18 February, 2010

Sights and Photos from Petra, Kingdom of Jordan

Petra! A site like no other. That is a fact. Looking at photos, videos and movies of Petra is utterly incomparable to seeing the real Petra.
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 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 has to be seen to be believed! The BBC gives a very good description of how visitors would feel when visiting the site:
They cannot fail to be staggered by the magical combination of man-made and natural beauty.

Your breath is taken away the moment you emerge from the narrow gorge that forms the main entrance. In front of you, the majestic classical facade of the treasurer's house, carved out of the rock face.

Down the spectacular valley the wonders continue. The 4,000-seat auditorium, also hewn from the rich red sandstone. Tombs and places of worship towering down from the cliff faces on either side.

All this was made possible by the engineering skills of the Nabateans, more than 2,000 years ago. They channelled water down a series of ceramic-lined culverts, making life possible in this arid hideaway.
I have never seen a site, natural or artificial, that filled me with such an overwhelming feeling of wonder or admiration as Petra. Even my wife, who is not that very keen on historical sites or world wonders, could not help being so awed that she walked around staring and with eyes wide open. The site is both a natural wonder and a man made one.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
 At the entrance are shops; and boards reminding you of the Indiana Jones movie - the setting for the final scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” - was filmed here. The site has been a setting for many other movies.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  As you begin the tour, the mountains ahead already look surreal. Each day, thousands of people, mainly tourists go through here.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  For over one kilometer, you go through this incredible natural wonder: a narrow gorge - The Siq. Flanked by soaring high cliffs, just walking through the Siq is a sensational experience.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  The Siq is filled with an amazing, dazzling display of colors and engravings. On the sides, channels cut on the rocks for carrying water can be seen. The Indiana Jones scene was shot through here.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  The incredible rock structure above, is just one of the many natural creations on the site.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  As you emerge from The Siq, suddenly this is what dramatically appears! Al'Khaznah or The Treasury. It is like dreaming or having a fantasy. Many of those visiting this place and seeing this for the first time - simply scream with joy. Some tourists are so overwhelmed by this site that they can not help screaming over and over and jumping up and down.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
 Al'Khaznah is the centerpiece and the number one attraction of Petra. It is what most people visit the site for. It is what leaves you completely filled with awe and reverence. Awe, at such a spectacular site; and reverence of those who created it.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
Al Khaznah stands at about 40 meters (130 foot) high. Experts say that Al'Khaznah was built from up, chiseling the rock, going down-wards. In reality, it looks overwhelmingly huge and so finely made, that you can not help but just stare.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
 You can hire a horse or a camel or a donkey to ride through the extensive site; there are carts, too. Walking through Petra and trying to see all the site, is not easy; it is demanding as it is a long walk, up and down.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  The view of Al'Khaznah from the outside is absolutely dazzling. Inside, where visitors are not allowed to go in to now,  is a simple, small square room. Probably a tomb used for burial. In front of  of Al'Khaznah, under ground, a burial tomb was discovered by excavators. Inside the tomb, were bodies and items.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  The pillars are huge and were made by very gifted master craftsmen. Who ever planned and executed this masterpiece must have been a true genius.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Observing Al'Khaznah closely, I couldn't notice one mistake. Everything was done with superb engineering and precision. The Treasury's carvings and design, had some foreign influence to it, including Egyptian and Roman.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  There are so many caves and about 1,000 tombs here; and there is so much to see, that you always leave Petra with still much more left to see. Before Petra was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, many Bedouins lived within these caves.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  There are many magnificent engravings curved out of the rocks. Maybe, by first starting to build smaller structures, the Nabateans learnt how to make bigger ones.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  The amount of work needed to do all these engravings, construct the intricate water channels and build the amazing enormous structures in Petra - simply boggles the mind. The Nabateans had advanced water storage facilities and channels.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Above: these very advanced water channels, sometimes bringing water from long distances,  ensured that Petra had sufficient supply of water.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  A very advanced, well planned system was used to control the flow of water here. During rains, Petra is prone to floods. To these days, any one visiting the site has to be careful of flash floods during the rainy season.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Due to the colors of the rocks, Petra is known as the Rose-Red City or simply as the Red City .  The rocks take on a multitude of hues ranging from pink, to cream, to orange, to red, to dark brown, to black, to golden and to white. Layers of these rocks form a dazzling, spectacular array of colors. Colors which were masterfully used and incorporated by the Nabateans to build their wonderful city.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Many buildings, for some reasons, were left uncompleted. During its hey days, tens of thousands of people lived within this city.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
The name Petra is derived from the word petrae - which means "rock" in Greek and Latin. Petra covers a vast, extensive area in many directions. There are many buildings, engravings and inscriptions at the site. Most people who visit Petra, do not see most of it - many places in Petra are far and some are hidden. You need to spend many days here - at least two - to see and appreciate them all properly. 
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  The amphitheater above, originally thought to have been built by the Romans, but now believed to have been constructed by the incredible Nabateans. What a feat! The theater was chiseled and cut out of the side of a mountain.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Petra is full of artificial and natural wonders - and colors, as above. The basic tour is about 12 kilometers or 7.5 miles, round trip. But the whole of Petra, through gorges and valleys and up cliffs and mountains - is much more than that. I have heard many who say that the whole of Petra can be viewed in one day or in half a day; I disagree. However fit you are, to properly view and appreciate this magnificent place - you need time. As with all exceptionally great places - every time you visit Petra, you will notice some thing extremely impressive that you had missed before. You can stay at the very nearby Wadi Musa, which has many hotels - some fairly priced and some expensive. By taxi, it takes about 30 minutes, uphill, from the gate of Petra to Wadi Musa - about 3km. away. From Wadi Musa, it is very easy to get transport to Amman (about 3 hours drive) or Aqaba on the Red Sea (about 2.5 hour drive). 
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Inside some of the carvings and caves are incredibly awesome sites, as above. Many, like the above, were not man-made but naturally created.
Urn Tomb, Petra
  Above, one of the many Royal Tombs: the Urn Tomb.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Above: a paved Roman colonnaded street - showing Roman influence here.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Petra is said to have declined during the Roman rule.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
  Above: El'Deir or The Monastery. Much larger but less impressive than Al'Khznah, is right at the far end of the site. You have to climb stairs (about 1,000) going up; walking from here, downwards, to the main entrance of Petra - without stopping - takes about one-and-a-half hours. It is possible to climb to the top of The Monastery.
Petra, Kingdom of Jordan
 Arriving here, the Semitic Nabateans who came from south of the Arabian Peninsula, found and settled in this wonderful place of gorges, valleys, canyons, rocks, cliffs and mountains. A place full of dazzling colors and which was brilliantly shaped by the forces of nature. As architects, artisans and tradesmen, they lived in the valley from about the seventh century B.C. through the early years of the second century A.D. and prospered until trade routes changed, the Romans took over and the city’s importance slowly faded along with its vitality. Being very creative and superb engineers and craftsmen, the Nabateans may have decided to settle here and build their city within this awesome place. With time, they built the magnificent city. A city like no other in the world.  

+ More on Petra here, here, here, here, here, here and a travel guide,
+ View 360º tour of Petra here.
+ Books on Petra

+ Other Wonderful Places in the Kingdom of Jordan:
* The River Jordan
* The Dead Sea
* The Citadel
* The Roman Theater
* Jerash
* Kahaf Ahl Kahf