Guide to Petra, Jordan

Petra, the fabled "rose red city, half as old as time", is one of the Wonders of the World and Jordan's most popular tourism attraction.

It was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, but many travellers will know the site best from the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

History of Petra, Jordan

Petra is a city carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an Arab people who settled here more than 2,000 years ago.

The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans expanded the city.

Petra was once hugely important for trade and commerce, sitting on trade routes between China, India and southern Arabia and Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

A devastating earthquake in AD 663 and the failure of the city's water supply lead to its abandonment. It was rediscovered by the western world in 1812 by the Swiss traveller, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who tricked his way into the fiercely guarded site by pretending to be an Arab from India.

Top sights in Petra

The Siq is a log, winding canyon with colourful sandstone patterns. Look out for the terracotta pipes that the Romans used to carry water.

At the end of the Siq you will get your first glimpse of the Treasury. Its awe-inspiring façade was carved into the pink rock face as a tomb for a Nabataean king.

Despite its name, the Roman Theatre was also built by the Nabataeans. It can contain 3,000 people.

The Monastery is the largest carved monument in Petra and, like the Treasury, has a very impressive façade.

Tips for visiting Petra

  • Always carry plenty of drinking water and take adequate sun protection steps during the hot months
  • The hot, dry air can cause nose bleeds. Rub some petroleum jelly on the inside of nostrils to prevent them
  • The best time to visit Petra is mid morning or late afternoon, when the sun's light emphasises the colour of the rock

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