There are precious stones and there are ones beyond any price. Masses of rocks keeping all human race secrets. They are both Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Giza and the large stone statues, or moai of Easter Island….  Among all the gold of the world there is even a stone city.

«The Lost City» of Petra.
The eighth Wonder of the World

Due to the worldwide voting this ancient city had been added to the list of new Seven Wonder of the World. It happened July 7, 2007. In the meantime the pictures of Petra circled the world and inspired millions of people to travel to Jordan.

Carved in the rocks, the city used to be a capital of the ancient state of Edom. It was more than two thousand years ago. In process of time Petra became a capital of The Nabataean kingdom, also named Nabatea.

At Prophet Jesus’ times the city was flourishing. Petra was among the biggest commercial centers of the Mediterranean world due to its location at the crossroads of two the most essential highways: one of them connected the Red sea and Damascus, another one - the Arabia Gulf and Gaza.

For many centuries Petra had enriched itself by trading. After Romans’ Eastern sea lanes discovering, fleets of the desert had become in less demand. Soon trade was at its standstill and the city was emptying slowly. Petra had completely faded in importance by the VI AD.

In XIV the Moslems declared Petra as their shrine and had been keeping its location in the dark from Europeans for three hundred years.

Translated form Greek “Petra” means “a stone” (πετρα).
All houses, sepulchres and temples of the ancient city are carved right in the rock.

It appeared to be pretty easy to hide Petra because it was located in a deep canyon off major cities and settlements. It will take you tree hours to drive south on the modern highway or five hours on the royal highway to get there for Amman, the capital of Jordan.

It is two-hour drive from Aqaba to Petra (about 133 kilometers). The road runs through desert plains and hills. Sometimes you come across cozy Jordanian rural communities with olive gardens and squat houses. Having driven closer to Petra you will enjoy a picturesque valley.

While coming closer to the city you are welcomed by amiable clean off-streets with houses towering each other. It is a new Petra.

For getting to the ancient city you will have to cope with a long and exhaustible way: firstly in the sun and along a shady canyon afterwards.

You can walk, ride a horse or go in a horse-drawn vehicle.
A horse-drawn vehicle is the most convenient way of getting there.  But will you have enough time to view the beauty around?

I guess it is more interesting on a horse going at a jogtrot or walking. And those who choose walking, should pace yourselves. You have the city to do ahead and exhaustible way back.

At last the road is coming to a narrow gorge Siq. This is the only way to get into the city. The length of the gorge is one thousand two hundred and sixteen meters. A narrow rock crevice midst pink headlong rocks is a present for an amateur photographer: earth material colours and bizarre forms are amazing. Some headlong rocks height is up to sixty meters.

A riverbed used to be here and in fact you are walking in its bottom. 
Here and there a cobblestone pavement can be found underfoot. Turns out, thousands of years ago the Nabataeans decided to divert the course of a river to build a majestic sanctuary and mausoleum in the gorge. A raceway tunnel and a number of dams had been cut through the rock.

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There is a conduit running along the ground inside the rock. Thousands years ago architects of Petra developed a complicated water supply system using terracotta pipes. In spite of arid climate the citizens of the city had never been in need of water.

There were about 200 rainwater tanks all over the town. Apart from tanks connection terracotta pipes collected water from all sources of water within a radius of twenty five kilometers. This ancient water supply system is in a fine state of preservation even now.

Suddenly a huge stone appears on the road. Might it have been brought by a heavy current here? Or might it have detached from the rock? Ancient citizens used it as a sanctuary.

And here is a bas-relief showing through – merchants delivering goods on camels. Water and time treated sandstone without any bit of mercy - the figures have almost forfeited their previous lines.

The road between high rocks overhanging is beautiful. It’s cool in the shade. The sun is striking down. Finally at the end of the gorge the rocks are pulling apart and you can see…

Al Khazneh - the most famous significant site of Petra. By the way its facades decorate the closing shots of the iconic film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.

A separate story can be devoted to Al Khazneh. I’ll just mention one fun fact. All turbe columns have come down to us but one. It has been backed out relatively recently.

Upon closer look this new column is curved inappreciably but the rest are in alignment. Ancient architects and stone carvers’ skills were utmost!

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Tourists’ mistake: the way to Petra is spent all photos and all battery charge on. But the most interesting things are appeared to be ahead.

You circle the Treasury to the right and find oneself in a most marvelous city! A wide sunny flat is surrounded by either rocks or many-storied houses of the locals. That’s for you to decide.

Palaces, sanctuaries, turbes and burial rooms are carved inside the rocks. It is shady and cool inside the ceremonial caves. There is an amphitheater nearby witnessing Romans’ presence in the city in the first or the second century AD.

Bemused you are walking along these ancient walls and clearly realize how old human civilization is. How much we are out of step with ourselves and how badly we misjudge our forefathers…

I’d better stop here suggesting you admiring amazing Petra. 
In case of intending to come here take a two- or- three- or better four –day tour. It is impossible to walk around everything in Petra in one day. There is just a small part of it in the picture.

And reserve yourselves! For coming back from the ancient city you will have to remake the long way along the gorge Siq and then along the exposed road under the blazing sun. Coming back has a hard time. But the emotions expiate all the experienced severities. 

LOCAL GUIDES’ TIPS

Walking around all Petra takes about four or five days. 

For ancient city walking comfortable shoes are a must. You will have to walk from eight to twelve kilometers on stony paths.

There are several cafes to nash or have a cup of fragrant tea in Petra. You are not recommended to drink a lot - there are just two cubicals located a few kilometers away from each other. 

There are a lot of gift shops with different amulets, racy bijouterie, pots and coffee pots archaicized. Some Beduin-merchants can be met in the most unlikely places such as rock top with a famous temple complex on it. 

A keffiyeh is worth buying. It is a traditional Arabic headdress for a head, shoulders and face covering to prevent sunburn.

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    Author and photographerVictoria Lazareva
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