If you are a history buff and you want to visit a place that has more to offer than flashy nightspots and deluxe hotels, Petra is the place for you. This historical city, located in southern Jordan, was chosen as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” in 2007. It is quite possibly the most visited tourist sight in Jordan.
A City Carved Out from Rose Stone
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is often referred to as the Rose City because of the color of the stone from which its ancient builders carved out the city’s amazing buildings. Archeologists estimate that city was built around 312 BCE, but the Western world only discovered its existence in 1812, after it was seen by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt.
In the old days, Petra was a trade center to contend with. Like a fortress, it was protected from attack by surrounding tall and massive rocks. Trade caravans from Bosra, Damascus, Aqaba, Gaza, and the Persian Gulf all passed through this city. One of its entrances is a steep and narrow gorge among sandstone rocks. This keyhole like pathway leads to the city referred to as “a rose-red city half as old as time”.
Monuments of Ancient History
The city of Petra holds some of the world’s most valuable monuments. Right at its entrance is the Al Khazneh, popularly called “the Treasury”. This ruin is hewn into a cliff made of sandstone, and to this day, much of its intricate detail remains intact. Close to the Treasury, you will find the En-Neir, an amphitheater carved from the hillside. Hemmed in on three sides by a rose-colored mountain, this impressive structure allows the audience to view the city’s tombs.
Nine hundred and fifty steps up the side of a tall sandstone mountain, you will find a truly breathtaking building called “the Monastery”. This structure may have been originally built as a tomb, but it may have been converted into a monastery during the time of the Crusades.
The old city has homes clustered close to one another; these relatively small buildings were also carved out of sandstone. From afar, the doorways of these homes look like rectangular holes in the mountain, but this is where families lived when Petra was a bustling commercial center.
One of the marvels of Petra is its ancient aqueduct. Tourists are still able to see parts of the clay piping and the covered water channel that the ancient residents used to conduct water from the Wadi Musa spring to the city. It is awe-inspiring to see how this man-made waterway was made to go up the mountain then angled gradually to maintain water pressure in the city’s outlets.
You have the option of taking a day tour to Petra, but it may mean missing the magical experience of seeing Petra by candle light, or watching the sun rise and slowly reveal the city in its different shades of rose, coral, and red. The best option, expert travelers say, is to start out from Eilat for a two-day tour. This will allow you to take a leisurely tour of the city, climb up to the monastery, and take a sumptuous lunch, and spend time just soaking in the wonders of the city.
There are plenty of hotels for Petra tourists, but in addition to these contemporary accommodations, you can also opt to rest in traditional Bedouin camp. Less than half an hour from Petra, Bedouin-style camps are available for guests who want the modern convenience of comfortable beds and hot showers while sleeping in beit shar tents, eating traditional home style food, and drinking tea under the stars when the day is done.