The Lost City of Petra

Even if you have not been, I am sure that you have probably seen this infamous landmark in a movie.  The list of movies – that I have seen – include:  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Mummy Returns and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

When I first saw a picture of Petra,  I knew I wanted to go and see it. Just before we went to Jordan we watched a BBC documentary about the Lost City of Petra.  Very informative and I would highly recommend the watching of it.  Our overall impressions were okay but we definitely preferred Petra at night.

Getting to the UNESCO World Heritage Site was a simple walk from our hostel. Definitely leave first thing in the morning.  It is cooler, less people (slightly), and it gives you more time.  Buy the two day ticket as it is only an extra $5.00.  We packed a lunch.  It is possible to buy food within the site, but that depends on your budget.  Petra is not a cheap place to enter, compared to the rest of the sites in Jordan.

There is no shade so a hat is a must, along with sunglasses and appropriate clothing or sunblock.

The Siq

jd.petra.siq.pathSiq means “the shaft”.  It this case it is a natural geographical gorge formed from a deep split in the sandstone rock serving as a waterway flowing into Wadi Musa.

When you enter, your ticket also includes a horse ride up to the siq entrance.  You will be expected to pay a tip and they will tell you how much to pay.  Don’t bother trying to explain the meaning of the word tip and how it is supposed to be, not worth it.

Some horse draw carriages do go through the siq and will drop you off at the opening to the lost city.  They are more expensive.

We walked, and it was a long day. Magpie had a horse once we left the siq on the way back.

The Treasury  (Al Khazneh)

jd.petra.treasuryWalking through the siq and always wondering if the next turn will bring the view of the Treasury at the end.  That picture is everywhere, unfortunately it is not an easy picture to take with the vast number of people. I get frustrated at the volume of people but you do what you can.

As much as you are dodging people, you are also dodging animals and carriages.  It sounds worst than it is for a walker but for a photographer – everyone is a photographer these days – it can be frustrating.

Seeing the Treasury for the first time is breathtaking, even though I have the seen the image so many times.  In person it was a moment to stand and just take it in – trying not to be hassled by the men selling rides – and absorb it.  We were here, finally.

Much to Magpie’s chagrin, you cannot go in and explore.  You are stuck outside and I would have loved to lie down on my back and just look up.

It is around 9:30am and there are lots of people and animals. Time for us to move on.  Walking around the corner provides relief from the sun. It is surprising how intense it is, staring at the Treasury.

Not knowing how far we have to walk, we try to stick to the shady side.

The Ampitheatre

jd.petra.amphitheatreThis theatre was positioned so the spectators are viewing the Royal Tombs and where the valley now opens out into the plain.  It was cut into the hillside with three sides being the rose coloured mountain walls.

Again you can climb through and explore.  Compared to other ampitheatres we have seen, it is a little on the small size but how it is built into the mountain is striking.

Royal Tombs

jd.petra.tombsAgain, you find many men trying to sell a ride either on a donkey, horse or camel.  Magpie saw a camel being mistreated and wanted nothing to do with any of them. I prefer walking.

We find some interesting caves with unique rock formations, more like rock layers of pink.  There are a couple of girls that let you know where the “good” photo spots are. Surprisingly, they were not looking for a tip.

Just to let you know, there are very modern and clean toilet facilities with the site (actually built into the rock).

Just past these facilities – which are surrounded by stores – is the path to the Royal Tombs.  Here is where you can climb and explore, Magpie heaven.

Up past more shops you find the path and stairs to the main chamber of the Tombs.  It still amazes me on how they carved out the rooms with such precision.

There are a few levels to climb and many different rooms – all shapes and sizes – to explore.

The Monastery (ad-Deir)

jd.petra.monastaryTo get to the Monastery from the Royal Tombs, you will walk along an old roman road that was once lined with columns.  You will pass the ruins of a big temple and make your way around a restaurant and more bedouins trying to sell you donkey rides.  It is much better to take a donkey than a horse up the mountain.

It is approximately 800 steps up to the Monastery. Before you gasp, it is not straight up. It is a widely, zig-zagging, curving with flat areas, path. If I went again, I might take a donkey up and walk down; only because I would explore further past the Monastery.

During the climb, you are given some beautiful and potentially peaceful views.  Along the path, shops are dotted selling trinkets, clothing and scarves. As you get closer to the Monastery you will find restaurants.

