Petra in Jordan: Our “Spy” Mission in Fabulous Capital of the Nabataeans

The Treasury. Nabataeans Petra in Jordan.
The Treasury. Petra, Jordan.

The purpose of this journey was to look at the wonder, the ancient Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan. It is the most visited tourist attraction in this country, and probably one of the Wonders of the World. At least, one building in Petra is a piece of art without any doubt.

A little of history

The Nabataean kingdom reached its apogee about 2000 years ago. Its capital was the city of Petra. In the mountains in the middle of a hilly desert in the territory of modern-day Jordan, nature, time, water, and wind created a narrow passage leading to a small valley in which the Nabataeans built their capital. All the buildings were carved inside the rocks.

At the beginning of the Common Era, the city gradually lost its commercial importance and finally fell into decay. Petra was rediscovered by Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt only in the 19th century.

Our “spy” equipment

After visiting the Luxor Temple in Egypt, we flew to Jordan and moved by bus from Aqaba Airport to Petra enjoying glorious views of Jordan all around. Like these:

Landscapes of Jordan.

To meld with the native population and watch them discreetly, we took a decision to put on ethnic Jordanian clothes, at least, on me.

Jordanian national costume. Petra, Jordan.

It “worked!”
I was the only man in the whole of Petra in such clothes. 🙂
As a matter of fact, we became the subjects of special focus for every tourist (their cameras were shooting at every step) and local gypsies (though they call themselves Bedouins).

Jordanian national costume. Petra, Jordan.

Passage to Petra

This is the road to the ghost city of Petra–a narrow and curving three-kilometer passage in the mountains of Jordan. Sometimes it becomes narrower, sometimes it widens.

The eastern entrance to Petra, Jordan.

The eastern entrance to Petra, Jordan, called the Siq

The eastern entrance to Petra, Jordan.

The Nabatean city of Petra, Jordan.

Nabataeans Petra in Jordan.

In one of the walls, an ancient artist carved a camel and his owner. You can distinguish the belly of the camel, his hooves below, and his owner to the fore (to be more precise, only his legs). A trough of the city water conduit system lies between camel’s legs. Unfortunately, time was cruel with this piece of art.

A cameleer and his camel, bas relief in the eastern entrance to Petra, Jordan.

While my photographer was shooting me in Jordanian national dress, I took photos of her. Do you see staircase behind her which leads nowhere? There are plenty of them here.

The Nabatean city of Petra

The eastern entrance to Petra called ‘the Siq’
The eastern entrance to Petra called ‘the Siq’

Here is one of them—a stairway to heaven.
I prayed a bit at the top, just in case.

The eastern entrance to Petra, Jordan.

Petra. The Capital of the Nabataeans

Until this moment, we mainly admired miracles of nature, but suddenly, an artificial miracle appeared. The most famous building in Petra, the Treasury, modestly peeped out from between the rocks. The contrast, impression, and shock were significant!

Petra is the historical and archeological city in Jordan that is famous for its rock-cut architecture.
Petra is the historical and archeological city in Jordan that is famous for its rock-cut architecture

THIS was just carved inside the mountain! No drawings, no round parts of columns as in Greece—the building just carved into the stone from top to bottom.

The Treasury. Petra in Jordan.

It is hard to believe that it was made by people 2000 years ago!

The Treasury. Petra in Jordan.

Interior decoration is not required—the hall is beautiful without it.

The Inside of the Treasury. Petra in Jordan.

The Nabatean city of Petra, Jordan.

There are various commercial buildings around the Treasury.

The Nabatean city of Petra, Jordan.

This one was, perhaps, some important Ministry. The stairway. I’ll have a look.

Nabataeans Petra in Jordan.

Nabataeans Petra in Jordan.

The ubiquitous Romans managed to capture even such a natural stronghold as Petra. It stands to reason that they immediately carved a theater into the rock, and the temple nearby.

The amphitheatre. Petra, Jordan.

Nabataeans Petra in Jordan.

Rich Nabataeans had bigger caves—well, apartments—sometimes even with two floors, stairs, and passages, but most had only one room.

The Nabataean house in Petra, Jordan.

Due to the effects of nature, there was no need to decorate walls and ceiling.

The Nabatean city of Petra, Jordan.

