If there is one place that can trigger my senses for adventure, I’d say Petra is the one. From the title you might have guessed that this post will contain more photos. In my experience, I really enjoy Petra with photography, hence why I give the title Petra Photography Journal.
Before anything else, you might have searched the word Petra online and found so many poetic introductions or descriptions about this place. For real, those words are emotional and yes, Petra is magical. I’m nervous that my photos are not good enough to share with you guys the wonder of this place. 🙂
How can you not love a place that said to be one of the oldest civilization on earth and held a major importance of history for trading? Even the UNESCO has described it as,
one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage
I have selected more than 40 images that I feel like I want to share with you. I know that’s a lot for a single blog post, but hey that’s why I give it a title of Petra Photography Journal. It’s just so photo-worthy that I took so many photos and still get the excitement when looking through them again.
Before I Get Dramatic About This Whole Petra Photography Journal Thing
Although it’s hard to say goodbye to such a nice resort and The Dead Sea, I have no choice. Enjoying The Dead Sea was one amazing experience that you gotta try at least once in your life. Floating effortlessly is ridiculously relaxing. Please refer to my ultimate experience at The Dead Sea post.
That morning we’re all having a really nice breakfast. Breakfast buffet from Holiday Inn Resort, as expected from a five stars resort. The journey from the resort to Petra took almost 3 hours. It’s quite a long ride, so I took a nap.
I planned to save battery for this last site that we will visit after the whole trip to the Middle East. I’ve searched before about Petra, an ancient city that once was lost and now has become a symbol of Jordan as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction.
Petra The Rose City
Located in the southern Jordan, most people call it with Petra – The Rose City. It has something to do with the color of the stone there, it’s orange with pinkish reddish accent casts due to the sunlight reflection on the carved stone.
Rose Red City, half as old as time
Petra was possibly established as early as 312 BC. Home to the Arab Nabatean Kingdom, a nomadic Arab tribe known for their skill with collecting water system in deserts and their talent in carving structures into rocks. The Nabateans also benefited from Petra becoming a major trade hub, allowing them to gather wealth.
From the first look when we arrived, Petra looks more like a valley. It’s a hidden city just as they called it. This large valley running from The Dead Sea to The Gulf of Aqaba. Petra was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and named amongst the New 7 Wonder of The World in 2007.
There are some things you need to know when you visit this tourist attraction. This place is not cheap, it’s pretty expensive in my opinion. But here’s some useful information that you might want to read before going here;
- Entry ticket to Petra costs 90 JD for day-visitors to Jordan. (Say you’re staying in Israel or Egypt, enter Jordan for a day and return without spending night in Jordan).
- Tourists who stay overnight in Jordan pays 50 JD for 1-day pass to Petra, 55 JD for 2 days, 60 JD for 3 days.
- There’s another available cheaper option if you don’t feel like paying that much. Petra at night available Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday start at 20.30. If you google it, it’s quite beautiful, they lit candles which illuminate the treasury beautifully. But that’s how far you will be allowed to explore at night.
- Most tourists will do only 1 day and only until they see the Al-Khazneh (The Treasury). If you’re up for it, you can do all of Petra in 1 day. But please know that it’s extremely exhausting, so freakin’ hot.
- If you’re staying more than 3 nights at Jordan, check out The Jordan Pass. It includes visa plus entry to many popular Jordanian sites such as Petra.
- This archeological site is within 15-20 minutes walk from the town of Petra.
- You can go here with JETT buses from Amman with 20 JD round-trip. Departure from Amman 06.30 and from Petra 17.00, parked just outside the Petra visitor center.
Be Careful for Tourist Scam
I personally think souvenir prices from this place is ridiculously expensive. It’s a tourist scam. A cheap sunglass that I think I’m gonna get one because the sun is really bright and it hurts my eyes, costs $35. The heck?? When I walk it off, suddenly price drop to $20. I’m leaving because I’m not paying more than $3 for that cheap stuff.
