A Travellerspoint blog

Aqaba, Jordan - Monday, 1 April 2019

Visit the Lost City of Petra

overcast 6 °C
View To London, To London, To Visit The Queen on gaddingabout's travel map.

Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

This morning we docked at Aqaba which is Jordan's only seaport, located in the southernmost tip of Jordan on the Red Sea. Aqaba is a blend of sun, sea and mountains that provides a unique backdrop with a pleasant year-round climate, except today it is expected to be 6 degrees max. At least that is better than yesterday, when it rained all day. Today we are going ashore to visit the Lost City of Petra, famously described as "the Rose-Red City half as old as time". It is an UNESCO world heritage site and we are so excited to finally be visiting Petra.

The mysterious city of the Nabateans, Petra, is so securely concealed by the craggy encircling mountains that it was once "lost" for 1,000 years and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. From this natural fortress, the Nabateans commanded the trade routes from Arabia and the East, until the Romans conquered them in 106 AD.

On arrival, we walked to the entrance of the Siq - a very narrow, twisting pathway between towering sandstone and rainbow coloured cliffs. The towering walls created an artificial gloom until we emerged into the blinding light and there was the Treasury - out first glimpse of the Rose-Red City.

The Treasury is the most famous and outstanding of all the monuments. Its Pediment, Rotunda and Corinthian pillars are all carved from the solid rock and it is in a marvelous state of preservation. We entered the Outer Siq, passing the Street of the Facades before we arrived at the Nabatean Theatre. There are tombs everywhere because they were cut into the rock, whereas the temples and public buildings are free standing and destroyed by earthquakes.

Petra is surrounded by stunning mountains and as we approached the main Colannaded Street, we passed some fascinating tombs - The Urn, The Corinthian, and The Palace Tomb, known collectively at the Royal Tombs. The Palace Tomb is one of the largest, representing a three storey imitation of a Roman Palace.

The partly restored Qasr al-Bint is the only freestanding structure in Petra and is thought to have been the main place of worship in the city.

We were up bright and early and watched QM2 come alongside in Aqaba. It is quite cool which will make it easier to don heavier, warmer clothing for our trip to Petra where it is supposed to be only 6 degrees.

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Aqaba is called the White City and the local authorities have asked/told people to build white houses and make them shiney!

Our breakfast arrived at 7, and I had forgotten to order my oatmeal. Duh! Joel, our butler, went and got me some.

There were about 1500 people going to Petra today and others going to other shore excursions and the QM2 staff are so competent in getting all the groups sorted and onto their correct transport with a minimum of fuss in a very short time.

Our drive to Petra took about two hours, with a toilet/shopping opportunity stop along the way. The ladies toilet was smelly, had no seat or toilet paper and wouldn't flush! That's about par for the course in these parts! Phil and I were last on the bus and couldn't sit together but after the first stop, we swapped with a young man. I was quite happy sitting next to a nice lady from the States who didn't lean all over me like Phil does!

The mountains are colossal - high and stark. There is no vegetation anywhere, just rocks and rocks and more rocks. It is very, very dry and dusty and they need rain, a lot of it. In fact, I was quite surprised to hear our guide say that the next war in the Middle East will be over water. My boss's sentiments exactly!

You get a biblical sense while driving along. Jordan reminds me a lot of the pictures in our Sunday School books. Miles and miles of barren, rocky plains, with the odd bedouin tent and shepherds attending flocks of goats. It is dry, barren and desolate. I almost expected Jesus and his disciples to pop up around the next corner!

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When we arrived af Petra, there were a million buses there already. People everywhere.

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It is not known exactly when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century BC, which grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh and spices. Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city. By the middle of the 7th century, Petra appears to have been largely deserted and it was then lost ot all except local bedouins from the area.

In 1812, a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to rediscover Petra. He dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city. After this, Petra became increasingly known in the west as a fascinating and beautiful ancient city.

Petra is also known as the Rose Red City, a name it gets from the wonderful colour of the rock from which many of the city's structures are carved.

The Nabataeans buried their dead in intricate tombs that were cut out of the mountain sides and the city also had temples, a theatre, a colonnaded street and churches.

We walked for miles and miles and miles today - in fact it was about 6 miles over undulating terrain. Some cobble stones, cement and sand. Of course it was all down hill into Petra and then we had to walk all the way back up! Pony rides into and out of Petra were included in our ticket, but Cunnard advised against this because if we fell off and got hurt, the pony people don't have insurance, but we have travel insurance, so what's the issue?

We had to keep ducking out of the way of the horses and the horse drawn carts.

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In fact, the walk back up to the hotel for lunch was quite taxing, and I would have loved to have ridden a horse, but Phil said no.

Petra is really a very special place.

This is the Obelisk Tomb, carved by the Nabataeans in the 1st century AD. Above the tomb are four pyramids and a niche with a statue in bas relief that symbolizes the five people buried there. Below is the Triclinium, a banqueting hall, where the body lies in state before it is buried.

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This is a water storage tank built by the Nabataeans to divert the flash floods of Wadi Musa from the Siq to Wadi Al Mudhlim and Wadi Al Mataha. A tunnel, which is 88m in length, was cut in the rock for this purpose. The Nabataeans were masters in hydrological engineering.

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The Siq is a narrow gorge that leads into Petra. The Siq resulted from a natural splitting of the mountain and it is 1.2 km long. Two water channels run along both rock sides, one contains fresh water for drinking and the other for normal use.

Walking through the Siq, gives you the feeling that something wonderful is about to happen, and of course, it is.

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We finally rounded a corner and peeping through the rocks is The Treasury. What a magnificent sight. It is almost 40 metres high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh's treasure. The Treasury was probably constructed in the 1st century BC.

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There were people everywhere - camels, horses and horse drawn carts.

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We then left our group and continued on alone to the amphitheatre. This is carved into the side of the mountain at the foot of the High Place of Sacrifice. It consists of three rows of seats separated by passageways. Seven stairways ascend the auditorium and it can accommodate 4000 spectators. The back wall of the stage was rebuilt by the Romans. This is the only theatre in the world carved into the rock.

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After our mammoth walk back up to the top, we had a buffet lunch at the Movenpick hotel. It was very nice and the best thing was that I could go onto Facebook and download some photos of our trip so far. Couldn't get on to email or travellerspoint - not sure why. But at least my Facebook friends know that I am still alive!

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There she is - home sweet home!

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When we arrived back at the ship, there were hundreds of people standing on the wharf. I thought there had been a "clear lower deck" but no, the QM2 staff were standing on the wharf, welcoming us back with champagne. Very classy.

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We have decided not to go to dress up dinner tonight but instead to have room service, a bubble bath and early to bed. It has been a very long (10 1/2 hour) day but totally enjoyable. Two days of sailing relaxation as we head through the Suez Canal. This will be very interesting.

Now having a G&T on the balcony, waiting for our dinner.

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I have a bit of a sniffle, but I think it is rhinitis from the dust. It is everywhere.

I am sitting on our balcony, typing my blog and the call to prayer has started. It is really quite beautiful, even for an aetheist like me.

Room service took a long time to come because everyone else had the same idea.

I then started to watch Calendar Girls on TV and finally got to bed later than I wanted to because it is such a good movie, I couldn't stop watching it.

It has been a very long but totally enjoyable day.

Posted by gaddingabout 10:40 Archived in Jordan

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