What you’ll need for this literally monumental adventure: comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, a camel (okay, that’s optional), and zero preconceived notions of what you’ll find when you enter the ancient city of Petra. For no matter how seasoned a world traveler or how well-read a history buff you are, no study can quite prepare you for the awe-inspiring collection of this archaeological wonder.
Once you look beyond the incredible striations of red, pink and white textured rock, you’ll explore this astounding site. And although Petra was lost to the Western World for hundreds of years, it may still seem familiar to you, as the city set several scenes for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Still, not even a Hollywood blockbuster can reveal the vast secrets Petra has in store.
It seems impossible in its very existence, comprising 2,000-year-old structures half built, half carved into sheer rock faces and packed with hidden passages, tunnels and gorges. Its prehistoric roots owe to the resourceful cultivation of the Nabateans, a lost Arab people who transformed the unforgiving red sandstone landscape into an important trading hub for silk, spices and other grand goods treasured by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Its positioning between the Red and Dead Seas empowered Petra as a central stop, though only accessible via the Siq, a narrow path carved into solid rock and surrounded by towering cliffs.
Petra’s near perfect state of preservation showcases the artistic fusion of east and west. Evidence of the tribes and cultures that have shaped the city are evident throughout, with Hellenistic architecture of the royal tombs blended with traditional Eastern influences. The tombs were built deeply into the surrounding rock, meant to last beyond the afterlife and now sit empty, but no less ominous in their imposing structure and importance.
Arguably the most jaw-dropping structure, as well as the most famous in Petra, is the Treasury, or Al-Khazneh, which is commanding in its enormity as much as its ornateness. Likely named for its use to stow treasures and loot confiscated from travelers, it was never a treasury at all, but rather a king’s grand tomb. Either way, its rose-colored 130-foot façade belies the fact that it actually only houses two stories.
As impressively built downward as skyward, Petra also houses a 3,000-seat Roman-style amphitheater. This structure – together with the hundreds of temples, altars, colonnaded streets and the overlooking Ad-Deir Monastery – will help illustrate the astonishing ingenuity and craftsmanship of the ancient Nabateans.
The camel is not included, however, a specially crafted Crystal Adventure to this Rose City will take you partway through the Siq on horseback. The remainder of your day will be spent on foot, amongst the pristine remains of Petra.
The Rose City of Petra is featured on Crystal Symphony’s November 4 “Holy Land & Suez Canal” sailing. The voyage is our annual President’s Cruise, featuring hosted receptions and exclusive events with Crystal Chairman, CEO and President Edie Rodriguez.