There are three kinds of transport allowed inside. Camel, donkey, and horse. I personally don’t like it and won’t recommend any of it. I have several reasons. It’s just I don’t like how they conduct their businesses, prices can really vary from 4 JD up to 60 JD. The benchmark, don’t pay more than 25 JD.
My Primary Concern
Those Arabs (Bedouins) most likely not take a good care of their animals, it’s not uncommon to see wounded animals. Under that kind of heat, not once I saw any of those owners gave water to drink to their animals.
Those animals really stink, each and every time a donkey or a horse passing by, I literally want to throw up. How bad? It’s like they’re covered in their own shit. It makes me wonder how they take care of these animals.
You’ll walk for about 10 to 15 minutes after the ticket gate with a view of two major roads side by side and valley of carved rocks as your surrounding. It’s extremely hot, so I would suggest you wear a long shirt, use sunblock, sunscreen, vaseline or lip balm, use a proper comfortable shoe for a long walk.
Carry with you bottles of water and stay hydrated. For those who’s allergic to dust, better to use a mask. It’s a bit dusty here because of the sands blew by the wind, sometimes by the horses or chariots passing by.
Most tourists I saw going back from the direction where I’m heading to look exhausted. Everyone seems wearing a hat or something to cover their head from the sun. I have just walk for a couple minutes and I already felt too much sun.
A Long Dry Super Hot Walk
I am pretty sure this is the longest walk I’ve ever been. Dramatic as I can be, it’s maybe because of the heat. It’s not that I cannot take any heat and be a whining boy but I just felt my skin couldn’t take it further. Dang! It’s too hot.
Keep walking and the view will get better.
All along the way, might as well just enjoy the view surrounding. Beautifully carved rocks formed a somehow unique landscape. Bring extra batteries for your camera, you will need more photos than you think. It’s true!
If you see the view like the photo above, then you’re about to reach the entrance to Petra, which they called The Siq. It’s like I’ve been walking for 1 hour, my shirt literally wet because I’m sweating. I spent the one bottle of water we got from our guide already. Bought another one for $2 / bottle.
Now this is when things get better, after seeing one small snack shop, our eyes drawn to a split road between rocks. This is The Siq, it gets better because walking through this rocks, we are protected from the sun. The temperature here gets cooler, thanks to the shady parts.
The Beauty of The Siq
The Siq is the main road that leads to the city of Petra located in this valley. The Siq starts from The Dam and ends at The Treasury. It’s a split rock canal with more than 1,200 meters in length, 3 to 12 meters in width, and up to 80 meters in height.
The main part of The Siq is created by natural rock formation and some carved by the Nabateans. We can still see the remains of the city’s gate at the beginning of The Siq. At both sides of the rocks, there are channels to draw water from Wadi Musa, outside the city to inside.
Aspects of the Siq were decorated with Nabataean sculptures, mostly representing gods. It is believed that the statues of gods and their sculptures were situated very close and even adjacent to the channels due to the Nabataean belief that water was sacred.
From this point, the floor of the Siq is paved with stone slabs, part of which can be viewed in its original location. We can walk more comfortable now since there’s not like the previous road where the stones are pretty big.
It’s not only the shady area, cooler temperature, better flooring, it’s more than those. The beauty while walking through The Siq is greatly increased multiple times. The colors, the rocks reflecting such a beautiful cast of golden color with sometimes the wind blowing make the experience even better. So chill.
Walking Through The History Time Tunnel of Petra
If you wonder why they call it Petra The Lost City, it has something to do with how Petra lost to the western world. This city remained unknown to the western world until 1812 when it was introduced by Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Petra considered hidden because it is enclosed with towering rocks. Not only it has the advantages of a fortress, Petra also plays a significant control for the main commercial route which passed through it to Gaza, Damascus, Aqaba, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf. It is also an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India, and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.
In AD 106, Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Petraea and became its capital. The native dynasty that ruled Petra came to an end, but the city continued to flourish under Roman rule. Around this time, the Petra Roman road was built.
