Kim (Schott) Steiger
Rochester, Minnesota Travel Agent
Jordan and the Lost City of Petra
The Lost City of Petra is ranked as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. Te experience the beauty and history of the unearthed treasures has truly been one of the highlights of my travel career.
The Lost City of Petra is located in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, South of the capitol city of Amman. It is surrounded by a series of mountains called Al Shirah which extends from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. It sits at an altitude of between 800 and 1340 mitres overlooking Wadi Araba and is characterised by its colorful rock.
Petra was on the caravan route running from Yemen to the ports of the Mediterranean Sea. Caravans of traders carried frankincense, gold, silk and other merchandise would pass through Petra and rest there. In return for their hospitality and services, the Nabataeans imposed a tax on all goods passing through Petra.
Eventually Petra became owned by the Romans and the trade routes were diverted to the North. After several earthquakes the city was abandoned until the 12th century. In 1812 a Swiss explorer went to Petra, having heard of this legendary buried city. He became the first person to rediscover Petra and the beautiful Treasury monument. The first archaeological excavations only began in 1924. Petra became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. This same year the government moved the Bedoiuns who were living in the city to a nearby community. To this day the Bedoiuns are the only people allowed to provide the transportation via camel and mules within the Lost City as well as sell novelties.
The walk to the interior is about a 4.5 mile colorful journey. Along the path you will be mystified by the numerous sculptures, ruins and tombs. You will walk on partial unearthed original paved roads and be amazed at the signs of what life must have been like during that time. You will begin to visualize where the local markets were located and see the water channels that were created to manage the flow of water throughout the city. It will become apparent which time period various buildings were created as you will see the differences between the Nabataean and Roman influences in the building styles.
The only way out of Petra after your long walk is to turn around and walk back out. Of course they do have camels and mules you can rent should you choose. I found that by simply taking my time, and stopping to rest periodically that I not only met new interesting people but allowed myself to drink in the beauty that surrounded me.
Safety Note: I found this experience safe and never felt threatened or in danger. They do have Jordanian police on hand that you will see periodically roaming Petra to insure all is well.
Animal Disclaimer: There is a notice posted at the beginning of the journey that if you see someone harming the animals that you are to report it. The use of the animals I found morally challenging for me. The Bedouin community has traditionally utilized camels and mules as working animals and has sometimes subjected them to treatment that many of us would find unacceptable. I personally did not experience physical abuse, however, I was concerned whether the mules were getting enough water or enough shade and worried they may be tired and need to rest. Myself and colleagues discussed our concerns with the Jordanian Tourism director and asked for more incite as to if there are regulations for the animals within Petra. The response was one of sensitivity and understanding for both the animals and the cultural understanding of the Bedouin culture. There is a dialogue that will continue between the government, tourism division and the Bedouin community regarding regulations to insure the proper care and treatment of these animals.