First glimpse of el Khasneh, or the ‘Treasury’, from the Siq, Petra
The metropolis Petra once lay on busy trade routes. The ruins of the former capital city lie in the desert 3 hours bus journey south of Amman and bear witness to its success as a trading town inhabited 2000 years ago by the Nabateans. They built palaces, temples, market buildings in Petra’s valley, as well as cutting into the red rock in the surrounding hills. Most of the free-standing architecture has disappeared into the rubble of the valley floor, razed by earthquakes and floods, but much can still be seen of the dramatic rock-cut chambers. Archaeologists have identified many of the larger more ornate of these as tombs, while the smaller hypogea served mainly as dwellings.
el Khasneh (the Treasury) cut into the rock face
The most popular approach to the remains lies down a narrow cleft in the hills (the Siq) which runs for about a mile and makes for a spectacular entrance to the site. I spent five days exploring and photographing some of the architecture on the site. Like (the very many) other visitors I didn’t want to miss the ‘Treasury’ (el Khasneh – temple or tomb ?), el Deir (a mausoleum ?), the Royal Tombs, the Streets of Facades, the Theatre, but I also had some time to look at less visited areas. In all, it’s a wonderful place to take a camera, although very hot already in April. There’s more to see of Petra’s sprawling suburbs spread through the hills than I could manage, I didn’t have a chance to visit the remote ‘little Petra’ or the ‘High Place of Sacrifice’ for instance, but that’s a good reason to go back.
Morning sun on el Khasneh from the Siq. There is a debate as to whether the ‘Treasury’ was a temple or a tomb.
Archaeologists are also unsure when it was built – perhaps between 50BC and 50AD.
El Deir (with figure), thought to be a mausoleum in honour of the Nabatean King Obodas I ( 96 – 86 BC ). Perhaps built much later by the last Nabatean king, Rabbel II (70 – 106AD)
Looking down on the Theatre at Petra cut into the rock. Thought to have been built between 8BC and 40AD,and then extended – with tombs cut away above – once the Nabatean kingdom had been annexed to the Roman Empire by Trajan in 106AD.
View of the Theatre across the road from the dwelling in the rock opposite. You can see how some of the tombs above were cut away to extend it, leaving blank holes in the rock.
The Streets of Facades at Petra. Tombs for the wealthy.
The Royal Tombs, with the enormous Palace Tomb in the foreground. West-facing, they catch the evening sun.
The Temenos Gate in the foreground. It stood on Petra’s main road, Colonnade Street, down in the valley. The Urn Tomb sits above to the left, cut into the rock of Jebel el Khubtha.
The last of the evening sun catches Zibb Pharon, the Pharoah’s Column, and other remains down in the valley.