Petra – Treasury And Theatre
Information on Petra
Before planning a holiday to Petra, come and learn a few important facts about this outstanding site. Petra lies some 230 Km south of Amman. The opportunity for a Jordan Petra tour is a dream come true to many travellers, as it is Jordan’s best known archaeological site, Petra tours being the jewel in the crown of the tourism industry in Jordan. Petra was voted as a new 7th wonder of the world in 2007 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Petra, meaning “rock” in Greek, was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom. Tours to Petra had not been possible as the site was unknown to the west until a Swiss scholar discovered it in 1812. Johann Burkhardt was the first westerner to ever tour Petra and to write about his incredible discovery at the time. Accessible through a narrow gorge (siq) over 50 meters high in some places, visitors coming to spend their holiday in Petra are met by a magnificent 30-metre high monument carved in the pink rock at the end of the siq. Known as The Treasury or Al Khazneh in Arabic, it is Petra ‘s most elaborate monument. Petra enjoyed the peak of its prosperity during the 1st century BC when it was thought to have had 30 thousand inhabitants. During antiquity, merchants travelled to Petra on caravans on their way towards Gaza and Syria on the spice route.
Petra Tours in modern times
Although today hundreds of thousands of people travel each year on holiday to Petra, until the 1980s travelling to, and touring Petra was difficult, as there was but a single small hotel in the region of Petra. It was called the Nazzal hotel and was visited by Agatha Christie in 1933, where she penned her novel ‘Appointment With Death’. Today tours to Petra are easily arranged, as there is a good tourism infrastructure in Wadi Musa (Wadi Musa is the name of inhabited town outside the archaeological site), which is a bustling town with some 25 thousand inhabitants, virtually all employed in tourism.
Tourist hotels in Petra
Nowadays, if you are seeking tours to Petra, accommodation can be easily arranged as Wadi Musa contains quite a few hotels offering wide ranging standards. The best hotels are the ones located by the gate of the archaeological site; The Petra Mövenpick, 5* The Petra Guest House, 4* and the Petra Palace 3*. Other good quality hotels are mostly located on the mountain overlooking Petra (The Petra Marriott 5* and the Nabatean Castle 5*) while two renovated 19th century farming villages have been converted into charming luxury hotels; The Old Village Resort in Wadi Musa and Hayat Zaman in Taybeh, which is located some 12 km south of Wadi Musa.
There are also a few camps located around Petra, in the Beida area; such as the Petra Bubbles Luxotel, which is upmarket and the Ammareen Camp, which is more basic and owned by the local Bedouin cooperative. Nowadays, tours to Petra booked through Jordan Select Tours are completely tension-free, as we have excellent relationships with hotels in that region, and we have our own specialised guides in Petra.
Restaurants and nightlife in Petra
Unfortunately, there are not many good quality restaurants outside of the main 5* hotels in Petra, and the nightlife is non-existent. Most visitors undertaking a tour of Petra during the day take it easy after a relatively tiresome day in the ruins, and spend their post-tour time around their hotel pool, reading a book, or relaxing over a well-earned drink.
We are experts in setting up and organising incentives in Petra that draw on the magnificent heritage of the site and its unique history and architecture. Several themes can be considered. Locations range from the monument of little Petra (Beida) to an area not far from the archaeological park itself.
Activities on the sidelines of your tour in Petra:
Petra by night
You can always experience “Petra by night” during your travel to Petra as it runs 3 nights a week, where the site is lit with candlelight, and guided tours of Petra are arranged. The tour is available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
The Petra Kitchen
Those who love good food must surely experience The Petra Kitchen during their Jordan Petra tour. Here they can learn to cook Arabic food during one of their evenings in Petra with the help of a local chef and the women from Wadi Musa, the experience is available every night, but needs to be booked in advance.
Petra Tourism Information:
Ancient Petra lies in the dramatic barrier of multicolored sandstone mountains that run parallel to Wadi ‘Araba. Formed by the primeval cataclysms that grooved the Jordan rift, the mountains were then sculpted by millions of years of wind, rain and earthquakes into the landscape of a dream.
A Brief History Of Petra:
During your tour of Petra, you will be able to see scattered among these exuberant forms of nature some of the most prodigious works of man, carved into sheer rockfaces some 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans, originally an itinerant tribe from the Arabian Peninsula. No one knows when they first started travelling to Petra; it may have been as early as the 6th century BC, as traders moving along the route by which their most valuable trade goods – frankincense and myrrh- were carried from south-west Arabia, where they were grown, to Gaza, for export to Europe.
There is no evidence of the Nabataeans in Petra until 312 BC, by which time they had already acquired vast wealth through trade. It was a time when Alexander the Great’s generals were fighting for his empire and one of them, according to local legend, Antigonus the One-Eyed, attacked Petra while the Nabataean men were at a national gathering, having left women, children, old people and large amounts of gold and valuables unprotected, either in Petra itself or nearby. Having massacred many of the locals, the Greeks made off with a huge quantity of silver and incense – only to be caught sleeping by the pursuing Nabataeans and slaughtered.
Although the Nabateans had kings at least from 168 BC, it was only in the early 1st century BC that the Nabataeans began to settle and to transform their occasional base at Petra into a magnificent capital. Their technology was simple: picks and chisels levelled mountain tops to form high places for the worship of the gods; they cut stairways to reach them; grooved channels to bring water from miles around; and built fine temples, palaces, marketplaces and houses. And they carved hauntingly beautiful architectural façades in the rock in honour of their dead.
To defend their territory, or to expand it, the Nabataeans fought recurrent wars with Judah and Syria. Aretas II (c. 100-96 BC), his son Obodas 1 (96-86 BC) and grandson Aretas III (86-62 BC) all extended their land, largely at Syria’s expense as the Seleucid state fell apart. But when Pompey annexed Syria in 64 BC, the Nabataeans had to deal with Rome’s Province of Syria in the north and their client state 0f Judaea in the west. The Nabataeans remained independent by careful diplomacy with Rome, exercised by kings blessed with longevity. Greatest of all was Aretas IV (9 BC-AD 40), who initiated many of Petra’s finest monuments. The last two Nabataean kings, Malichus II (AD 40-70) and Rabbel II (AD 70-106), spent more time in Bostra (in today’s Syria), which became an alternative capital. When Rabbel died in 106, the Roman legate of Syria annexed his kingdom in the name of the Emperor Trajan and incorporated it as the major part of the new Roman Province of Arabia.
A Jordan Petra tour will expose to you all this rich history and more.