A Rock 'n' Hole souvenir shop in Petra, Jordan.
Click the image to start with Petra Pictures or head for Wadi Rum
Petra in Jordan was built mostly by the Nabataeans (also spelled Nabateans) around 500 BC -100 AD. It was then captured by the Romans and slowly declined under their rule over four hundred years as Syria's city of Palmyra became the place to do business and Petra was so not fashionable. Then a catastrophic earthquake shattered the complex water management infrastructure and made living conditions there untenable.
The Petra ruins were 'discovered' by the west in 1812 as 'a rose-red city, half as old as time'. Full poem.
Rose Macaulay wrote in Pleasure of Ruins: 'If ever a dead city held romance it is Petra....hewn out of ruddy rock in the midst of a mountain wilderness, sumptuous in ornament and savage in environs, poised in wildness like a great carved opal glowing in a desert, this lost caravan city staggers the most experienced traveller.' Right.
This ancient wonder of stunning grandeur and beauty is set in an arid rockscape which is itself embedded in a featureless flat desert, the dullest desert we've ever driven across - apart from the magnificent molten rocks of the Wadi Rum section.
Petra Map | Jordan Map
An ideal visit to the pink city would involve at least one night in a Petra hotel - in other words in nearby Wadi Musa - making a very early start to reduce the numbers of tourists trundling beside you down the Siq, wearing serious walking footwear and carrying water, sun cream, hat, camera and possibly a packed lunch in a good backpack. Even better, do two or three nights in the hotel and two days hiking the rocks, one day hitting the regular sights (Treasury, Facades Street, Amphitheatre, Royal Tombs, Roman Highway, Al Deir)and the second exploring the less touristy, out-of-the-way places, such as the back route from the High Place of Sacrifice.
Petra tours are usually combined with the nearby and naturally awesome Wadi Rum, one-time home to the real Lawrence of Arabia and still hosting magnificent sand dunes dotted with vast melting pink and yellow rocks. This makes a sensational desert safari, whether by camel, horse, foot or 4WD jeep.
Note that the weather in Jordan tends to extremes - really cool and wet in winter and totally roasting in summer - so try to get there in spring or autumn or bring appropriate clothing!