Thursday, February 16, 2023

15th of February 2023 - The ancient city of Petra

On the last full day of our cruise we visited the ancient Jordanian city of Petra.  There is also a modern day Petra above the historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan.  It is adjacent to the mountain of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin surrounded by mountains forming the eastern flank of the Arabah valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.


The area around Petra has been inhabited from as early as 7000 BC and the Nabataeans might have settled in what would become the capital city of their kingdom as early as the 4th century BC.  Archaeological work has only discovered evidence of Nabataean presence dating back to the second century BC by which time Petra had become their capital.  The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the incense trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.

Petra is also called the "Rose City" because of the colour of the stone from which it is carved.  We reached the city by the eastern entrance which leads steeply down through a dark, narrow gorge called the Siq ("shaft").  This was formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks serving as a waterway flowing into the Musa Valley.  Ruth and I took the option of descending the Siq in a golf buggy rather than taking the demanding walk down.  This provided a somewhat hairy ride as the Siq is only 10–13 feet wide with walkers and golf buggies going in both directions. 

The golf buggy decanted us at the end of the Siq by Petra's most elaborate ruin, popularly known as Al-Khazneh or the Treasury.  This ruin has been hewn into the sandstone cliff.  This was my first view of the Treasury which was all I imagined it would be.

Here is a picture of me once I arrived at the Treasury after the ancient Jordanian city of Petra has been high up on my bucket list for some time.

The Treasury is in a remarkable good condition apart from bullet holes made by the local Bedouin tribes that hoped to dislodge riches that were once rumoured to be hidden within it.  It is hard to get a picture of the whole of the Treasury in the area where it is sited.

In the area of the Treasury there were locals offering camel rides or selling various wares.  There is no way I am getting on the back of a camel having seen people screaming when the camel kneeled to let them dismount.

We walked down another small valley from the Treasury to an open area of the city which included a large number of tombs carved into the sandstone rock.  Most of these tombs contain small burials and niches also carved into the stone.

At this point there is a theatre that was cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction.  The theatre was said to hold around 8,500 people for performances of poetry readings and dramas. Gladiator fights were also said to be held here.  The theatre was one of many structures in Petra that had significant damage due to earthquakes.

On our return to the site of the Treasury we had to queue for around fifty minutes to get a buggy back up the Siq.  This ride was even more hair-raising than the ride down as the driver seemed to be in even more of a hurry than the driver on the way down.  Someone fell just in front of our buggy and I don't know how the buggy driver managed to miss her.

When we reached the end of the buggy ride we left the ancient city of Petra for a hotel in the modern city of Petra for lunch.  It had a light fitting that reminded me of a UFO.

I have never had mint tea before that was just mint leaves in hot water.  It didn't taste too bad once I'd forked out the mint leaves and added a little sugar.

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