A Rose Red City, Half As Old As Time!

To my mind, it is the long preparatory trek through the narrow path – the 1.2 km gorge called the Siq – that lays the groundwork for the dramatic unveiling of the city of Petra.

DSC_6014 copy

A natural geological fault eroded smooth by sand, water and wind, and with walls of up to 182 metres (600 feet) high, this is the grand entrance to the city. once topped by a triumphal arch. Interspersed with eroded shrines and votive niches, it narrows to less than 3 metres at some points and as you turn into the final bend, you come upon with breathtaking, unexpected suddenness, the marvellous Al Kazhneh!

Was it a tomb? A temple? A library? Its uncanny resemblance to the facades of well known libraries like the one in Ephesus and the similar floor plan, make the latter highly plausible. But no one really knows for sure. The Tholos or urn at the top was rumoured to have held the Pharaoh’s treasure – hence the name – but that wasn’t proved either.

The unanswered questions add to its mystique. As does the sunlight suffusing its facade like a floodlight tracing its length top down. The best time to witness that? Around nineish in the morning.

When you have pushed your jaw back up after that first sighting, just grab a chair in the cafe opposite and sip some sweet spiced tea until the entire monument is illuminated.

Then wander off into the bowels of the incredible Nabatean city to seek out more of its equally impressive, if less dramatic treasures. Every single one underscoring the ability of this remarkable nomadic Arab tribe to control and channelise water, and build a showpiece worthy of any Hellenistic neighbour……tombs, temples, theatre and all! Not built up from the ground, but every inch hand hewn from the surrounding pink sandstone. Most, as early as the 1st century AD!

When you are done exploring the striated caves and tombs, ascend the 800 or so steps, or take a heart stopping mule ride up to the inaccurately named Monastery (Al Deir) – the largest monument in the city. A hike well worth every effort and sore muscle.

Petra’s inhabitants – the Bedul (gypsy) Bedouins – have been living in caves inside the site for centuries. Although technically relocated to Umm Sayhun, a neighbouring village, where they have been provided housing and modern amenities on condition that they are the only people allowed to work inside the UNESCO site, most assert this is, and will always remain, their true home. They subsist on tourist dollars and some claim they return to their cave homes when the tourists leave.

# The title is the last line from the poem ‘Petra‘ by John William Burgon



Many thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board for making this post possible. 

While you are here, do take the time to read the history and legends of another historical monument on the Kings Highway.

Posted by

Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

112 thoughts on “A Rose Red City, Half As Old As Time!

  1. Petra looks like such an incredible corner of the world. I feel like I’ve been seeing it on travel shows and in travel books more and more recently… was the ‘tourist’ presence noticeable?

  2. There are places in the world that stun, bedazzle even. Not just for their beauty or history, but for their sheer monumental testament to human endeavor.

    As always, the combination of your photos and your words give flight to wishful dreaming.

  3. Hi Madhu, It’s good to get the background here. When Eli was working in Turkey this year, he went to Petra and camped out in the desert there. He said it was starkly beautiful. Your photos have captured all that and more.

  4. Good to sit here with my spiced tea, gazing at that unbelievable gateway, Madhu. Actually I’m onto my second coffee on a drizzly English day but I’m using my imagination. It doesn’t take much- I just need to gaze at your incredible opening shot. 🙂
    So nice to be here again. You have the most beautiful blog. My eyes keep wandering off to your Personal Pick, but that’s no hardship either. Hugs from this north eastern fool.

  5. Beautiful, with the first photo for a moment I thought I was seeing parts of the SW of the States and then the intense and beautiful history of Petra and your words/photos took over.

  6. I have just watched an amazing documentary of this fabulous place it is so incredible to imagine how it was built and how the water channels and lakes and dams created a city of such riches so long ago.

Leave a Reply to Naomi Baltuck Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.