After my retirement in 2016, I wanted to spend time in travel across the country and abroad which I could not do while I was in service/ job. My dream was to visit wonders of the world (of course we cannot see the original sites while some are mythical and some lost in pages of history). Recently I visited Angkorwat temple Complex in Cambodia. As a history student, I always wanted to explore the old civilisations. One such historic place was Petra, Jordan.
Petra is about 275 km from Amman, capital of Jordan. By road, it takes about three hours from Amman. One can fly to Amman through Dubai, Muscat or any other middle east country in a flying time of 3 hours. Petra is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985, and it was announced as one of the new seven wonders of the world in July 2007 at Lisbon, Portugal.
More than two thousand years ago, Petra was built by the Nabataeans in the heart of Shara Mountains. The city began to prosper as the capital of Nabataean empire from 1st Century B C and 1st Century A D and was a vital part of a major trading route connecting ancient, Mesopotomia and Egypt. The city grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh and spices. Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a massive earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of city in 4th Century AD. It led to the downfall of city which was ultimately abandoned by the middle of 7th Century AD.
In 1812, a Swiss explorer, Johannes Burkhardt rediscovered Petra. Today, intricate facades sculpted into the sandstone cliffs of the area can still be seen, along with other remarkably preserved structure and monuments of this civilisation. In addition to the magnificent remains of Nabataean city, human settlement and land use for over 10000 years can be traced in Petra, where great natural, cultural, archaeological and geological features merge.
Petra is also known as the rose-red city, a name it gets from wonderful colour of the rock from which many of the city’s structures were carved.
To reach Petra city, we have to pass through “Siq”, a 1.5 km long gateway. It is a narrow gorge resulted from natural splitting of the mountain. Water channels run along both rock sides. A dam was also built by Nabataeans to divert the flash floods. The Nabataeans were considered masters in hydrological engineering. Besides presenting a dramatic entryway to Petra, the Siq also holds many relics from Petra’s past.
The Siq opens up onto Petra’s most magnificent façade, the Treasury or “Al Khajna”. Al Khajna is the most spectacular monument stands on imposing 39.5 metre high and impressively carved out of a single rock. The monument’s name comes from a local Bedouin legend that pharaoh hid a treasure in the urn at the top and one can see bullet holes from shooting at the urn to try to retrieve this treasure. Many historians believe that it is the mausoleum of King Aretos IV (9 BC-40 AD). The façade of the treasury reveals a Hellenistic influence, with six Corinthian capitals topped by a frieze of winged giffins and vases among scrolls. In the centre of the façade is the goddess Isis, and she is surrounded by dancing amezons (female warriors) with axes over heads.
Once we enter the city of Petra, we can pass through the street of facades. According to locals, there are about 3800 facades in which 35000 Nabataeaens used to stay from the first Century BC till the massive earthquake in 363 AD. The other interesting structures are : the theatre, Royal Tombs, great temple and the monastery.
At the foot of High place of sacrifice, one can see the theatre which is the unique and only theatre in the world carved into the rock (not built) . It can accommodate 7 to 8000 people.
Petra became famous because of the climax scene of Hollywood Movie Indiana Jones- last crusade acted by Sean Connery and Harrison Ford which was shot in the premises. https://youtu.be/bGN0LuEXBYY
Besides the historic Petra, Jordan boasts beautiful and famous tourist places like Wadi Rum, Aqaba and Jerash and Dead Sea
Described by Lawrence of Arabia as Vast and Echoing, Wadi Rum is an outstanding desert landscape. Sheer sided mountains of sandstone and granite emerge from open valleys to reach heights of over 1700 metres and narrow canyons cut deep into mountains. This vast land scape is now a protected area covering 720 sq km.
Aqaba brings a refreshing release from the rose coloured desert to the north. Aqaba’s reef is thriving, adorned with untold variety in its coral and fish. Aqaba boasts some of the world’s best scuba diving by day or night.
One of the world’s most amazing places, the Jordan rift valley is a dramatic, beautiful land scape with the Dead sea dropping more than 400 metres below sea level. The lowest point in the face of earth, this vast stretch of water receives a number of incoming revers including the river Jordan. Once the waters reach the Dead sea they are land locked and have no where to go. So, they evaporate, leaving behind a dense, rich cocktail of salts and minerals that supply industry, agriculture and medicine.
The ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6500 years. This is one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries under sand Jerash was excavated and restored over the past 70 years only.
Some tips for visitors;
- Visa on arrival is available at Amman
- Visitors Visa fee is 40 JoD ( 1 JoD= Rs 96). Single entry which is valid for 14 days
- 4 days minimum stay in Jordan should be ensured with return ticket
- Carry at least $ 1000 with hotel bookings
- If you have Jordan Tourist pass (can be bought online in advance) at 70 JoD, you are exempted from visa fee
- Jordan Pass has access to almost all important monuments in the country
- If you have US visa on passport it is an advantage
- Vegetarians have to carry sufficient food/snacks
——–Photography by S K Rao
18th June 2018
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