Petra Travel Blog› entry 16 of 19 › view all entries
How could I possibly describe my experience in Petra? This ancient city, for some, is the primary reason to visit Jordan. To those people I say "What a bunch of tourists!" Yes Petra is breathtaking in so many ways, but nothing compared to getting immersed in the culture in Amman. The main sights in Petra unfortunately are crawling with tourists, many of them dressed as if coming to a museum. Therein lies a great advantage, therefore, for the young and adventurous because the actual beauty of Petra lies in the hiking routes and the trails not typically accessed by the older and more feeble crowds that stand gawking and open jawed in front of the glorious treasury at the end of the opening walkway.
In the summertime, Petra is very hot so you will need a lot of water and since, as I have hinted, Petra is more a place for hiking than an outdoor museum (it's definitely that too), I would advise bringing a camelpack, boots and a head scarf.
The entrance to the city is a sinuous decent with narrowing canyon walls. Geographically, there are no other easily accessible routes to the city center which proved to visitors in the ancient world that Petra was impregnable to even a powerful army. To understand Petra and the Nabataeans one must first understand the strategic location of this ancient capital along the caravan routes coming up from Yemen and also from the east across the desert to Egypt and north to Jerusalem and Damascus.
Petra has its own style of sculpture and architecture. It is a blend of the Semitic cultures of the region. Travelers who have visited Greece will be pleasantly surprised to see columns with wholly unique tops unrelated to Ionic and Corinthian styles. Nabataean style is very sharp looking edges many times with carvings of eagles. The blend of cultures has influenced the burial tombs with Assyrian/Babylonian looking stairs in a V shape atop the tomb entrances. Petra is literally paved with Nabatean pottery.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the city of Petra is not the monstrous buildings carved into the rock walls but rather the complex network of water carrying troughs that slice through canyon walls.
What you do in Petra is go on various climbs or hikes. My three favorites are the Monastery, the High Place of Sacrifice and the Treasury Overlook. The first one is quite traveled, the second moderately and the third is rarely attempted but by far the most interesting. The Monastery climb is mandatory because the sight of the monastery standing almost freely away from the mountain and much larger than the treasury. By the way, the Treasury and the Monastery are misnomers as neither was used by the Nabataeans as the names imply. After gawking at the monastery you can walk around to the scenic overlook of Jebel Haroun and the Jordan Valley. This is possibly the highest place in Petra to dangle your feet from, but you might get queasy from the height.
That was the last thing we did in Petra and boy was it worth the extra 4 hours. Petra is a place I could come back to over and over again. In fact, Elena and her husband keep finding new treks to make and admit that “Petra never gets old.”