Petra Jordan – A Unique Wonder of the World UNESCO World Heritage Site

Petra Jordan – When the tourism department of Jordan invited me to visit their country, all I knew about this heritage site was only its name. But being a World Heritage Site, my happiness knew no bounds. After seeing some photographs, the charming image of pink-colored pillars created curiosity in the mind. I learned why tourists yearn to visit Petra Jordan. We were so eager to see the place that we suggested to our guide an early departure in the morning, so that we would have a few extra hours to admire the pink sandstone city, which was for a long time a lost city. .

Petra Jordan Tour

Our guide was probably used to over-enthusiastic tourists like us. He engaged us in talks and stories and ensured that we left Amman at the time planned by him. Technically Petra belongs to Shobak village in Ma’an province. It is located in the southern part of Jordan. To reach here from the capital Amman, one has to travel by road for about 3-4 hours.

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First glimpse of Petra – the lost city of the Nabataeans

By the time we reached Petra it was almost noon. We purchased entrance tickets which cost 90 Jordanian Dinars per person. At that time the Indian value of 1 Jordanian Dinar was Rs 100. We were shocked as this was the highest entry fee for UNESCO World Heritage sites I have ever visited. The thrill of reaching the entrance of the heritage site was at its peak. Going inside through the entrance we expected to see some amazing monuments. However, some of my friends who had visited here in the past had cautioned me that I would have to be mentally and physically prepared to walk long distances. But in front of me was a huge city. We moved ahead walking on the rough road. There were carved mountains on either side of us. In fact, they were square tombs that were carved out of the hills. Auspicious omens and symbols were engraved and painted on them. The engravings still remain but the images have now faded.

Colorful chariots going here and there were decorating the dull environment with colors. They were carrying people who wanted to avoid walking. We walked through a narrow valley for about 1 kilometer and reached a place called Sik. It is a pink-red colored city. Our guide began to explain the history of this World Heritage Site. He also pointed out that it is also mentioned in the Bible, which means it was a vibrant city at that time. Petra is derived from the Greek word petros which means rocks. After visiting this city, you will also agree that this city cannot have a more appropriate name than Petra.

Petra was mainly inhabited by an ancient people called Nabataeans, who were later taken over by the Roman Empire. It became a lost city after being abandoned by the Roman Empire in the 7th century. It was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig. Due to the pink colored rocks it is called “Rose City”. It is also called “Lost City” because for many centuries this city was lost from the sight of the world.

Capital of the Nabataean civilization

Petra was the capital of the Nabataean civilization. At that time its beauty was at its peak. Historians believe that the history of this heritage city began around 312 BC. The trading tribe of Nabataeans lived here. They had trade relations with the Arabs of the South, the Arabs of Egypt situated on the banks of the Dead Sea, and the ancient Romans. Trade routes from here to India have also been mentioned in historical literature. The Nabataean tribe is basically of Arabic origin. They worshiped a god named Dushra, who is equivalent to Zeus or Jupiter in Greco-Roman mythology. They also worshiped a goddess equivalent to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Like Jus, Dushra also lived on the nearby mountain. I suddenly remembered that our Gods and Goddesses also like to reside on mountains, like Lord Shiva resides on Mount Kailash.

The treasury in Petra, the most famous ruin of the ancient Nabatean city, Jordan

People of the Nabataean tribe continued to reside here till 106 AD. Subsequently, the Roman Empire established supremacy here. In the excavations conducted here, along with Nabataean signs, traces of Roman settlement have also been found. The presence of churches in this complex indicates that the inhabitants of the Nabataean tribe had adopted Christianity, which probably happened in the beginning of the 1st century AD.


After covering a distance of about one kilometer by walking on the unpaved road, you will see the bifurcation of the hill similar to the Grand Canyon. It seems as if the hill has been divided into two parts to pave our way. In fact, this hill has naturally split as a result of a severe earthquake. If you look at it carefully, you will realize that if you try to connect the two parts of the hill, then together they will form a complete hill, as if they are two pieces of a puzzle.

The lane located between the two parts of the hill is about 800 meters long. This street has a unique feature. The lane between the two parts of the hill is very narrow and the hill is high. Therefore, sunlight enters this street from above in the form of a narrow strip and illuminates the rocks. Due to this, while standing on the ground, we can see the sun but do not feel its heat. Therefore, this natural corridor is the coolest part of this heritage city.

There are many natural formations in this area which surprise. For example, at one place the natural shape of the rock appears to be like the mouth of a fish. There are many artificial sculptures here which you will definitely appreciate after seeing them. Like there is an altar here whose figures are engraved on its walls. In my estimation, those figures are of the gods and goddesses who were worshiped here. If I could know the backstories and information about all those figures, I would be satisfied. But due to limited time period it was not possible to collect information related to each craft. I was surprised that despite being such a popular tourist destination, there is very limited documentation available about it on the internet.

It is believed that the Nabataean residents used this narrow natural lane for their safety. Since this narrow street was the only way to enter the city, they were confident about their safety. It was not easy for the invaders to enter and attack the city through the narrow and long street.

