Wandering Stories: Petra – “A Red-Rose City Half as Old as Time”
January 23, 2017
“A rose red city half as old as time” is an exract from a poem John William Burgon wrote about Petra.
A brief background
Nestled between sandstone mountains lies Petra, a place dubbed the “Rose City” due to the color of the stone which it was carved out of.
Once a lively trading hub and the capital of the Arab Nabataeans as early as the 6th century BC, it was later on occupied by the Romans in AD 106, who expanded the city even further until it was largely destroyed by an earthquake and was left abandoned after Saladin’s conquest of the Middle East.
For a very long time, Petra was forgotten by the Western world, until Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt visited, disguised as an arab.
Today, it is one of the seven New World Wonders, one which still holds so many mysteries left to be uncovered.
See & Do
El Siq & the Treasury
Before actually getting to The Treasury, you must walk through a two-kilometer long narrow gorge known as El Siq, which was formed by an earthquake years ago. As you walk through the orange gradiented walls (that are just as awing as the actual sights), you will feel as though you are about to uncover Petra as did its first explorers back in the day!
At the end of the gorge, you will begin getting tiny glimpses of the Treasury, a temple carved out of sandstone by the Nabateans. Originally, built as a museoleum and crypt during the 1st century, the Treasury is locally known as the Al-Khazneh. This will be your first stop, and interestingly, I noticed there were many tourists hanging out here and leaving afterwards – but there is so much more awaiting!
Hike to the Monastery
The Monastery, known as Ad Deir is (in my opinion), boasts a facade carved out of a mountain and the getting to it remains and adventure. There are two ways to get there – the first one being by foot, the second one by camel or donkey. Please do think twice before riding the animals, as they are often mistreated by their owners and carrying tourists up and down all day can be very exhausting for them (donkeys even more so than camels).
The way up takes roughly an hour, but it is perfectly doable (I did it without much effort and my physical condition isn’t exactly at its best right now). The way there is incredible – you will pass by local families drinking tea, amazing landscapes filled with sandstone carvings, Roman pillars, mountains and deserts and far as the eye can see.
Experience life in Petra
Petra is more than just its sights. While there, meet the Bedouins, engange in conversations and get to know what life inside Petra is like! Aside from local Bedouins, the city is filled with camels, donkeys, horses and cats as well!
Walking through Petra feels as though you have been transported back and in time.
Shop and trade
One of the amazing things about Petra is all the local shopping opportunities from authentic Bedouin families. As you walk through the amazing sites, you’ll feel overwhelmed with all things pretty like rugs hung on the side of a decaying house, mini souvenirs and so much more!
Two things – in Jordan, it is common to bargain, so don’t accept the first price that is given to you, as they will start quite high!
For Bedouins, trading “x” thing for another is still a common practice. I exchanged my shoes (oops), a dress, and a lantern for gorgeous handmade jewelery made by the lady on the left image. Bring trinkets from home that you don’t use anymore and see what original gifts and souvenirs you can bring back in exchange for that jacket that you never wear at home anymore!
Drink a coffee in front of the Monastery
This was my absolute favorite moment of the day. After the exhausting hike, we were so pleased to find that there are small local (and very decently priced) Bedouin cafés in front of the Monastery. Sitting there and relaxing while overlooking the sandstone mountains to one side and the magnificent Monastery on the other side was a highlight for me!
Any hotel in Amman will be able to arrange a taxi or private transport to and from Petra. The cost should be anywhere from 60 to 80 JD for a roundtrip.
Reaching Petra via tourist bus is also possible. Buses to Petra depart at 6.30am from JETT bus station and back from Petra at 17.00. The roundtrip cost is 20 JD.
A more local (and cheaper!) way is to head to Wihdat bus station (locally known as the South Bus Station) and find a mini bus. These leave at any time, and only when they are full. It costs 5JD one way.
The ticket to enter the archaeological site is a whopping (but really worth it) 50 JD (one day), 55 JD (two days) and 60 JD (three days).
Petra At Night
There is a beautiful night tour in Petra available during certain deays of the week. If you have time to spare, do not miss it! Candles get lit on the way to the Treasury as well as in front of it, creating a gorgeously romantic scene. The entrance fee for Petra at Night is 17JD,