When the era of sea-based trading began, Petra declined rapidly under The Roman rule. In the year of 363, an earthquake destroyed many buildings as well as their water system. The city abandoned by its last inhabitants when The Arab conquered the region in 663.
As I walk further and deeper into The Siq, I start noticing how the lights now are just much better. How the sun lights trying to fill in between the rocks, that’s my sweet spots. It really enhanced the color of the rocks in gold.
Petra World Heritage Designation Impacts Locals
Getting noticed and processed to be designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site comes with an impact for the local Bedouin. They were forcibly removed from their home (caves) in Petra to Umm Sayhoun by the Jordanian government. Of course, they are provided with housing facilities.
From the all six communities in the Petra Region, Umm Sayhoun is one of the smaller communities. The largest in the area is the village of Wadi Musa, inhabited largely by the Layathnah Bedouin. It is now the closest settlement to the visitor center, the main entrance via the Siq and the archaeological site generally.
Nowadays the government working on a planned development of the Petra region. The intention is to guide the development of Petra in an efficient and sustainable way over the next 20 years. This plan should benefit the local population and Jordan in general.
From this point on, it’s even more beautiful than the path before. It’s shadier onwards, thus causing a lot of golden color casts from the sun reflected by the sandy color rocks. Because of the shady areas, it’s way cooler and so chill. Some tourists even enjoy resting for a while sitting on rocks.
Some Threats To Petra
Like many ancient structures as such called World Heritage Sites, there are threats to this historical site. Such threats like the collapse of ancient structures, erosion due to flooding and water drainage problem, salt upwelling, and tourism. Ever since Petra received widespread media coverage ever since it’s marked as one of the new Seven Wonders of The World, tourism as always, brings some problem to many preserved sites.
Who doesn’t love that golden color cast above? It’s just getting better and better. I keep repeating this again and again. Ha! Now I start to imagine what is it look like when sunrise or sunset. Every travel or landscape photographer must’ve known that feel.
I wonder what is it look like in sunrise or sunset…
In 1989, Petra National Trust (PNT) was established as an attempt to deal with those threats. Even UNESCO and ICOMOS together release their first book on human and natural threats to these sensitive World Heritage Sites. Petra was chosen to be the first to be covered. The book, “Tourism and Archaeological Heritage Management at Petra: Driver to Development or Destruction?” was released in 2012.
Christianity in Petra
Although The Nabateans worshiped Arab Gods and Goddesses during the pre-Islamic era, there is also Christianity influence. One of their primary Male God is Dushara, accompanied by his three females deities. Many statues carved in rock symbolized their God and Goddesses.
Christianity in Petra begins in the 4th century AD after Petra established as a trade center. They used to have the tombs as a church, at least one. There are two crusader-period castles known in and around Petra. The first is al-Wu’ayra and is situated just north of Wadi Musa. The second is on the summit of el-Habis in the heart of Petra.
The Arabs believe that Petra is where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth. They also believe that this is where Aaron, Moses’ brother, buried at Mount Hor, nowadays known as Jabar Haroun or Mount Aaron. Wadi Musa is the Arab name for the narrow valley at the end of Petra. There is also a mountaintop shrines believed to be where Miriam, Moses’ sister was but the location has not been identified.
Petra in Movie
This is just another intermezzo. As we’re walking through The Siq, between those huge tall carved rocks sometimes we have to set aside to let those horses, donkeys, and chariots pass through. I did warn you earlier about the smell. Watch for it.
I saw that guy coming from behind us riding his donkey with his epic costume. I don’t know if it’s what they wear on daily basis, I don’t care. All I want to do is to take a photo of this guy, because he looks like Johny Depp. For real, my first impression looking at him was,
Holy Sh*t! It’s Johny Depp!
This is one rare occasion to see such a view. Haha! The way he speaks with Arabic accent, his face and his style, I wonder if Johny Depp has a twin. He played his flute a soft yet charming middle eastern musical tone. I’m amazed by what I saw, I even forget the smell of the donkey for a while.