Petra Jordan’s water management

While wandering in Sik, definitely pay attention to one element there. You will be surprised to see them. There are water channels on both sides of the reefs. One is made of red baked clay i.e. terracotta which acts as a filter to obtain drinking water.

The second is formed by lime soil. Despite being part of a desert, the credit for the long-term presence of human settlement here goes to this water management system. A detailed overview of the water management system of this place is no less than a scientific discovery. It is said that there was only 6 inches of rainfall in a year and the water was managed so efficiently that the residents here were supplied with water throughout the year. This reminded me of the water management systems of ancient India, such as Rani Ki Vav and Sahastralinga Talao.

Petra treasury

The treasury monument is the real identity of this magnificent Petra. This is the first monument on the other side of the Siq. While going through the narrow lane, some pink-colored pillars start appearing in front of you. As you approach it, you will find yourself with a grand façade in front of you. For me, it felt like a dream coming true. Carved out of pink sandstone, the structure resembled a Greco-Roman-style temple. But that was only the front. The local Badu or Beduin Arab tribe speculated that behind that grand facade must have been stored immense wealth. Hence they started calling it Rajkosh. In fact, rather than being a treasury, it is the tomb of a prominent Nabataean king. Similarly, other engraved facades are also the tombs of some important persons. Going near the treasury you can see many tombs below.

Most ancient civilizations believe in rebirth after death and perform various rituals to transfer the souls to the next life. In contrast, the Nabataean tribe believes in attaining heaven or hell after death. Each tomb has crow’s claw symbols engraved on it, which are a means of transportation to heaven or hell according to Nabataean beliefs. The facades of other natural structures, including the treasury, are carved from top to bottom, similar to the Kailash cave of Ellora. Just as we got the necessary information about the construction method of the Ajanta caves from the incomplete caves, archaeologists discovered that the carving of these facades was also done from top to bottom. That is why the second stories of all of them are popular, not the first.

Architectural details

The relief sculptures on the facade of the Rajkosh Memorial have the influence of 5 different civilizations that resided here.

There are 6 tall pillars in front of the first floor of the treasury. At each end of the façade, there is a sculpture of a brave warrior riding a horse between two pillars. They are the gift of Roman mythology. Those two warriors are called Castro and Polix, who are the sons of the Roman mythological character Zeus and a human girl. The tops of the columns are Corinthian which is a Greek influence on this façade. On the second floor is an image of the Egyptian goddess Aegis.

Above the Corinthian top, you can see 6 vessels with 30 roses on them. There are 6 pillars on each floor. Which means that there are a total of 12 pillars in the façade. Symbols similar to teeth are engraved, the total number of which is 365. Looking at these numbers, doesn’t it seem as if a complete English annual almanac has been printed?

Till 10 years ago, tourists were allowed inside this structure. But since tombs have been found under this facade, tourists have been prohibited from going inside.

A unique feature of the Rajkosh is that the treasury facade is the best preserved among the various monuments in the entire heritage site. There is a simple scientific reason behind this. The high speed wind coming from the sik hits the walls around the treasury but not the front. Due to this, the facade is naturally protected from harsh environmental conditions.


It is ironic that all the extravagantly decorated facades are actually the mausoleums of the dead. The small holes visible on the front of the hills are actually caves where people once lived. It is no less than an irony that huge decorated and decorated places are for dead people while only the holes located on the hills were the residence of those people when they were alive.

Till 1985, it was inhabited by local tribes like Badu or Baduin. After this, they were thrown out from here to get a place in the category of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even today you will find people here who claim that they once lived in these caves. Some tourist guides can provide you the opportunity to stay in these caves but this is not allowed at the official level.

Bedu or Bedouin

When the Bedouin tribe living here was shifted from here to somewhere else, he showed cleverness. Then they made an agreement with the officials that only they would provide tourist guide services to the tourists inside this heritage site. That is why you will see people of this tribe everywhere, some driving tangas and some providing rides on camels or mules. Some members of this tribe set up tents and sell Jordanian souvenirs inside them. There is also a good restaurant in the southern part. Apart from this, some small shops are scattered here and there but there is not much available in the name of tourist facilities. Even our guide cautioned us that since members of the Badu tribe have a monopoly in providing tourist facilities here, the standard of service provided by them is very mediocre and expensive.

Just imagine, after paying a heavy price in the name of entry fee, one has to pay an equally heavy price to get the facility of riding on various modes of transport in this haunted city. They also seemed extremely rude to me. A mule owner became angry with me because I decided to walk rather than hire his mule and ride it. He also tried to threaten me by gathering his associates. All this happened around evening time when there were not many tourists present there.


There are remains of a theater here. Due to its similarity with the popular Roman theatres, it is also commonly called Roman theatre. This is a fallacy. This theater also belongs to the Nabataean period. The most special element of this theater is that it has also been built by cutting rock. Do you know of any other similar theater?

Unfortunately, this theater is in a very dilapidated condition. Looking at it, it is difficult to imagine that at one time it was an excellent theater with a capacity of 600 spectators.

