The Lost City of Petra

by Keri Foley

You’ve seen it in movies and magazines, but do you know exactly what makes the ancient city of Petra so magical and mysterious? It has been described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” by poet John William Burgon, and UNESCO made it a World Heritage Site in 1985, calling it “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.” As expected, much has been written about the ancient city of Petra, but nothing can truly prepares you for this awe-inspiring place. It has to be seen to be believed.

Be awed at the foot of the ancient City of Petra while interning in Jordan. Photo by Keri Foley
Be awed at the foot of the ancient City of Petra while interning in Jordan. Photo by Keri Foley

Where is it?

Petra is located in Jordan, and is the most visited tourist attraction in the country. It lies south of the capital city, Amman on the edge of Wadi Araba, which is the closest town to the actual site. For centuries, Petra was the meeting point of the main routes used by camel caravans transporting spices between the Mediterranean, Africa, and India.

The country of Jordan, officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is located on the East Bank of the River Jordan, and extends into Palestine. Jordan borders Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the northeast, Syria to the north, and Israel to the west. Jordan shares control of the Dead Sea with Israel.

Best Time To Visit.

The country of Jordan has average temperatures of around 86 degrees in the summer months which is comparable to many North American areas. In the winter months, temperatures are cool, with an average temperature of 55 degrees. This is in contrast to many other Middle Eastern countries, which experience much warmer winter months. Towns near Petra, like Wadi Araba sometimes see snowfall during January-March.

When touring Petra you will be doing a considerable amount of walking and hiking, therefore avoiding the heat of the summer months, might be your best bet. Tourists from all over the world flock to this area at all times throughout the year, so it really depends on your personal choice. If planning a trip for the later winter months (January-March), it would be advised to bring a jacket and possibly a hat and gloves. 

If traveling in the summer months, lighter clothing options are your best choice, but keep in mind that Jordan’s population is 98 percent Arab; therefore women should dress in modest clothing. The best time of day to see Petra, if you are planning to take photographs is either early to mid morning or late in the afternoon, when the angled sun enhances the amazing natural colors of the rocks.

Petra, Jordan

What To Expect 

You can expect A LOT of walking, and sometimes hiking if you plan to see all of Petra. Comfortable shoes are a must, as is lots of bottled water. You can purchase a one, two, or three day pass, to Petra. Costs vary based on times, but budget for around $75 US dollars for a one day pass. The multiple day passes are slightly discounted. The only modes of transportation allowed within Petra are horse, donkey, or camel. The fees for rides vary considerably. Jordanians are always willing to negotiate prices, so never choose the first option presented. When you begin your journey you will travel down the Siq, which is a dim, narrow gorge that leads you into the entrance of Petra. At this point, prepare yourself to be amazed . . .  

When you exit the Siq and get your first glimpse of the Treasury (also referred to as Al-Khazneh), you will be awestruck at the sheer size and the ornate detail of this architectural creation. Your amazement will only continue as you travel through the ancient city. 

Who Should Go?

Everyone! It’s that simple. Why should you go? Whether you are looking for an adventure, are a history buff, or enjoy a good hike, Petra should be on every traveler’s list of must see places. You will not only experience breathtaking beauty, but you will get to enjoy the culture of Jordan, and the generous hospitality of Jordanian people.