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Jordan: Petra

May 6, 2010

After touring the north of Jordan and visiting the desert castles of the east it was now time to head a new direction.  Our bus followed the Desert Highway south for about 160 miles and our guide, Majdi Saleem, made the journey interesting with many stories.  Among the many historical tidbits, we learned the rail line that ran along side the highway played a critical role in the World War I battle between the Arabs and the Turks.  Eventually, we arrived at a town called Wadi Musa, Arabic literally meaning Valley of Moses.  The town was tucked into the narrow valley that led to Petra.    

The entrance to Petra

The entrance to Petra

We exited the bus and walked down a long narrow gorge just under a mile in length.  The uneven path included many of the paver stones from 2,000 years ago… it snaked between tall cliffs, some towering 250 feet straight up.  Water conduits were carved into the red rock along the path, all part of an elaborate water system that also included dams and cisterns.  As a result, the Nabataeans had an abundance of water in a hot desert.  At the end of the gorge there it stood, the amazing Al Khazneh, Petra’s most famous ruin, also known as “the Treasury”.  

Al Khazneh - also known as The Treasury

Al Khazneh - also known as The Treasury

By now you are probably saying to yourself, “I have seen this somewhere before.”  You are probably right.  Petra and the Treasury have been in a number of movies, the most famous being Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

During Bible days the Horites inhabited this region followed by the Edomites.  Later, the Nabataeans, an Aramaic speaking people, controlled the area as well as caravan trade that passed through here.  With terrain that provided the advantages of a fortress and an ample supply of water, Petra became a wealthy hub of commerce that linked trade routes from India and China with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.  The Petra site was built around 1200 BC and by the 6th century BC the Nabataeans had made this their capital.    

The ampitheater is carved into stone

The ampitheater is carved into stone

A beautiful young vendor

A beautiful young vendor

Petra lies along the slope of Mount Hor, the area where Aaron of the Bible was buried.  Today, one can find around 800 structures carved into cliffs and the site has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  As we continued down the trail, off to the left was a large amphitheater carved into the rock at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr.  The theater was situated so the audience faced a large tomb complex carved into a nearby cliff.  Tourists wandered the trails looking at all this in amazement while a scattering of vendors offered a nice assortment of bargains.  Petra is absolutely remarkable and it is HUGE!  

Main Street in Petra

Main Street in Petra

Urn Tomb

Urn Tomb

As we walked past the amphitheater the valley opened up dramatically.  Camels lumbered by hauling exhausted tourists up the long trail to the exit.  Their slow gait and calm ways added to the overall atmosphere.  Off in the distance was another mountain with striking rose-colored rock.  And in the broad plain was an expanse of Roman ruins, evidence left by the people who conquered the Nabataeans. 

Roman Ruins in the Distance

Roman Ruins in the Distance

Eventually, we had to walk out of this place, an uphill trek that was about 2 miles.  There was so, so much more to see… but, time ran out.  For an avid hiker, there were many miles of rugged trails that passed through these valleys and gorges and led to the top of the surrounding mountains.  Reminders of ancient civilizations were everywhere.  And the raw natural beauty of this place was astounding.    

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2010 8:04 pm

    The size, the structure, and design, simply wonderful! I am loving all these pictures, and as soon as I finish reading, I am going to venture over to your Flickr site and check them out. I was looking forward to seeing them when I heard about your trip! I love the sheer size of Al Khazneh, and the facade is beautiful!!!!

    PS- I am also loving the camels, they are too cute (even though they spit and somewhat malodorus!)

    ~Emily

    • May 26, 2010 11:50 am

      Em, thanks for your comments. This was an amazing place… with LOTS of walking. I could see spending more time here but our tour covered so many places we always had to keep moving. I will suggest these were smart and talented people. The work they did to channel water and store it made them a power to recon with. In the desert, water is like gold and their cisterns held lots of water. Everything about this place was a marvel.

  2. nefersiti permalink
    April 23, 2012 4:46 am

    Hi there, I enjoyed your Jordan posts. It’s interesting to read about how your trip went abt, as we travelled the similar destinations. Jordan is an amazing place.. so rich in ancient history. Thank you for sharing your journey. 🙂

    • April 23, 2012 11:20 am

      Thanks for your kind words… glad you found the Jordan post interesting. I have let my blog slide some, was too busy with work. I hope to be more diligent with it going forward. Again, thanks for checking out my blog.

      • Nefersiti permalink
        April 25, 2012 5:19 am

        You’re welcome. 🙂 Looking forward to your future posts.

Trackbacks

  1. Our Journey through Jordan ~ An AMAZING Arabian Adventure.. Pt. #1 « PrefacMe
  2. Our Journey through Jordan ~ An AMAZING Arabian Adventure.. Pt.2 « PrefacMe

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