb
Measuring 49 meters wide and 46 meters high, the Palace Tomb has twelve columns and four entrances for burial. It is distinctive among the Royal Tombs for its rock-hewn façade.
High Place of Sacrifice
The High Place of Sacrifice is located on a mountain top in Petra. The start of the walk to this location is just before the start of the amphitheater. There are about 800 steps to get to the top over there.
As the name suggests, High Place of Sacrifice is where they used to carry out sacrifices. These sacrifices entailed libations, animal sacrifices and smoking of frankincense.
The famous biblical passage where Abraham, as a proof of devotion to God, almost sacrificed his son, who was saved by an angel, happened in the mountains of Petra.
The tomb of the prophet Aaron, a sacred site for Muslims, is preserved today also in the region of Petra. In honor of the prophet, a goat is sacrificed annually, as many pilgrims believe that the Tomb carries the spirit of the prophet Araão (brother of the Prophet Moses).
The Theater was sculpted on the mountainside; it has three rows of seats, seven stairs, and can accommodate 4000 spectators. The theater was built during the rule of King Aretas IV (4 BC-27 BC).
With columns on each side, the Colonnade is a street that runs through the center of Petra. The Colonnade Street is mostly now in ruins. This is due to the frequent flash floods that took place over the past thousands of years.
Ad Deir (The Monastery)
Hidden high in the hills, the Monastery is one of the legendary monuments of Petra. Similar in design to the Treasury but far more bigger; it is 50m wide and 45m high. The Monastery was built in the 3rd century BCE as a Nabataean tomb. Its name was derived from the crosses carved on the inside walls. It is considered the second most commonly visited monument in the city of Petra, after the Treasury.
The Wadi Musa, meaning the Valle of Moses, is a long valley close to many mountains where a Bedouin camp sells local handicrafts, such as pottery, accessories, and bottles with colored sand where cars can’t be used and people walk around and rent horses, camels or a horse-drawn carriage.
The Archaeological Museum of Petra and the Nabataean Museum of Petra
In Petra, there are two museums; the Museum of Petra and the Nabataean Museum of Petra, both with ancient legacies from the excavations in the region and which expose the city's historical past to the public.
How to get around the ruins of Petra?
To protect the place, vehicles cannot travel there. But, if you don't want to walk, you can rent a horse or a horse-drawn carriage to move around the Siq. Elderly people or people with special needs are entitled to a special authorization issued by the Visitors Center (located at the entrance). The service has an extra fee to allow the carriage to enter Petra, to visit the main tourist attractions.
When is the best time to visit Petra?
The best time to visit Petra is during the spring and autumn months as temperatures aren't so high.Petra is best enjoyed in the early and mid-morning sun or at the afternoon a few hours before sunset when the late sun turns the natural pink rocks into an even prettier color.
Petra in Hollywood
Petra has been in a few of the most famous movies in Hollywood such as Indiana Jones, Transformers 2, and it is also mentioned in the Mortal Kombat Movie.
Facts about Petra
Petra is also called the 'Lost City'; that’s because, in spite of its being such an important city in antiquity, after the 14th century AD, Petra was completely lost to the western world.
The name Petra originates from the Greek word ‘petros’ which means rocks. Petra is also known as Al-Batra in Arabic.
Between 1BC and 8 AD, Petra experienced severe earthquakes and in 362 AD half of the city was destroyed.
It is believed that Petra was established in 312 BC which then makes the city one of the oldest cities in the world.
During 2016, while using satellite imagery, archaeologists discovered a large and previously unknown monumental structure buried beneath the sands of Petra.