Last summer, during my trip to Israel I had the opportunity to take a day trip to Petra, Jordan. Petra was one of those bucket list places in the world I always wanted to see so I didn't pass up this chance to take the day trip here. I have to say, the journey from Tel Aviv to Petra was a fascinating one just on its own. I flew into Eilat, a port town in southern Israel that has many resorts since it's located on the Red Sea. Eilat is also a border town directly next to Jordan. From the Eilat airport, I was driven to the Israel-Jordan border that I walked across. It's a wild thing to stamp out of Israel, walk across maybe a quarter mile "no man's land" and reach the Jordan border.
From the Jordan border, it's roughly a two hour drive to Petra. Petra dates back to the 4th Century BC, abandoned by 700AD, and rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. The most famous aspects of Petra are the incredible sandstone carvings of buildings and facades as well as a water conduit system. For me personally, I've always been fascinated by the architecture of this city and wanted to see it for myself.
After entering the gates and passing through the Visitor's Center, the walk to the city of Petra is surprisingly long, maybe a mile or so. Mostly, the trail looks like this:
I was visiting in June, so it was definitely hot, in the low to mid 90 degrees. And as you can see, in this part of the walk, there is no shade and no escape from the sun, especially considering this was around 11am or noon!
Bab Al Siq
As I continued down the path (with a fantastic guide) the first major landmarks encountered was Bab Al Siq, which translated from Arabic means gateway to the siq. One of the most well known structures within Bab Al Siq are the three Djinn Blocks.
Djinn means a spirit of ghost. These blocks are actually tombs, some of the earliest believed to exist within Petra. They are carved out of sandstone but nobody has determined a specific time of when they were created.
There are so many great places within Petra (and many I didn't get to see!) but I think the Siq might be my favorite. The Siq is the main entrance to Petra, a nearly mile long journey through a narrow gorge of beautiful rock.
Pretty much, every corner you turn you think you've seen the best view of these rocks, and then another incredible view appears. Unlike most gorges, this one wasn't created by water, but by a geological fault. Besides being enthralled by this view, I also had a sense of excitement because I knew what would be next.
Thanks to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones, the Treasury is by far the most well known feature of Petra. And they embrace the relationship here! It really is a stunning moment to exit the Siq into this open area where the giant Treasury faces you.
The Treasury, known in Arabic as Al-Khazneh, is carved out of sandstone rock and stands 40 meter tall! Like so many aspects of Petra, there is no consensus on why this was built. It's most likely thought to be a crypt or memorial built around the 1st Century BC. There is a legend that a pharaoh's treasure was buried here, but there was also legends that pirates stored their stolen loot here, hence the name The Treasury. No matter the reasons, this structure is truly an incredible one to behold in person.
Continuing down the road past the Treasury is The Theatre.
The Theatre was built sometime in the first Century AD just before the Romans took over. The Theatre can seat 4000 people and standing there, I could only imagine the kind of performances these spectators would have watched. It just goes to show how old our passion and need to entertain and be entertained really is!
The Silk Tomb
The final landmark I'm going to feature here in the Silk Tomb, just further down the road from The Theatre.
The Silk Tomb, like so many landmarks here, was built around the 1st Century AD. It's believed this was the burial place for prominent leaders of Petra and also a place to hold religious ceremonies. The name comes from the swirled and multi-colored sandstone that can be found here.
Most tombs and chambers can't be accessed by the public, but luckily if you're willing to climb up the stairs, you can enter the Silk Tomb. Of course, I took the opportunity to do that!
There was so much else to visit in this incredible city but this was all I had time for during my trip. I guess that means I need to come back to see more! I'll leave you with one last photo I couldn't resist taking. I call it my Indiana Jones moment.