Come to think about it, is Johny Depp move to the desert? From pirates to bedouin? 🙂
Did you know that Petra is featured in movies? One of the famous movie that mention a lot by people usually the Indiana Jones. There are also some other movies, such as; Mortal Kombat : Annihilation, Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger, even Transformer : Revenge of The Fallen.
One of my favorite TV shows, An Idiot Abroad, also featured Karl to stay overnight in a cave here in Petra. You can watch it on Netflix if you have a subscription.
The End of The Siq : The Treasury
After one long chill walk all along The Siq, after that resting place you saw the photo above, finally, we reached the end of The Siq. It marked with a narrow walk between rocks where you can see a huge tall structure in-between the rocks. That is the Al Khazneh, or what people usually call The Treasury of Petra.
This Treasury is where usually as far as most tourists go. This structure is huge and magnificent. It said to be the tomb of one of the King of Petra. It also believed that inside this structure contains a lot of treasures from the Kingdom of Petra.
The name Treasury itself derives from one story that bandits hid their loot here on the second level. The bedouins once shot at this urn in the early 20th century to break it open to find the treasure. Another story said that it functioned as a treasury of the Egyptian Pharaoh during the time of Moses.
There is some kind of borderline that limits visitors not to get too close to the structure. You know, if they let people in, this old structure won’t last long. So you enjoy taking a photo in front of the structure taking a turn with other visitors if you want the middle spot.
Oh, please be careful with ‘bomb’ everywhere in this Al-Khazneh area. There’s a small snack shop at the left side of the Al-Khazneh. There are also many bedouins with their camels, horses, donkeys, and those animals shittin’ everywhere.
I know that photo above might be inappropriate for some people, but hey this is why I call this post a title of Petra Photography Journal. I almost stepped on this ‘bomb’. Just be careful with your steps.
I met again with the cool bedouin guy, Mr. Johny Depp sand version. 🙂 This time I took a candid shot of him but he noticed me and said,
I can see you my friend…
A Local Fight! Just Like A Live Action Movie!
There are a lot of bedouins waiting at this site for their passengers. Either for those with customers coming from the entrance, or some waiting for customers who don’t wanna walk back that far to the entrance.
When there is a lot of supply but kinda short of demand, you can guess what possibly happen. Yes, competition brings innovation. But here in the Middle East competition brings a fight. 🙂
We’re in the middle of listening to Mr. Mahdi, our Jordanian guide, about this Al-Khazneh thing. Where all of a sudden a loud voice from two men cracked the silence of the desert. Dramatic!
Apparently, two bedouins got in a debate about their donkey business. Seems like the money thing, it always about money. Money is the root of all evil. Haha! Things get pretty serious when physical contact made, suddenly it became somewhat like a riot, a fight between groups of people.
I’m not sure how it reached this point, but it looks like they have a strong sense of brotherhood between people of their own tribes. So now this is a battle between two different tribes. I did write earlier there are some local bedouin tribes. They push, hit, kick each other until someone pull out their dagger.
As you can see there are some police, but they just do nothing other than calling someone on their phone. Luckily some of them still got common sense and pull the fight off between those first two. One got carried away far off sight from the other one. Looks like other bedouins worried about their business if tourists terrified of them.
Long story short, thank God nothing bad happened. Imagine if we’re stuck in the middle of a fight between tribes, dangg… How epic is that?! What a traveling experience. 🙂
Good Bye Petra
We had a good time enjoying Al-Khazneh. However, we didn’t continue to explore further in Petra. If you have time and still got the energy, I say go for it. I wanted to explore more but we don’t have enough time for that day, we’re going back to Amman for dinner, and then straight to the airport.
This is truly one unforgettable experience in Petra, an amazing day with everything happen, especially the fight. Middle East it is! I hope you enjoy my whole series of Middle East, visiting Jordan and Israel. If you haven’t already, read it from the very beginning.
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Here’s a map of Petra and my itinerary map while in Jordan :