It seems, my photographer tired and lay down to rest under the broiling sun.

The Nabatean city of Petra, Jordan.

All right, I’ll call a chopper.

The Nabatean city of Petra, Jordan.

On our return from Petra, our Jordanian guide asked, “Is it possible to call Petra a Wonder of the World?” Definitely it is possible.

Resume

We have not seen even a half of what can and must be seen, because of lack of time.
If I were to do it over, I would come to Petra in the evening, have a night at a hotel, go to the ghost city in the morning, spend the whole day there, then a second one, have a night at the hotel, and leave in the morning.

More about antique cities:

Fabulous Caesarea, Israel
Sailors’ Superstitions Couldn’t Stop Us from Visiting Ancient Ephesus
Pompeii and Herculaneum: Two Beautiful Mummies

74 thoughts on “Petra in Jordan: Our “Spy” Mission in Fabulous Capital of the Nabataeans

  1. Gypsies??!

    The boys that will give you a ride from the entrance to the siq are ‘fellahin’ (farmers: many own land, where they grow fruit & veg), but they live in Wadi Musa. They will tell you they are bedouin, cause that’s more interesting for tourists.

    The boys that work inside (after the siq) they are the real bedouins (bduls).Their (grand)parents used to live in Petra in the caves and the place kind of belongs to them. They were moved to the village of Umm Sayhoun (by force) back in the 80’s. Local authorities (=Wadi Musa!) don’t make life easy for them. Example: they cannot get permission to open up hotels, restaurants or small tourist businesses and have no alternative than to rely on Petra. As all the land surrounding their village belongs to Wadi Musa farmers, it is also not possible to expand the village or to grow anything.
    Jordan is great, but so corrupt.

    Behind the facades….

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  2. Hey Vic….

    I need some help planning a trip to Jordan.
    Did you visit Jerash and the Dead Sea? Did you travel by car of local transport?

    Also, how many days did you spend in Petra?

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  3. Reblogged this on sojournwithstacey and commented:
    As a travel agent (especially one who is only 30 years old) there are only so many place that I can have already travelled in my life. It’s so nice to have people go to the other places and share their marvelous experiences with me (and the world). This journey to Petra was absolutely stunning!

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  4. I went on the spy mision last year and like you, all I want to do is return. Such impressive pictures you took. Love it that you do the local clothes, I’ll think about that next time. I xan imagine the attention you attracted from other tourists.

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  5. Thank you for taking us to Petra, Victor! Great photos. I have lived in the Middle East, Iran to be specific.. I never realised such a beautiful place existed in Jordan.. Now it is on our list of places to visit. 🙂

    ~Cat~

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  6. Great post! Brought back all the fun memories of when I was there a year ago. Petra is one of those magical, mysterious, beautiful places that I always go back to in my mind when reminiscing about various places I’ve visited.

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  7. I spent two days exploring Petra back in 1993, I think that was before it was used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Great photos (as usual Victor) did you get to visit the building called the Monastery? It’s about an hour’s climb from the main site and almost as spectacular as the Treasury building.

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  8. My wife and I were talking just this week about making plans to go to the Holy Land. Considering that it would be four of us, the cost is scary. But while we were discussing the optional number of days included in a particular trip, we notice that Petra was part of the “extended tour” that cost more. We decided that if we were going to spend the money to go, we would have to see Petra. Thanks for your photos. Now all that’s left is to sell everything I have to buy tickets.

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  9. Beautiful pictures! and a great experience most of all… in consideration of the actual situation over there…
    Well, about “chameleon’s mimetic” I dare say a few things weren’t at the right place 🙂 but anyway you both got a real fun. As matter of fact this is the best way to blend into the local landscape and community… I used it myself a lot of time, with only a little problem: when you are a woman in an Islamic country you shouldn’t go around by yourself… But, well, I’m a Word’s Citizen.
    See you around and all the best for your next trip!
    :-)Claudine
    http://claudinegiovannoni.wordpress.com

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      1. It was in several moslem countries: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Marokko, Tunisia, Egipt, Tanzania, many Indonesia’s islands…
        But I always had a “flair” to use the local dresses (just to melt with the land and culture).
        Serenità e a presto
        :-)claudine

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