nature and human artistry put together in Petra

WE Move quietly by means of the slender Siq gorge, selecting our way over the rocky path beneath our feet. Sheer walls of stone loom above us occasional shafts of mild penetrating the gloom. Abruptly, the pass finishes, and we emerge into outstanding daylight greeted by one of the most spellbinding gems of antiquity: the Treasury of Petra, carved into the purple sandstone rockface before us, the most illustrious attraction of a city that was dwelling to the Nabataeans some two millennia ago.

We have travelled additional than 230 km south of the Jordanian funds of Amman to attain this exceptional desert outpost, by way of territory very well celebrated in biblical lore (and have just handed the location where Moses famously struck the rock to unlock a spring of speeding h2o). No journey would be extra truly worth the energy. Soaring two storeys superior, with fantastic architectural symmetry, the Treasury is a superb medley of columns and pediments, crowned by an urn which, in accordance to legend, contained a Pharaoh’s treasure. Only its façade is carved into the rock, however, and when we enterprise inside of we find a small, darkish chamber whose intent continues to be mysterious.

Outdoors in the sunlight yet again, with enthusiasts of this ancient metropolis milling about us, we’re surrounded by a large site, established in a remote valley basin encircled by cliffs that glow in hues of crimson and pink, gold and mauve.

We set off down the Street of Façades, which prospects from the Treasury to the centre of Petra, and clamber up a mountainside to investigate what is considered to be numerous royal tombs. Hewn into the stone, they are eroded but nevertheless spectacular. Fronted by extensive arches, the Urn Tomb was later recycled by the resourceful locals and grew to become a church, in about 446 Ad. Standing on the terrace of this, the greatest tomb, we have a fascinating see of the sprawling array of temples, tombs, and monuments underneath, which make Petra these types of an astonishing feat of mother nature and human artistry merged.

The moment, this region was dwelling to the Edomites, who famously refused the Israelites safe passage on their flight from Egypt to the Promised Land. But later, in the fourth century BC, the formerly nomadic Nabataeans designed Petra the cash of their kingdom. Lying around the King’s Highway — the caravan route that stretched from Arabia to Syria — Petra thrived on traffic in luxurious items and spices, and was practically absolutely the last staging put up of the magi on their journey to Bethlehem. When the final Nabataean king died, in 106 Advert, the Romans occupied Petra and refashioned a great deal of it. Later on, Christianity took maintain, and, by the fourth century, Petra experienced its very own bishop.

Leaving the tombs, we cross the avenue and obtain a splendidly intact survivor of Petra’s social everyday living: carved into the crimson rock in the initially century BC, Petra’s theatre soars up in 40 superb tiers, and once held an impressive 8000 spectators.

A short stroll from the theatre takes us to the Cardo Maximus, Petra’s principal colonnaded road, which ran about 240 metres by the metropolis centre. Wandering down this even now stately boulevard, we admire the columns and first marble paving that remain here and there, and the well-preserved stays of the triple arched Roman monumental gateway. Flanked by outlets and temples, this road was as soon as the beating coronary heart of Petra, and we pause for a although to permit ourselves visualize the cacophony of this the moment cosmopolitan and bustling metropolis.

istockCamels consider a rest at Qasr Al-Bint

Beyond the colonnaded road, we mount an sophisticated staircase that leads to the Qasr al-Bint, or Palace of the Pharaoh’s Daughter, which was most likely Petra’s main temple. Doric friezes beautify its substantial partitions, and a extensive arched doorway qualified prospects inside of. Developed in the initial century BC, it’s unsure who was worshipped below, but ruins of a sizeable altar continue being. In excess of on the other aspect of the avenue, and past the grand Temple of the Winged Lions, stands the remains of a Byzantine church: much more proof of the lifetime of the early Christians of Petra.

If you want to examine some of the outlying parts of Petra, you can comply with various routes that guide northwards from right here. One qualified prospects up to the Advertisement-Deir Plateau, in which the deir, or monastery, a massive rock-reduce monument like the Treasury, stands. This utilized to be a location of pilgrimage for the Nabataeans, but later on it is considered to have been a church the Hermitage, also used by early Christians, lies nearby.

Back again, past the theatre, we just take one more facet route and scramble up some steep actions that guide to the Large Spot of Sacrifice, which the Nabataeans utilized for spiritual ceremonies, and quit there to admire a magnificent see. From the Large Place, the path has an fantastic line-up of imposing sights, this kind of as the Lion Monument, with its great, headless beast.

But Petra is awash with incredible tombs, and you’ll come across many of the extremely greatest on this route, which includes the stylish, classical Yard Tomb, and the Tomb of the Roman Soldier, with its substantial columns and sculptures.

The trail takes you back again to the Qasr Al-Bint. There, it’s time for a properly-acquired rest. Camels and donkeys owned by the community Bedouins amble all-around Petra, and their braying adds to the ambiance. If you’re heading to trip a person, or both equally, at any time, do it listed here. I choose for a docile donkey, and sway back toward the Treasury with my pal perched on a camel beside me.

You wonder how this kind of an extraordinary town could have been deserted, but it was. As trade moved to Palmyra, and earthquakes struck the place, Petra languished. The Crusaders arrived and developed two castles listed here, but, by the 14th century, Petra was deserted, then mostly overlooked for 500 decades. We have the Swiss explorer Johannes Burckhardt to thank for rediscovering it, in 1812, but it was not until finally the 20th century that Petra genuinely became obtainable. In 2022, Petra was bundled (once again) in the listing of the new 7 Miracles of the Entire world.

By dusk, we’re sated with astounding sights. Petra is effortlessly really worth a take a look at of numerous days if you want to really rate you, but what ever time you devote listed here will be totally memorable. That night time, a parade of temples and tombs, camels and traders float by my dreams. But Petra — unique and mysterious and monumental — isn’t a desire it is actual, and entirely unforgettable.


Journey information

Investigate Around the globe provides many tours of Jordan, like the 9-working day Treasures of Jordan tour, which normally takes in Amman, Mount Nebo, Petra, Jerash, and other sights. From £1380pp with out flights. Telephone: 01252 883 761, or pay a visit to take a look isles. Dependable Vacation also presents a vary of excursions of Jordan, together with the 9-working day Jordan Holiday, which visits Amman, Jerash, Petra, Aqaba, and the Dead Sea. From £1949 with flights. Cell phone 01273 823 700, or stop by For common visitor facts, go to