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The magical city of Petra

21 May 2014 5 PM

The magical city of Petra
Drive three hours south of the Dead Sea through Jordan and you’ll reach Petra – a magical ancient city that lay undiscovered by the Western world for over 600 years.

Let yourself be transported away from modern civilisation and into the ancient world. This vast city was carved into the rose-red rock by the Nabataean people who settled in Petra more than 2000 years ago. And it’s one of the most compelling sights in the Middle East.

Often called the ‘Lost City’, it was completely forgotten by the Western world from the 14th century until 1812 when it was rediscovered by the Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. But getting into the city wasn’t easy – it was fiercely guarded and he had to pretend to be an Arab from India wanting to make a sacrifice at the Prophet Aaron’s tomb.

The unmissable sights


Half built, half carved into the rock, prepare to be overwhelmed by Petra’s beauty. You’ll enter the city through the Siq – a narrow 1km gorge flanked by 80m high cliffs on either side – and be entranced by the glorious colours and rock formations. Horse-drawn carriages are the norm for travelling through the Siq and donkeys and camels are popular once you’re inside the city.

Once you’ve passed through the Siq, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Al-Khazneh (commonly known as the Treasury). The Treasury’s incredible façade is carved into the rock face and dwarves everything around it – but this is only the first of Petra’s awe-inspiring sights.

Take the Roman-style theatre, which was built to seat 3,000 people. Or the temples, obelisks, colonnaded streets and sacrificial alters.

And don’t leave Petra without venturing up to the Ad-Deir Monastery – it overlooks the whole valley and once you’ve climbed the 800 steps to reach it, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the whole area.

There’s no other place in the Middle East quite as entrancing as this forgotten city and it is so iconic that it’s even made it onto the big screen – making its Hollywood debut in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ starring Harrison Ford in 1989.

Your journey to Petra


If you’re planning on visiting Petra, you’re not alone. The ancient city gets up to 3000 visitors every day, making it the most popular tourist attraction in Jordan.

If you’re staying at Dead Sea resort, you can easily reach Petra within around 3 hours. The journey will take a few hours longer on the King’s Highway than on the more modern Desert Highway but you’ll be guaranteed a more scenic route. Stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba and you can start and end your trip to Petra with comfortable, luxury accommodation.

And while you could just spend a day here, it’s recommended that you stay for two or three to truly soak up the atmosphere of this ancient city. Just remember that you’ll be very exposed to be sun during your visit so a protective hat and plenty of bottled water are vital.

Top tip: Visit mid-morning or late afternoon when the angle of the sun makes the colours in the rock look even more stunning.

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