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Petra Siq • Petra Treasury • Petra Deir Plateau • Petra City


Petra, the "Rose red city, half as old as time", is every bit as impressive as I had imagined.  Despite the insufferable swamp of clichés at every turn and the thousand images I had already seen, I was still overawed by the drama and mystery of the place.  I even succumbed to a "Petra by night" tour as I felt I would otherwise be unlikely to see the place by candlelight.   It was very much bigger than I had imagined; the normal photos are just of the Treasury, which is undeniably impressive, but does not convey the fact that the city is spread over an area the size of a modern city, not just some tiny archaeological site.

Although in the company of an undeniably knowledgeable guide, I was constantly frustrated by the endless dates and events, caveated with "we don't really understand how..." when confronted with the kind of questions we really want answers to.  Bizarrely, for all the glamour of the facades of these troglodyte buildings, there was virtually nothing inside, at most just a couple of empty, cubic rooms.  I wondered whether it was just the public buildings which were carved into the rock, mere showpieces, but there was clear evidence of some homes at least partially dug into the rock.   But, "we cannot be sure" if this is how most people was all rather unsatisfactory and I was left with more questions than I started.

Much of the place is either eroded by centuries of flash floods, or buried in the sediment which followed, adding further to the mystery of doorways halfway up a cliff face or half buried in the road.

The government has "persuaded" the former inhabitants to move out of the historic ruins, to take up wonderful new homes with electricity, water and TV, so every day they come down to flog their rocks, coins (occasionally historic euros!), and other tourist tat.  Nothing really worth anything.


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© Jeremy Harrison 2005-2020