Monday, January 31, 2011

Petra: 8th Wonder of the World

Well, alright, Petra may not officially be recognized as the 8th wonder of the world, but it certainly is up there on my list. And I'm not the only one. This historic desert city has already made a name for itself by ranking highly on current and updated lists of the world's "new" ancient wonders of the world. I can guarantee you that it is certainly something to see - and it's only a short journey from anywhere in Israel. It has been over 2 years since I last visited Petra with my husband, but I was reminded of this magical place earlier this week after a classmate recently took a journey there. I decided it's imperative that all of you catch a glimpse of this impressive wonder that many have only heard of in passing and in storybooks. It is very much a real place and one of the most surprising that I have ever been to in terms of its grandeur and awe. Petra is without a doubt Jordan’s most valuable treasure and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled there more than 2000 years ago.  Petra was supposedly an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

When you embark on a trip to Petra from Israel, you will usually drive south to Eilat (a wonderful beach city on its own that is great for snorkeling, scuba diving and vacationing). 


Before your tour to Petra you will have to pass over the Israeli border and then walk the 30-second walk, by foot, to the Jordanian border:

Leaving Israel, by foot
Approaching Jordanian immigration, by foot

After paying a small fee for the visa (you can get this upon arrival at immigration) you will get a little red visa (looks like a postage stamp) in your passport, along with a regular immigration stamp, allowing you to set foot into Jordanian territory. The whole process takes no more than five minutes:
Once you set foot into Jordan, you immediately sense that you are in a different country. I mean, there are endless desert terrains and sand dunes everywhere you look and no modernity in sight. It's exactly what you picture the desert to look like:


From here, you hop on your tour bus (this should be prearranged) and start your day tour. It will take between 2-3 hours to get to Petra, with brief stops along the way. Throughout your journey, you feel like you have stepped back in time. It's hard to believe there are places in the world that still live this way, completely out of sync with western civilization:




Of course, you'll stop a few times along the way and you will find that the town closest to Petra itself has been built up western-civilization style in order to accommodate tourists from around the world. A piece of advice: use the restrooms here in this town because it is the last chance you will have for a few hours! After a short bus ride, you finally make it to your destination, wondering what will lie ahead, because at first, it doesn't look exactly as you thought it would:

  


 

Soon enough, the surrounding scenery starts to get a lot more interesting as you walk through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on both sides by soaring, 80m high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling:

     

  

As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (the treasury) which is the most well-known of all of Petra's many sites. It is an awe-inspiring experience as your eyes begin to put together the massive facade which stands somewhere before you, through the cracks. Carved out of the towering dusty, pink rock-face, the treasury completely dwarfs everything around it.  Allegedly, this famous ruin was carved in the early 1st century as a tomb for an important Nabataean king. 

 

And then, as you round the corner, your eyes come to feast on the great wonder itself, that you have traveled from so far to see. Luckily, the view does not disappoint:

 

Though nothing can top the treasury, the more you walk, the more you will be awed by the natural beauty of this place and its outstanding architectural achievements. It supposedly takes between 4-5 days to explore everything there is to see in Petra. There are hundreds of elaborate rock-cut tombs with intricate carvings that tempt you as you file past their dark openings.
 


     

   

Don't forget to stop for a photo-op with the camels at Petra, and also, be sure to wander through the open-air markets where you can find local artisans and Bedouins selling local handicrafts from the nearby town of Wadi Musa. 

 

 


I hope you will one day have the opportunity to visit this magical destination and to see with your own eyes what many are calling the world's 8th wonder!

3 comments:

  1. This post is giving me a serious case of the travel bug!

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  2. When were you there? Perhaps you should strike a deal with Lonely Planet or some travel magazine as a freelance writer? Your posts are so good!

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  3. the pics are really cool

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