Petra- More Than Just The Treasury Building
The reason I added Petra to my Bucket List is simple; is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. There is no doubt why it won a place.
Most people know Petra as the one sandstone building that is very well preserved- the treasury. Well, Petra is actually an entire ancient city, far more than the famed building that marks its entrance. The first 800 meters following the gates is a ride in on horses. When you reach the entrance of the gorge, you dismount and start walking in. The gorge is 1.2 km only and curves, so you cannot see what is coming in front of you. There are decently preserved carvings in the walls here, indicating it as the entrance to a trading center. The walls are 80 meters tall. When you round the first curve a sliver of the Treasury comes into view. You can’t help by pause and stare at the tiny piece of one of the greatest architectural feats of ancient times before continuing forward. The treasury is huge! You feel completely dwarfed by the 30m by 43m monument. It was built by carving out the sandstone in the 1st century BC as a tomb for the King of the time. It was later used as a temple. The name is a misnomer, as it was never actually used to house treasure.
Petra was originally a trading route for caravans. It was a very rich city. They built their houses, churches, and stores by carving them out of the sandstone rocks. They also built big tombs out of sandstone carvings to house their dead. The Romans conquered them, but continued using the same ideas. As the trade route dried up, Petra was abandoned. It was found much later by a nomadic group called the Bedouins. They moved into the caves and lived there for many generations. Recently, the government kicked them out of Petra and made it a world heritage site. The Bedouins were given modern housing and are allowed to come into Petra each day to sell souvenirs to tourists. However, each night they have to return to their town, rather than sleeping in the caves as they once did.
The rest of Petra is a huge expanse. Less then 7% of the city has been uncovered and it still feels monumental. Two of the best spots, aside from the treasury, are up the mountain. The high place of sacrifice is up 300 steep stone stairs. It is where the Nabateans use to sacrifice their children to the gods. The view is amazing. You really do feel like you are on the top of the world. The highest point is up 800 stairs to the monastery. It is larger than the treasury, but less well preserved.
You can take a camel or donkey rides around the site, but we walked instead. The total distance was huge, and it hurt to walk even one more step by the end of the day. There was practically no one in Petra. Typical days have hundreds of tourists in front of the Treasury at any given time. The photo with the camels was taken early in the morning. There were about 10 other people there. However, by the evening there was no one left but us. As you can see from my second photo in front of the treasury (taken about 6 hours after the first), there was no one else there.
It was the opportunity of a lifestyle to experience such an amazing place with virtually no other tourists.