Petra, the rose red city

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. al-Siq is the main entrance to the ancient city. Al Khazneh, The Treasury, seen from the end of the gorge. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Petra is Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction. Al Khazneh, The Treasury, seen from the end of the gorge. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Petra became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Also known as the “rose red city, half as old as time”, it is not difficult to understand why it has become Jordan’s largest tourist attraction. Some say this is partly because of Steven Spielberg’s movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” from 1986, but no doubt this site would could have become famous anyway sooner or later. It was also chosen as one of the controversial “New Seven Wonders of the World” in 2007.

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. Al Khazneh, The Treasury, is the most famous building. Dromedary transport. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Dromedary transport in front of Al Khazneh, The Treasury. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

It has not always been a well known destination though, in fact it remained hidden from most of the world for more than a thousand years until Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss explorer, disguised himself as an Arab scholar and entered the city in 1812. Other western explorers followed in his footsteps.

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. Al Khazneh, The Treasury, is the most famous building. Dromedary transport. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Dromeday in front of Al Khazneh, The Treasury. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

From around 312 BC Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom before it was occupied by the Roman Empire in AD 106. Several structures are from the Roman era. As an important trade and commerce center Petra continued to grow until an earthquake put it in ruins around AD 663. Petra was abandoned after Saladin conquered the Middle East in 1189, and it became a forgotten city.

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. al-Siq is the main entrance to the ancient city. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Al-Siq is the main entrance to the ancient city, 182m high at the most. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The main entrance to the ancient city is from the east through al-Siq. dark, This is an impressing, narrow gorge only 3–4 m wide and 182 m high at some places. The gorge was formed from a split in the sandstone rocks, and also served as a waterway. Transport through al-Siq and Petra is normally done by foot, but you can also hire camel, donkey, or horse.

Petra is Jordans most visited tourist attraction. al-Siq is the main entrance to the ancient city. Al Khazneh, The Treasury, seen from the end of the gorge. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Al Khazneh, The Treasury, seen from the end of al-Siq. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Coming out of this gorge you will be met by the most famous sights of all in Petra; the Al Khazneh, also known as “the Treasury”. It was carved out of a sandstone rock face somewhere between 100 BC and 200 AD, and the rumors said that the urn atop the structure contains a hidden treasure, hence the name “Treasury”. Bullet marks can actually be seen from where Bedouin travellers have tried to expose the non-existent treasure. It is still not clear what the actual purpose of Al Khazneh has been.

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. Tombs, Street of Facades. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Petra. Tombs in the Street of Facades. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The outer Siq or Street of Facades is a continuation of al-Siq. This is a large canyon with tomb facades, all in colourful sandstone.

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. Horse in front of the Roman Amphitheatre. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Horse in front of the Roman Amphitheatre. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The Street of Facades ends at the Roman Theater. Originally built by the Nabateans but later enlarged by the Romans, the amphitheater could seat up to 7000 people.

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. Rock-cut tombs. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Royal Tombs. Rock-cut large structures. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Opposite the Roman Theater are the Royal Tombs. It is not known for whom the tombs was made, the name was given because of their large size compared to other tombs in the area. Ad-Deir or “The Monastery” IS the largest carved monument in Petra. Like the Treasury it has a small interior compared to the grand facade. There are more than 800 steps to walk up a hill to the Monastery, which can take over an hour.

Petra is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction. Rose-red sandstone. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Petra is also called the rose red city because of the rose-red sandstone it is carved into. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

There are today several threats to this archaelogical city, mainly caused by erosion due to flooding and failing drainage, insufficient restoration of the ancient structures and unsustainable tourism. Projects has however been started to help the conservation and preservation of Petra.

You can see more inages from Petra in the Jordan Photo Gallery.

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