Welcome to Petra
Carved into the rock and protected by rugged mountains on all
sides is Jordan's most famous attraction, the ancient rose-red city
of Petra, one of the world's most spectacular ruins set within a
deep canyon near the town of Wadi Musa. Wadi Musa, or the Valley of
Moses, was once the name of the whole valley and not just the small
tourist town sprawled along the sides of the valley leading down to
Petra. The town's existence is primarily to service the tourist
industry as the gateway to Petra.
More than 2,000 years ago, a nomadic tribe from Arabia settled
in the area and these Nabateans established Petra as their capital.
It became a powerful fortress city that controlled the passage of
traders, and grew prosperous from the caravans crossing their land
carrying spices and riches from India and Arabia. From this wealth
was created an astonishing city of monumental tombs, temples and
decorative buildings carved from the solid rock, which still stands
as a testament to the remarkable creativity and engineering prowess
of the Nabateans.
Today's Petra is a staggering landscape of rock-hewn monuments,
amphitheatres, palaces, arched gateways, water channels and
detailed carvings spread over a vast area. Dramatic tombs and
temples unfold with each step taken further into the winding
canyon, and intricate facades cut into the soaring cliff faces
dwarf the ubiquitous camel drivers, traders and tourists to
insignificance. Where the uppermost layers of the rock have eroded
away, fantastic surreal streaks of blue, red, yellow, purple and
white cover the monuments in undulating patterns.
To enter the city, visitors must first pass through a long,
narrow chasm in the rock, the Siq, that winds its way for almost a
mile (1.5km) with steep inclining sides that come close to meeting
656 feet (200m) above. Suddenly the Siq opens out onto the canyon
floor, dramatically revealing Petra's most famous monument: the
Treasury, or Al-Khazneh, is intricately carved into the solid rock
of the pink mountain face and stands 140 feet (43m) high. The
towering façade was used in the final moments of the film
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.Petra's second most
fabulous structure is the Monastery (El-Deir) situated among
spectacular desert scenery high up on the mountain, and while it is
bigger than the Treasury, it was never finished and is less ornate.
A number of places require a bit of effort to reach, but climbing
will be rewarded with enchanting views of the desert setting, an
overwhelming sense of the size of the site and panoramic lookouts
over the rose city of Petra, a certain highlight of any trip to
Information & Facts
Arabic is the official language, but English is
understood by most people involved in the tourist industry and by
middle to upper class Jordanians.
The official currency is the Dinar (JOD), which is divided into
100 piastres or 1,000 fils. Foreign currency and travellers cheques
can be changed at any bank or moneychanger, although the latter
will usually give a better rate of exchange. Banks are closed on
Fridays. Better hotels will also exchange money. American Express,
Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are the most widely accepted
credit cards and can be used at major hotels, restaurants and
tourist shops; cash can be withdrawn from inside banks. ATMs are
available, though acceptance of foreign cards is limited.