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ePHOTOzine's TJ Visits Petra, Jordan, a New Seventh Wonder!
It’s very difficult to even know where to start with this location report, as the wonder that is Petra is full of countless photographic opportunities. This is doubtless one of the reasons why this ‘Red-Rose City’ was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World!
Petra is an archaeological site in Jordan, lying in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is famous for having many stone structures carved into the rock. The long-hidden site was revealed to the Western world by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. It was famously described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" by poet, John William Burgon. This is due to the colour of the rock.
The site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 when it was described as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage."*
We visited in July 2007, which was very hot, dry and dusty (it is desert, after all) with plenty of water needed. We decided to hire a local guide – who actually used to live in one of the rock caves - and chose the succinct 4-hour tour (there are tours that last over 2 days, as it is such a colossal site).
Tip: There are places to buy refreshments both inside and outside the site. The toilet amenities are better outside, so make sure you pay a visit before you set off.
Most visitors enter the site via the Eastern entrance. This impressive entrance leads steeply down through a mostly-sheltered and narrow gorge (in places only 3-4 metres wide!) You have the choice of riding a horse or donkey (they have a sanctuary on site) or hiring a horse and carriage to take you through the one-mile gorge, but we decided to walk as it’s simply stunning!
It’s called the ‘Siq’ (the shaft), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks. The rocks themselves loom imposingly above as you meander the gorge, with striking colours running throughout.
Tip: Although spectacular, try not to let time get away with you photographing this gorge, as you will find there’s not enough time for the full tour once at the site.
At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh - better known as The Treasury, carved directly out of the sandstone cliff.
This is what Petra is most famous for (making a film appearance in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade).
We arrived midday, and it was very busy with locals and tourists so was impossible to get an uninterrupted view from the ground. There is an option of taking a route through the mountain tops, where I’m sure the views are spectacular, but this is by special request.
Tip: If you don’t take the high route, and want pictures of this without tourists, wait until mid-afternoon when the ‘rush’ seems to have died down. I was able to take a shot with just camels in, and a few locals in the background.
Many people don’t realize there is so much more to the site than just this amazing ruin – I certainly didn’t. Once we’d explored (and taken hundreds of photos!) our guide ushered us on to yet more visual delights.
A little farther from the Treasury, you pass many tombs carved into the mountain. Entering these offers much-needed shade and plenty of shots of the magnificent colours running through the rock.
At the foot of the mountain is a massive theatre, situated to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The ampitheatre has actually been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction.
Tip: Don’t be fooled into buying so-called ‘authentic’ relics from local traders. These are generally not genuine. Your tour guide should direct you to the ‘authentic’ souvenir traders. Now it is a ‘7th Wonder’ the Government have pledged to ‘clean-up’ the site and stop unauthorized trading. Amenities will be improved too.
Further along, the Royal Tombs are carved spectacularly into the mountainside and offer great photo opportunities. If you have time, you can follow the trail up to the tombs for a closer look and view of the city.
There was so much more to see, but alas our time had run out. If we return – and I offer this as my most important tip of this site - we shall certainly make a day of it to give it the respect it deserves and fully explore the wonder that is Petra!
At the end of the long day, we were glad to arrive back at our wonderful retreat on the Dead Sea, tired, hungry but fulfilled and privileged to have seen the sights of the day.
And what better place to unwind than resting in the splendour of the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea Resort - the lowest point on earth!
It offers three luxurious enclaves set amidst gardens dotted with lagoons, waterfalls and private pools, providing guests with absolute privacy in a serene and exclusive setting.
The secluded pools themselves offer many photo opportunities, as well as the obvious much-needed rest and relaxation.
The dramatic view from the Sunset terrace affords views across the Dead Sea to Israel as the sun sets with its magnificent hues.
The hotel stands on its own private beach – the largest spa in the world - the Dead Sea! This offers great opportunities of taking pictures with the Dead Sea mud on your (un-willing) partner, then the obligatory photo of floating in the sea, reading a paper! Opportunities not to be missed!
I’ll leave you to experience those pictures for yourselves!
Now, although totally unique, we quickly came to learn the chain of Kempinski hotels set standards above and beyond what you would expect from 5-star. This was both clearly evident at our resort on the Dead Sea and in the Kempinski Ishtar Amman - (where there is something for everyone, from tenpin bowling to exquisite 5-star a la carte dining under the stars). Service is exemplary and they really make you feel special.
In conclusion, Jordan really has so much to offer. So, if you want to experience this mix of fantastic culture and utter luxurious relaxation, take my advice and do it in style - stay at Kempinski!
Thank you to all the wonderful staff at both hotels (you know who you are!) We look forward to seeing you next time!
*Extracts taken from Wikipedia.