Nestled within the rugged canyons and desert landscapes of Jordan lies a remarkable testament to ancient ingenuity and architectural marvel — the lost city of Petra. Carved into rose-hued cliffs, this extraordinary archaeological site transports us through the annals of time, offering a glimpse into the once-thriving Nabatean civilization. As you embark on a visual journey through this collection of photos, prepare to be captivated by the intricate façades, grand temples, and hidden treasures that define Petra. Unveiling the intersection of history, artistry, and nature, these snapshots offer a tantalizing window into the enigmatic world of a city that remained concealed from the modern world for centuries.
The once lost city of Petra is one of the most spectacular and mysterious archaeological sites in the world. Largely built by a now vanished people, the pre-Islamic Nabataeans, and mostly hidden from the Western world for 1800 years, it was only rediscovered during the 19th century. It has been featured in blockbuster movies and now attracts thousands of visitors to Jordan every year. It is also huge and far larger than most people imagine. This is a map of the area based on Google Earth and this photo tour will showcase some of the most amazing features of Petra.
One of the first things you’ll see before you start the long walk to the main site are these tourist police cubicles. On the whole, these Jordanian police are really helpful and polite unless you try and take archaeological artefacts from the site. Petra has a vast amount of pottery and other small items just lying around and it may be tempting to just pick up something and put it in your pocket. DONT! If you are caught trying to take anything from the site without a certificate of permission you may find yourself in very deep trouble. Parents are advised to check the pockets of their kids before leaving just in case. Sounds a bit scary but only if you break the rules. The authorities have run out of patience with tourists ripping of this incredible ancient site.
The path into Petra is all downhill and you can rent a horse & buggy if you don’t feel like walking or its too hot. Just remember that it is a six mile walk to the Al Deir (Monastery) and six miles back. You’ll start to see some tombs cut into the rock. The freestanding square ones are called Djinn Stones. On your left is the dry river bed used to collect water when it rains.
The first significant tombs are the Obelisk Tomb and the Bab as-Siq Triclinium – also known as the Snake Tomb. They may look like one construction and, although they were built at the same time, they are two very different designs. Both tombs were constructed during the reign of Malichos II (40 – 70 A.D.) The Obelisks on the tomb are actually known as ‘nefeshes’.
Shortly after you pass the Obelisk Tomb you will enter a narrow canyon once carved out of the rock by flowing water. This magnificent feature is known as the Bab-al-Siq and is one of the secret entrances into Petra. On both sides of the path through the gorge, the remains of water conduits can be seen. These were used to carry water to the city. It was used as a set location for the filming of ‘Indiana Jones and the last Crusade’ starring Harrison Ford.
When you exit the Bab-al-Siq canyon, you’ll find yourself in a wide-open space and see the Al-Khazneh (Treasury)Tomb gleaming in the sunlight or firelight, depending on when you visit. Protected from the elements by the canyon walls, the tomb is in exceptionally good condition and certainly doesn’t look like it’s nearly 2000 years old. It’s known as the Treasury due to a Bedouin legend that an Egyptian Pharaoh hid his gold inside.
The Petra Amphitheatre is a Nabataean theatre built during the first century AD. Located near to the centre of Petra, it could seat up to 8500 people. The auditorium consists of three horizontal sections of seats separated by passageways and seven stairways to ascend. It is similar to roman theatres and enhances the sound of the performers. Most importantly, it gives us an idea of how many people were living in the area if such a large amphitheatre was needed.
Opposite the Petra amphitheatre are the Royal Tombs. These are series of magnificent mausoleums with inspiring facades hewn from the western slope of the Jabal al-Khubtha rock massif. These have exotic names such as, the Silk Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Palace Tomb. Built into the high rock there is a wonderful view of the valley.
The Great Temple of Petra is a massive complex that lies south of the Colonnaded Street and covers an area of roughly 7500 m2. Although the ruins are referred to as a temple there is much debate about their purpose with scholars claiming they were more like to have been an administrative centre. Research is ongoing.
The Qasr al-Bint is an impressive and fairly intact structure in the Nabataean city of Petra. It faces the Wadi Musa and is located to the northwest of the Great Temple. The full name of the building in English is: The House of Pharaoh’s Daughter which is based on a legend that an Egyptian princess once lived there. It is almost certainly a Temple possibly dedicated to ‘Dushara’, a patriarchal god of the Nabateans associated with justice. The later Greeks associated Dushara with Zeus. It was probably built around 100AD.
Beyond the Qasr-al-Bint is a small bridge over the wadi and then the Al Deir trail which climbs 800 steps to the Monastery Tomb. For the most part, the trail offers spectacular views of the main Petra valley and provides a real sense of scale. Along the trail are many carved facades, places of worship, betyl niches, and other remnants from the Nabataean and Byzantine eras. Along the route is the famous Lion Tomb.
The Lion Tomb (Tomb of the Lion) is actually a Triclinium (BD 452) and was built around the middle of the 1st century AD probably as a place for ceremonial banquets. It gets its name from the carvings of middle eastern lions on either side of the door arch. Most unusual is the presence of carvings depicting women on the main lintel in the Greek style. Erosion is responsible for the keyhole shaped entrance which was once a round window above a traditional door.
At the end of the Al Deir Trail is the spectacular Monastery Tomb overlooking Wadi Araba, the valley adjacent to Petra and not the city itself. It is one of the most iconic buildings and similar to the Treasury on the opposite set of hills. Its exact purpose is uncertain although it may have been a Byzantine church for a period of time. The Monastery follows classical Nabataean style and incorporates a mix of Hellenistic and Mesopotamian architecture. It was featured in the 2009 film ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’.