People have lived in caves in the area around Petra for last 7000 years, but it was the Nabateans who built the stunning city of rock between 50 BC and 50 AD. Positioned along the ancient spice route, it flourished and prospered in the first and second century AD. But then it was hit with a drought, a flood, and a big earthquake in 363 AD, which destroyed much of the city. By 500 AD it was almost abandoned. We spent three days exploring the caves, churches, trails and tombs of ancient Petra until our stone cup was full.
El Sig is a natural 1.2 kilometre sandstone gorge that gently winds toward the ancient city. Carved out channels on each side held clay pipes that carried fresh water to the bustling metropolis.
Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by 27 year old Johann Ludwig Butckhardt (who was searching for the lost city). Imagine walking out of the Sig and coming upon the magnificent treasury for the first time.
The Treasury was actually a Nabatean mausoleum and was carved out of a single block. Many archeologists believe it is the mausoleum of King Aretas IV (9 BC – 40 AD)
Amazing how much detail was still so preserved after 2000 years
There were approximately 20,000 people living in Petra during its peak.
The main colonnaded street that ran through Petra’s centre was built by the Romans in 100 AD. It replaced an earlier Nabatean dirt and gravel road and was the main market where frankincense, myrrh, spices and textiles were sold and traded.
Incredible colours on very old rocks
There are still approximately 30 extended families living in the caves in Petra. (Many people in Jordan still live in caves.)
On the walk up the 1000 steps to the monastery.
The Monastery was another huge building carved out of the cliff side.
There was no shortage of donkeys and camels. Caves and ancient carved out dwellings dotted the entire landscape.
We took a break at what was a garden and a bath house along the ancient trade route on our hike up to ‘the place of high sacrifice’
Random (ancient?) writing in the cliff wall along the trail.
The colours of Petra
The ‘Place of the high sacrifice’ and it was indeed high. People would gather for ritual animal sacrifices. All I can say is the Nabateans must have been very fit.
We start the day with an included breakfast (what we would consider supper food) at the hostel. We have had hail, snow and freezing temperatures and so decided to de-thaw in a hostel for a few nights while exploring Petra without our packs.
Sunset over Petra. A Salaam