Petra is one of the “new” seven wonders of the world. When we found a great deal on flights to Amman, Petra was the attraction that we were most excited about. It was the highlight of the whole trip. When I mention it to friends who haven’t heard of it, all I have to mention is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Once the capital of the Nabataean kingdom, the city was a major trading hub because of it’s proximity to the trade routes. The Greeks tried to sack the city in 312 BC, but the residents of Petra were able to use the surrounding desert and their ability to find rain water to keep control of the region.
In 106 AD, the Romans forced the Nabataeans to surrender and changed the name form Raqmu to Arabia Petraea, which eventually became Petra.
Eventually, sea trade reduced the importance of Petra to the trade routes and then in 363 an earthquake destroyed many of the structures. By 700 AD the area had been abandoned, leaving only the Bedouins in the region. People forgot about it. Then, in 1812, a Swiss explorer named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it.
Throughout the area there are 25 of these cube shaped blocks named after djinns, which are spirits from Arab folklore. The Bedouins thought the djinn lived in the cubes, but they’re actually memorials to the dead.
Seeing the djinn blocks is a little taste of the stonework we’d eventually see.
The main area was a bit of a walk, through a narrow passageway called the Siq.
Notice the groove along the base of the rock wall? It’s designed to collect rain water runoff from the rock and direct it into the city to help provide fresh water for the estimated 20,000 inhabitants inside.
The long walk through the Siq builds anticipation. The big reveal is really breathtaking.
As usual, we arrived just as the attraction opened, long before the tour buses full of tourists arrived from Amman. The site stopped us in our tracks. We spent forever staring and taking photos and posing in front of the famous building hewn into the side of the rock wall. We were so happy to be able to do so at our leisure, without throngs of people in the photos, and without us being in the way of others.
There are more buildings and carved structures to see, so we walked on. The rocks looked like melted crayons in some places, and in others the walls looked like they had been milled and then polished to an unbelievable smoothness.
You can see a bit of the Roman influence here.
Eventually we retraced our steps, returning to the entrance. And the sight captured our attention again, this time with a bit more sun from over the mountains.
We tore ourselves away and headed back through the Siq to our waiting car, bound for more adventures.
Put Petra on your bucket list. It deserves a visit.