The first time I saw Petra, Indiana Jones was in a race against the Nazis in search of Holy Grail in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Years later, I discovered the set location was the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, built over 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans.
During the 15th century of the Ottoman empire, people had forgotten about Petra. It wasn’t re-discovered until the 18th century by a Swiss traveler named John Lewis Burckhardt. He disguised himself, converted to Islam and convinced the Bedouins to take him inside Petra, telling them he wanted to sacrifice a goat for Aaron, Moses’ brother. He wrote about his experience in his journal, went back to Europe and told everyone about Petra. Upon hearing about the city, people from all over the world ventured to Petra. In 1984, Petra became a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Bedouins were forced to leave.
Today, Petra is labeled one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Visiting Petra is a journey that starts with traveling the Siq, a 1.2 mile narrow passage way. You can hire a cart to whisk you through the Siq or enjoy the walk that leads to the iconic image seen in millions of photos with The Treasury peaking in the background. (The early bird always catches the worm, so it’s best to arrive in the morning to avoid large crowds that could potentially mess up the perfect selfie.)
I suggest hiring a guide to get the full explanation of the architectural genius of these historical structures. You will learn how the Nabataeans carved Petra from the sandstone rock, working from the top down in order to preserve their work. Impressions from the ladders they used to climb the facade of The Treasury are still visible.
Petra is a gigantic place, covering 102 sq. miles. I recommend giving yourself at least two days to really get the full experience. Be prepared to do a lot of walking in the sun. There is no shade, except inside the one buffet-style restaurant, situated at the end of the Roman Highway. After lunch, you can head to the monastery by foot, climbing 850 steps, or hire a donkey. The help of a donkey will save you time, and your back will thank you later!
During my trip, I emerged from a narrow walkway as I approached the monastery. I was greeted by an open area with a cafe, as hundreds of people looked in my direction and stood bewildered. I took a few steps closer to the cafe and turned around to see the monastery. I was amazed! It was monstrous and appeared right in front of me. The monastery is at least twice the size of The Treasury, and I could only think to myself: How did they make this? Why did they choose this location? Why would something this beautiful become abandoned?
My time in Petra was winding down, but I couldn’t leave without experiencing another view of The Treasury. I took another donkey on a heart-pounding ride up a back path to see The Treasury from above. The view from above is stunning! The juxtaposition of the mountain topography and The Treasury is marvelous. It actually looks smaller but still maintains its majestic presence. Petra is an archaeologist’s dream. To this day, archaeologists are still digging and learning more about Petra. My visit to Petra allowed my inner child, who watched the adventures of Indiana Jones, to come to life!