While many articles cite how the city of Petra features in various Hollywood adventure flicks, what come to mind is history for me. As an antiquities fan (not quite the scholar I wished I could be), this ancient city is said to have been founded in the era around 300BC. The Nabateans (sounds like some far far away galaxy race of aliens) built glorious temples, tombs etc.
Tucked inside a crag of massive rock, the city of Petra today defies anyone to think that it was ever an inhabitable place. The image of sandstones surrounding the area drums up a perception that the civilization that inhabited this city perished with the sands. However, at its peak the city was a centre of the caravan trade that probably exchanged Arabian incense, Indian spices and even Chinese silk.
Long story short, the Nabatean state surrendered to a bigger power.
Ruled then by a successive number of empires (Romans who conquered them & then the Byzantines) and having intense interaction with the rest of the Mediterranean (notably Greek), the city was only abandoned after severe earthquakes and an Arab invasion in the 660s. This explains why we can find such a diversity of structures in Petra.
Today this UNESCO world heritage site is visited so frequently it can almost as bustling as it was in the days of the ancient! So what would the draw be for us?
Photos of the narrow entry to the city (aka ‘the Siq’)reminded us of Antelope Canyon in Arizona. Except that it leads to a wondrous surprise. The real draw (aside from pinning one more location on our travel handprint map), is to stand in the midst of these “ruins” and start your imagination. Perhaps hallucination. It will be a field day for a history buff.
The archaeological park is said to be in excess of 2600 acres and to really do some justice, needs at least 2 full days. That rules out day tripping from somewhere else. Interesting to know that the modern town (called Wadi Musa) adjacent to Petra has 30,000+ inhabitants, mostly engaged in some way with tourism related to the site.
A couple of good tips from an article I read recently (here):
- The Siq is 2km long, and there is still some downhill distance from the visitor centre. Now we know why people take the donkey or carts. Wow, did not know that donkey abuse is reportable…
- Best times is mid autumn through to mid spring though it is said hotels in the Oct/Nov and Feb/Mar months can be hard to book. Rain and snow can be either boon or bane in January (a toss up). Ok, so getting there during lunar new year’s a no go.
- Good point about the shadows on the sandstone. The same effect happened to us at Antelope canyon and most of our photos came out blurred. Fortunately we had quite a few reasonable ones…
Equipped now with some more intelligence, we can now look forward to searching for operatives that can take us on this journey.