The anticipation of when the Monastery is going to show and how it will reveal itself to you, preys on your mind as you walk up. It turns out the path comes out right beside it, so you don’t see it right away.  You know you have arrived when you walk into a big courtyard in front of the Monastery with a couple of restaurants facing the actual Monastery.

Cats, did I mention how many cats are hanging around?








We find a seat and have our packed lunch.  The cats mob you.  Magpie thinks it is great. I know better.  We actually see a couple of cats swipe the sandwiches from peoples hands and run off.  There comes a bigger mob of cats.  Of course, the cat chooses to run under our seats to eat.

Magpie enjoyed running around and climbing, while I sat and drank my fresh pomegrante juice.

It was now mid-day and the sun was intense.

As much as I was interested in exploring further, I also knew we had a big hike back to the hostel. I knew Magpie was going to loose stamina and interest. We started back down, which of course is faster than going up.  It is also slippy because of the well worn path and loose soil. I did slip once but nothing serious. Unfortunately, one woman had a good tumble.  I was amazed at how many people used a donkey to get down.

Petra by Night

We stayed an extra couple of days to ensure we could go to this.  Unfortunately we did not realize that it only happens on Mon-Wed-Thur nights and we arrived on a Thursday.  We did not mind, as the town itself and our hostel was quite nice.  We took the opportunity to go to Little Petra, which does not have an admission fee.  Great views and an easy taxi ride to and from.  Your taxi driver actually waits for you.

Back to Petra at night.  It is approximately 2 hours long and starts at 8pm. It is very inexpensive to enter.  This is run by the Bedouins.  The path is lined with candles and the front of the Treasury is surrounded in candles, which cast all the light and creates the mood.

jd.petra.night.siq.pathEveryone gathers at the information centre and we all go together in a line (suppose to anyway) being guided by the bedouins.  They ask that no flashlights are used and they really are not necessary with the candles, but there are always a few people that have to anyway.  You are also asked not to take pictures on the way there.  It will delay the whole night and we were waiting for people for over half an hour to arrive.  We still had fun.

jd.petra.night.siq.peekAt the Treasury, small rugs, similar to prayer rugs, have been placed on the sand for you to sit on.  We also had the entertainment of the dogs and cats while waiting.

jd.petra.night.yellowAnd So it Begins

A bedouin comes forward and starts singing songs, playing music and telling stories to lights with the backdrop being the Treasury.

Tea is also served, which is an added bonus but it is keen to remember that they are no toilets out there.

After the show, you are encouraged to take your photos of the Treasury with all the lights. The only issue is the number of people.  We were lucky to be a few of the first people in and being able to take photos and we were in the front row.


For us, especially me, our time within the site was spoiled by the constant hassling we received. It was non stop being asked if we wanted a donkey or camel or horse ride.  It actually put me off.  I have never been hassled so badly.  I wanted out and I wanted out now.

We ran into a british woman who was interested in the walk up.  I explained that the 800 steps were not what they seemed. Everyone thinks it is straight up.  This is common mis-leading information.  She was pleased to walk but at the same time was disappointed in the site.

As we were discussing our thoughts, we realized that we were not that impressed with the site either.  Seeing the Treasury, Royal Tombs and Monastery were great, but the whole atmosphere was disappointing. It was enough that I did not want to come back the next day.

Once we had passed through the siq again, I put Magpie on a horse.  That was a mob, and where I put my foot down. Even though they say the ride is free, it isn’t, as they tell you how much the tip is. I guess considering it was the end of the day they figured they could get more, or maybe it was because they saw that Magpie was almost in a meltdown. Either way, I won as Magpie and I had already discussed what would happen and I was in no mood to be hassled further. I was done.

We were glad we went and really glad we went to Petra at Night.  Would we go again?  I am not sure, as it is not cheap to enter.  I would still recommend it to everyone.

As with a lot of places, pictures are the words.






10 thoughts on “The Lost City of Petra

    • It is between the two temples, close to the Treasury, right across from the amphitheatre. It is easy to miss. Thanks for reading.

  1. Who’s Doctor Norman Bethune? Yes. In France? North or south? I’m in Singapore. Emailed your sister about a group of us renting her place and bringing our families but it ended up like trying to juggle feral cats. My wife is joining me in Kuala Lumpur next week instead and one of our group and his wife head to Bali tomorrow.

    I have a project in Paris that keeps getting moved out but I’m sure it will happen before I get there. How you guys doing? Been following you exploits, wow!

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