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Petra, the legendary city of Jordan

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The seven wonders of the World

Often known as the eighth wonder of the ancient world, Petra is Jordan’s most precious treasure and its most important tourist attraction. Its fame is well deserved and nothing really prepares us for this awesome place. Must be seen to be believed.

The spectacular city of Petra was built by the Nabataeans around the 3rd century BC, who carved temples, tombs, palaces, stables and other outbuildings into the red sandstone cliffs. These people settled in the area more than 2,000 years ago and made it an important transit town linking silk, spice and other routes linking China, India and southern Arabia to Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

discovery of petra

petra drawing

For centuries it was a mystery. Local inhabitants of the Jordanian desert have surrounded the mythical city of the Nabataeans with legends, probably to preserve their caravan routes so that no one dares to go there. Indeed, the first European able to infiltrate these ways and reach Petra had to pretend to be a sheikh to contemplate this ancient place, since it was forbidden for foreigners to walk in these areas.

Thus, in 1812, the Swiss Johann Ludwig Burckhardt was the first European to be able to reach Petra to see if there was any truth to these legends. that have been told about the red city. Under the pretext of wanting to offer a sacrifice in the tomb of the prophet Aaron, he managed to separate himself from the caravan in which he was traveling with his guide and was able to contemplate with his own eyes the legendary Nabataean treasure. He was the first Westerner to do so in the last six hundred years.

On his death in 1822, his memories of this extraordinary place carved out of the pink stone of the Jordanian desert were published and in the following years many other European adventurers arrived in Petra, among them the famous Scottish cartoonist David Roberts, who brought more news and stories to Europe, the first drawings of this place.

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Know Petra

It will take several days to get to know the city in depth as the rest of the monuments are widely scattered and you have to walk a little to see them all. Most emblematic of all is the Treasury, which is accessed through the narrow gorge passage called Siq.

Upon accessing the Petra Valley, the visitor will experience its impressive architecture and be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of this place. Just like the adventurer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt did 200 years ago.

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Here you will find hundreds of rock-cut tombs decorated with elaborate carvings that were built for posterity. Many of them are kept in good condition despite being empty. A large Roman-style theater built by the Nabataeans is also preserved, unlike the houses which were destroyed by an earthquake.

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petra theater

There are obelisks, temples, altars, colonnaded streets, and above, overlooking the valley, rises the impressive Ad-Deir Monastery, a climb of 800 rock-cut steps leads to it.

Inside the site, you can also visit two fantastic museums that have a great collection of pieces from the Petra region: the Archaeological Museum and the Nabataean Museum.

There is also a shrine to commemorate the death of Aaron, the brother of Moses, built by a Mamluk sultan in the 13th century.

Inside the compound, various artisans from the town of Wadi Musa and the nearby Bedouin settlement have set up their small stalls to sell local handicrafts such as Bedouin pottery and jewelry, as well as bottles colored sand of the region.

When is the best time to visit Petra?

petra night

If you want to take photos, the best time to visit the city is early morning until mid-morning or late afternoon, when the tilt of the sun’s rays brings out the natural colors of the rocks. .

However, evening visits to the Treasury of Petra by candlelight are unforgettable, a magical experience that you also have to live there. It is advisable to bring warm clothes and at night the temperatures are low and the show of lights and music that is projected there can last three hours in the open air.

How to get to Petra?

Vehicles are not allowed to enter the compound, but you can hire a horse or carriage to visit the Siq. Disabled or elderly people can obtain a special permit at the Visitor Center for their transfer inside Petra and visiting the main places of interest at an additional cost.

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Jordan is so much more than Petra

jordan trail

Petra is more than enough reason to visit Jordan, but not the only one. In addition to its many other monuments, the country offers spectacular desert landscapes, flowery lands and small towns that preserve their ancient traditions.

In addition, Jordan bets on promoting its religious tourism and the Jordan Tourism Boardpublic body for the promotion of tourism in the country in collaboration with experts from the Route of Santiago, designed the ‘Jordan Trail’ route, which crosses the main biblical points in Jordan: the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, the ascension of the prophet Elijah to heaven in a chariot of fire from the east bank of the same river, the place from where Moses saw the Promised Land on Mount Nebo or the city that hides the mosaic map of the Holy Land dated to the 6th century known as Madaba.

These are just a few examples of places that appear in the Bible and are part of this great project that aims to attract pilgrims from all over the world. In total, more than 600 kilometers spread over 40 days which allow you to discover the whole country by crossing it from north to south.

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