Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jordan : Petra, A Rose Red City Half As Old As Time*, or (alternative title) I Love Indiana Jones

Ever since I watched Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, one of my all-time favourite movies (along with other Indys) ever, Petra has been on my bucket list.

I voted for it to be listed under the New Seven Wonders of The World a few years back - can't imagine any one not doing so.

And just like Angkor Wat, it took a foreigner to rediscover this lost city - in 1812, a Swiss explorer named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, gained access to this area disguised as an Arab.

Entrance is JD38 for a 2 day pass. From November onwards, all rates will be increased. Yeah, my name was spelled wrongly. Meh. I realised it later at the gate when they scanned the ticket.

We had an official park guide assigned, you can also go on your own if you wish. Going with the guide on the first day was good - you get to ask questions and all that.

We walked and walked and walked under the hot sun. Total distance of the main route was 4 kms. In front on the left are the Bab As Siq Triclinium, which looked like square blocks.

The ticket is inclusive of a horse ride from the gate to the Siq, however we did not take it up as we were told that the handlers practically demanded baksheesh afterwards.

The sun was blindingly hot!

The moment I was anticipating most - entering the Siq!

The Siq is about 1.2 km long, with cliffs soaring up to 80m.

On the sides are rock-carved water channels which serve as irrigation system for this ancient Nabatean city.

On some parts the rocks capture and 'reflect' the afternoon sun giving it a warm red glow. I think, rocks do can glow, right? What I mean is, the sun made the rocks look even redder.

The shaded parts were cooler.

When I got a peek of the Treasury ('Al-Khazneh'), I got really excited. *hippity hop*

Cue the Indiana Jones theme ... * da da da da, da da da *....
(orchestra please)

Closer and closer ....

Ta da! And there it stood in all its glory - the Treasury. Petra's most well-known facade, and its pride and joy. Elaborately carved and decorated, Hellenestic-inspired, built around 1BC.

View of the Siq from the Treasury.

Close-up of the two middle columns - see the left one? The 'patch' in the middle is apparently the only repair that they have done to the ruins. The rest are as it is.

The urn which adorns the Treasury in in bad shape as it got shot at by those who thought it contained treasures.

You can see the bullet marks here and there - like chicken pox scars.

Underground chamber of the Treasury - closed off as they have not fully explored the place.


Here are some pictures of the ruins of other main buildings carved out from the red rocks. The whole city was built by the Nabateans out of individual blocks of rocks. Earthquakes and wind erosion damaged some of them.

Some entrances were buried in sand, indicating how deep the ground level had been thousands of years ago.

The steps symbolises the stairway to heaven - so these were tombs.

The Palace Tomb.

Close-up of The Palace Tomb.

The Urn Tomb.

The Obelisk Tomb - this was not as red.

One of the Triclinium - I think there were three? (Duh).

Qasr Al-Bint - it was closed for restoration works.

We reached the end of the main trail near Qasr Al Bint, the Main Temple, and decided to take the donkey up to the Monastery ('Ad Deir'). I could not possibly imagine an uphill walk/trek (I so did not believe it is 800 steps up) that late in the hot afternoon. After much haggling we managed to get the price down to JD5 per person.

This was taken by Julie - I think after my first fall off the donkey. I was quite shaken since the cliffs on the side looked bloody scary. Did I mention I fell off twice? !@#$% Technically twice. The second time the donkey guy managed to stop me from falling off the sliding saddle; I blame the loose front girth. I wanted to dismount and walk up but the guy said he'll walk beside me and lead the donkey so that made me feel a little better.

This was taken on our way down on foot from the Monastery. On the way up, our donkeys had to go under this rock, with inches to spare.

Me and Julie and Julie's donkey; I can't remember if this was taken before, during or after the ride up. I think it was after.

At the Monastery - just as grand as the Treasury though not so intricate. Afternoon is definitely the best time to come up here as the sun is shining directly onto the building. I don't know why my bandana was poufy like that.

Tired feet and extremely dusty shoes. The long long walk back to the entrance was worth it though, and we still had the next day!

I love Petra, with all its ruins and sand and red rocks.

As I write this, I am listening to the Indiana Jones (*hearts* Indy) theme, and find myself wishing that I can look up to a blue sky like this again one day.

Good night, time for bed.

*taken from John W. Burgon's poem Petra :

"It seems no work of Man's creative hand,

by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned

But from the rock as if by magic grown,

eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!

Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,

where erst Athena held her rites divine;

Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,

that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;

But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,

that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;

The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,

which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,

match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,

a rose-red city half as old as time".


  1. Yes, the sun can make the landscape appear redder e.g. Grand Canyon, Ayers Rock. Interesting to note that Khazanah is an Arabic word (Al-Khazna).

  2. Oh wow. I've seen pics of this plc somewhere but I didn't know it was in Jordan. Oh wait, wasn't part of Transformer 2 filmed here too? What a magnificent looking piece of human creation. It's hard to imagine how they could build something like that in BC era. But you didn't elaborate anyth about the inside of it. I wonder how it was like. Can't really trust a Hollywood movie on that. :-)

  3. AdekFabregas - Red deserts and rocks are more visually attractive I think, but then again I have not been to a sandy desert (yet) :)

    JIPP - you are right, Bumblebee and gang were here too, not a fan of the movie though :). When you try to imagine the scale of this ancient achievement, it is amazing. The Treasury is off-limits to visitors as there are still ongoing excavation /archaeological works etc. The Monastery looked empty, just one huge chamber. Basically all the other places were empty too. Did not elaborate much here because it will be information overload :)

  4. As you went through that narrow gorge, I could imagine the soundtrack of Indiana Jones playing in your mind. I really want to visit Petra one day!

  5. Dennis - Hahaha! There were some guys who were actually 'singing' the theme song as they approached the Treasury, that was cute :)

    Petra is a recommended addition to your already impressive list of destinations :) One day!