Temple of Dushra

Had it not been in a broken state, it would have been the largest facade or structure of this heritage site. Unfortunately, what we see now is complete ruins. Archaeologists compare it with the Temple of Artemis in Jerash or the Temple of Hercules in the Amman Citadel. They even consider it bigger than them.

Mausoleum of kings

In this heritage city, going ahead of Al Khazaneh i.e. the treasury, if you look towards the right, there are many royal mausoleums on the top of the hill whose facades are also similar to the facades of the treasury. One has to climb stairs to reach the base of this hill. I had to climb similar stairs to reach the monastery. I had the ability and desire to complete this mission at one place only. So instead of climbing the stairs here, I decided to climb the stairs of the monastery. This structure appeared grand from distance. The inscriptions inside this mausoleum structure indicate the period of these mausoleums. There is also mention of those kings who were buried here. Most of them were Nabataean kings.

Many of the formations located here have received names based on their shape or color. For example, a silk-colored building is called Resham Samadhi or Chhatri. The structure consisting of Corinthian columns is called Corinthian. A structure that looks like a palace is called a palace. But these names do not have even the slightest relation with the original names of these structures or their purpose.

Petra Monastery Tour

The monastery also has an engraved façade. This must have been a place of worship at some time. But in the state in which it exists at present, its interior is very simple and the front is beautifully carved. To reach this monastery one has to climb about 800 steps from the foothills of the hill. On the way you will meet the local Bedouin tribe sitting inside some tents. Some of them will be seen playing musical instruments, some serving tea, but most of them will be seen selling jewelery and red and black clothes. I noticed that in most of the tents, women were managing all the activities while men were giving mule rides to the tourists.

Apart from the complexity of the rock shapes, their colors will also attract you. The bright yellow and pink colors of the rocks will stun you. My first reaction after seeing these was that these colors were provided by the craftsmen. However, I learned that different layers of sandstone here have different colors. I looked inside many caves. The different colors of these layers had created beautiful shapes inside each one. I had a strong desire to get correct scientific information about this. I was deeply saddened by the lack of a trained geologist.

Right in front of the monastery is a canteen run by a Bedouin. To remove the fatigue of walking, a short rest here and some tea or coffee will fill you with energy again. From here you can also enjoy the symmetrical structure and beauty of the monastery. Here a Bedouin youth named Moon was jumping from one part of the monastery to another. We all were astonished to see him. Were appreciating his courage. He might have been immortalized in our memory as a brave hero but he harassed us for not hiring his mule on our return. His rudeness overshadowed the courageous impression he left on our minds.

Miniature petra

Lesser Petra is located on the northern side of this Petra, about 8 kilometers away. It appears to be a mini suburb. As its name suggests, Laghu Petra is similar to the original Petra in terms of structure but is relatively smaller in size. This little Petra proved to mean more to me. Perhaps so much has been written and said about Petra that for some tourists it proves the adage “The name is big but the views are small”. But I jumped with joy after seeing it. Its front side is also carved in the same way as that of Samadhi or Chhatri. Here too there are caves similar to the caves of Ajanta. The top of the stones is carved in the form of a pedestal. Looking at it one gets the impression that once upon a time an ancient civilization was alive here. Archaeologists estimate that traders used to stay here because it is situated on the Silk Route trade route. We already know that the Nabataeans were traders by profession.

Lesser Petra is also called Siq al-Barid. Here too there is a division between the rocks like a valley. But it is not as high and narrow as the Sikh of Petra was. The rocks on both sides are carved. Engraved facades will be visible to you everywhere. Later, I came to know that there are graffiti in some of the caves here, but perhaps our guide did not remember to inform us about this at that time. Thus I missed the opportunity to observe some incredible frescoes from the Nabataean period. Lesser Petra is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There is no entry fee for visiting Mini Petra. It is open to tourists during the day. You can reach here by climbing the hill but it is not advisable to do so in the absence of a guide.

If I ever get the chance to visit Jordan again, I would love to spend more time in Petra. Whenever you visit Petra, you must see Mini Petra.

Some practical tips for visiting Petra Jordan

  • Be sure to keep drinking water with you.
  • wear appropriate shoes for walking
  • You must use the toilet located near the ticket window for your toilet needs as other toilets will be at a great distance.
  • Try to come here as early as possible in the morning. The heat of the environment remains low and sufficient light is available for taking photographs.
  • The number of tourists here decreases afternoon. At that time the local people may behave rudely with you.
  • If possible, try to come here in a group.
  • Before coming here, get information about the most important places within the World Heritage Site and plan your priorities in advance, such as which sites are essential to visit, which sites are not required to be visited, and which sites should be visited when you have energy left. Can go.
  • Choose walking, mule ride, or horse cart ride according to your physical capacity. You can also combine them throughout the route.
  • Local Bedouins may behave rudely, forcing you to buy things or ride mule or horse carts. You reject them politely.
  • Before coming here, I was not able to get detailed information about this heritage site from reliable sources. In that case, you should take the services of a guide who will provide you detailed information about the architecture of these structures. They will also narrate stories related to its different eras.