We visited Petra from a cruise ship in 2017
. While it was a thrill to see this World Heritage site, it was a frustrating day. We drove two hours to get there, ran half way in to see the Treasury, and ran back out again. It was overrun with people: many were our fellow passengers. We were thrilled that Petra was on this itinerary and we had a whole day to see it properly. Our hotel is right across the street and we entered the grounds when they opened at 7am. The most picturesque part of Petra is in a slot canyon and the colors on the sandstone rocks changed dramatically as the sun rose in the sky. It was hard to dress for the day. It was in the low 40º's when we started walking and it was well into the 60º's by the time we staggered out. Hader slowly walked us in narrating the whole way, stopping for tea and scenic views so that we hardly realized how far inside we had walked.
Petra was the center of the Arab empire in Greek and Roman times. It is built in the valley where Moses supposedly struck a rock and water gushed forth. The valley is enclosed by sandstone cliffs veined with shades of red and purple varying to pale yellow. it was possibly established in the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. The sandstone formations made us think of southern Utah. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub. Petra flourished until changing trade routes caused its gradual commercial decline. To support the ancient city’s large population, its inhabitants maintained an extensive hydrological system, including dams, cisterns, rock-carved water channels, and ceramic pipes. Excavations begun in 1993 revealed several more temples and monuments that provide insight into the political, social, and religious traditions of the ancient city. The ruins are vulnerable to floods and other natural phenomena. After an earthquake (not the first) damaged the city in 551, significant habitation seems to have ceased. The Islamic invasion occurred in the 7th century, and a Crusader outpost is evidence of activity there in the 12th century. After the Crusades the city was unknown to the Western world until it was rediscovered by the Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. He had heard rumors about this fabulous city, and pretended to be visiting Aaron's (brother of Moses) Tomb when he found Petra and put it back on the world's radar.
The park contains 2,500 acres dotted with ruins, carvings, tombs, pieces of homes, etc. all carved out of sandstone. We saw the main valley today, but there are many side canyons that go up into the mountains surrounding the place. A good hiker could spend a week here and not see it all. We are geezers, not good hikers, and the seven mile round trip walk was fatiguing. Walking down into the ruins was much easier than climbing back out. The Bedouins who used to live in the caves here race around on camels, donkeys, horse drawn wagons and the occasional golf cart, ready to part you from your cash and help you get back out of the park. Occasionally, we had to plaster ourselves to the sides of the canyon so they could race by. You always knew when they were coming, as the hooves clattered on thee rocky path. The area suffers from flash flood as it did when the Nabateans lived here. Today a series of dams and channels keep things under control, but over the years unsuspecting tourists have been swept away by unexpected torrents.