by Dennis Bunnik
The true test of whether a so called tourism icon is either over-rated or lives up to the hype is your reaction when you visit for the third time.
On the way home from my recent trip to Egypt I popped in, as you do, to Jordan. The purpose was to do some hotel inspections at Petra and take some video footage of the site itself. It’s a tough life!
First Glimpse of The Treasury
So had Petra lost any of its allure third time around? Definitely not! There is something truly magical about that walk through the siq and your first (or third) glimpse of the famous Treasury. The Siq, a 1200 metre long crack in the earth, acts as the entrance to Petra. As it winds its way through the rock you feel the tension build and then, as you round that last corner you’re confronted by that most famous of all visions, The Treasury.
The Treasury is huge – officially it measures 43 metres high by 30 metres wide and is carved into a cliff over 100m high. However because of the relatively small open space between the end of the Siq and the Treasury it appears much bigger and towers over you. Recent excavations have revealed some tombs underneath – but there is still much digging to be done at Petra.
Once you’ve had your fill of the Treasury (it is hard to pull yourself away) then it’s time to explore the rest of the city. Petra itself is a very large city and to see everything would take weeks. Luckily all the main sights and highlights are within a relatively compact area however good mobility and a degree of fitness are definitely helpful! The Nabataeans who built Petra controlled the trade routes between Arabia and the Mediterranean. This made them very wealthy and they built a magnificent city with numerous grand structures as well as a theatre, various tombs, houses and public areas. Unfortunately their wealth also made them a target for the Romans who eventually conquered the city and undertook their own building spree. Unlike the Nabataeans, who carved their buildings out of solid rock, the Romans built free standing buildings most of which have been destroyed by earthquakes over the centuries.
After several hundred years of Roman rule the trade routes eventually changed and the city was abandoned. It remained so for approximately 700 years until it was rediscovered by the Swiss explorer Johan Burckhardt in 1812.
Walk Through The Ancient City
Within the centre of the city you’ll see lots of houses and nobles tombs as well as the theatre. You’ll walk along the colonnaded Roman street and then be encouraged to climb a hill. Do not say no!
The path up to the Monastery is long and in parts, steep. The views over Petra along the way are stunning and for the less fit air-conditioned taxis (donkeys) are available, at a price.
The walk up to the Monastery takes about 45 minutes. Is it worth it? Well I think the Monastery rivals the Treasury so my answer is a definite yes.
See Petra for Yourself
The Monastery is even bigger than the Treasury – measuring 50mx45m. Just the step at the entrance is 1.8m high! What makes it even more spectacular is its dramatic mountain setting. Carved out of solid rock it holds a commanding position as the highest point of Petra. The Treasury and the Monastery provide the perfect bookends to Petra – and both will have you in absolute awe.
Pictures don’t do Petra justice – you really need to see it for yourself to appreciate its full beauty. To give you a small sense of what it’s like I put my video camera to work.
Bunnik Tours to Petra
Petra can be visited on a range of our tours which visit Egypt and Jordan – click here for more details.