Petra, the rose-red city half as old as time,has now been voted by travelers as one of the new Seven Wonders of the Modern World and a highlight of any trip to Jordan.
Petra is a city carved into the Sharah Mountains by the Nabataeans in the 4th century B.C.
The Nabataeans diverted all trade routes through their new capital so that Petra briefly became the center of one of the most important civilizations in the ancient world.
A tour to Petra starts by walking, or riding on horseback, to the entrance of a narrow canyon (Siq). The Siq is a dramatic 1.2 kilometer narrow and winding fissure between towering cliffs, the colors of which change through the day according to the shadow play of the sun.
We will enter the city through the Siq, a narrow gorge over a kilometer in length, flanked on either side by soaring, 80 meter high cliffs to be confronted by Al Khazneh (The Treasury), Petra's most elaborate monument.
Leaving the Siq through a tiny cleft, one is confronted by the magnificence of Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh (The Treasury) hewn into the sandstone cliff. Local legend has it that the Treasury once stored the gifts of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon.
From Al-Khazneh, the visitor proceeds to the Royal section of Petra which includes houses and shops, a colonnaded street and a Theatre as well as spectacular tombs all set into the rose-red rock face. Petra is like a wonderful dream from which you never wish to wake!
Other Petra highlights include walks up to the Monastery (Al-Deir), the High Place of Sacrifice (Al-Madbah), and Al Madras all of which offer spectacular views over the surrounding valleys.
Petra is a city which was carved out of the Sharah Mountains by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2,000 years ago, turning it into an important junction for the silk, spice, and other trade routes that linked China, India, and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome.
Petra fell into obscurity for hundreds of years, its location and very existence kept a closely guarded secret by the local Bedouin, before being re-discovered by the Swiss explorer Burkhardt in 1812.
Local legend has it that the rock-cut Treasury once held the gifts of Queen Sheba to Solomon. As you enter the Petra valley you will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the place and its outstanding architectural achievements.
A full-day trek up to the peak of Jebel Haroun, to see the tomb of Aaron, brother of Prophet Moses, is an extremely enjoyable albeit reasonably energetic excursion. Petra is extremely popular with travelers, but fortunately even the largest crowds dissipate within its vast site.
Several days can be spent exploring Petra, although two full days will give sufficient time to see the main city remains, and some of the more interesting outlying sites like Siq Al-Barid (Little Petra).