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22 March 2014

Indiana Jones magic in Petra


Established as early as 312 BCE as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it's Jordan's most-visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. 

Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
 
The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. 

UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage". Petra was chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the "28 Places to See Before You Die" and with reason.


The treasure
If you visit Petra you will notice some Roman influence, this is because the city was part of the Roman Empire at around the 100 CE. A Roman Road flanked by columns on either side is the most clear example of their architecture. After the take over by the Romans the city lost its glow and slowly declined.  
You will be impressed by the size of the city yet experts believe that only 15% has been uncovered while the rest still lies underground or hidden.


Houses carved on the stone

Petra was made famous by a series of movies featuring various parts of the city, particularly the Treasure which made a critical appearance in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Other movies featuring Petra are Arabian Nights, Passion in the Desert, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.




A well known book written by a New Zealand woman who married a Bedouin and moved to his cave is a heart-warming tale of recent Petra's history. She is the only ever Westerner to have lived in Petra and her story is interesting and a reminiscense of an old culture and heritage.

The details

 

How to get there

Amman is well connected from Europe and from all Middle Eastern Cities through Royal Jordanian and most of the international airlines. Once there, you need a car and although you could drive on your own a driver should help. They should not be too expensive (around 200USD for a day)

 

Best Time to visit

Jordan can be very hot in the summer months and because Petra is in the desert temperature soar. Don't get fooled by Jordan's MIddle East status - winters can be cold. As with most seasonal destinations the best months are spring and autumn. If you can, avoid weekends when local flock to the ruins and you may find yourself surrounded by others at all times. Try to also avoid other peak times such as school holidays in Europe like Easter


Where to stay

I stayed at the Movenpick Resort which is right at the entrance to the ruins. If you don't have time or don't want to spend a night there you can also visit it on a day's trip but you would then miss Petra at night. There are other hotels in the area but the Movenpick is the best positioned. The city outside of the ruins is not too big so if you have to walk it may not be more than 20min most likely.

 

How to get around

Jordan is a small country (3h drive from East to West) making it an easy country to travel and it is packed with wonders: Petra, the Dead Sea, several Roman remains, Amman's ampitheater... Petra is only around 2h from Amman.  

 

What to do

Jordanian people are extremely friendly and very open, a true example of Arabian hospitality. I would personally recommend hiring a guide because most of the sites are not sign posted and you would miss the interesting tales of the city. Although you can get a good feeling for the city on just a day, the complex is so large that you could spend days wandering it's rose stones. I was there 3 times and still think it is a place worth returning to. Its magic and mysteries will forever call you back! Apart from visiting the ancient city there is not much more to do in the area but check out their website for occasional concerts, night shows and theatre plays.

 

Practicalities

  1. Wear walking shoes, they are the only way to visit the ruins unless you decide to take a donkey
  2. Take a donkey to go up the hill to the upper temples, they are much less visited and you may have them to yourself
  3. Don't miss the night show!
  4. Bring a hat, there is virtually no shade in the entire complex and the Middle Eastern sun is blazing hot
  5. Beware of touts, unfortunately cheap souvenirs and a wide range of people trying to sell you from camel rides to small replicas are everywhere

MY TIP

Stay to see the sun set. the rose/orange/red colour of the stone is so magnificent at sunset you will never forget the sight