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Petra, Jordan

 

Every visitor to Jordan should see the ancient city of Petra and many readers have probably already done so, or at least seen it in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Petra is easily reached from the capital, Amman, or from the port of Aqaba.

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It is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city dates back to the first century BC when it was painstakingly carved into the mountains by the Nabataean Arabs. Its archaeological park was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 and one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007.

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I particularly enjoyed the walk down through the relative cool of The Siq, the mysterious entrance to the city. It is a narrow gorge – at some points only three metres wide – that descends steeply for about 1.3 kilometres or just under a mile. The light is dim in the narrow parts and the rocky floor uneven in places so you need to be reasonably fit, especially if you plan to walk back up again into the searing heat.

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The remains of water channels carved into the rock can be seen down the side of The Siq, designed to catch the scarce rain and carry it down into the city.

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As you near the bottom the Treasury starts to come into view. This building represents the masterpiece of the ancient city with a height of about 45 metres and width of almost 30 metres, all carved into the mountain.

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Be prepared to gasp when the Treasury comes into full view. But this is not the end of Petra, more the beginning, as there are many more structures to see that go on for miles.

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The entry price varies depending on how long you stay at Petra and how long you’re staying in Jordan but starts at about $70. Horse riders and buggy drivers will take you part or all of the way down and, perhaps more importantly, back up again for a fee or tip of around $30.

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