Before planning a holiday to Petra, come and learn a few important facts about this outstanding site. Petra lies some 230 Km south of Amman. Travelling to Petra is a dream come through to many travellers, as it is Jordan’s best known archaeological site, it was voted as a new 7th wonder of the world in 2007 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Petra, meaning “rock” in Greek, was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom. Tours to Petra have not been possible as the site was unknown to the west until a Swiss scholar discovered it in 1812. Accessible through a narrow gorge (siq) over 50 meters high in some places, visitors coming to spend their holiday in Petra are met by a magnificent 30-metre high monument carved in the pink rock at the end of the siq. Known as The Treasury or Al Khazneh in Arabic, it is Petra ‘s most elaborate monument. Petra enjoyed the peak of its prosperity during the 1st century BC when it had 30 thousand inhabitants. During antiquity, merchants travelled to Petra on caravans on their way towards Gaza and Syria on the spice route.
Petra Tours in modern times
Although today hundreds of thousands of people travel each year on holiday to Petra, until the 1980s travel to Petra was difficult, as there was but a single small hotel in the region of Petra. It was called the Nazzal hotel and was visited by Agatha Christie in 1933, where she penned her novel ‘Appointment With Death’. Today tours to Petra are easily arranged, as there are there is a good tourism infrastructure in Wadi Musa (the name of inhabited town outside the archaeological site), which is a bustling town with some 25 thousand inhabitants, virtually all employed in tourism.
Tourist hotels in Petra
Nowadays during tours to Petra, accommodation can be arranged as Wadi Musa contains quite a few hotels offering wide ranging standards. The best hotels are the ones located by the gate of the archaeological site; The Petra Mövenpick, 5* The Crowne Plaza, 5* and the Petra Palace 3*. Other good quality hotels are mostly located on the mountain overlooking Petra (The Petra Marriott 5* and the Nabatean Castle 5*) while two renovated 19th century farming villages have been converted into charming luxury hotels; Beit Zaman in Wadi Musa and Taybet Zaman in Taybe, 12 Km south of Wadi Musa.
There are two camps around Petra, located in the Beida area ; Kings Aretas Camp, which is upmarket and the Ammareen Camp, which is more basic and owned by the local Bedouin cooperative. So your holiday to Petra can be completely tension free with regards to accommodation.
Restaurants and night life in Petra
Unfortunately, there are no good quality restaurants outside of the main 5* hotels in Petra, and the night life is non existent! So most people spending their holiday to Petra prefer to take it easy after a day in the ruins, and spend their post tour time around their hotel pool.
We are experts in setting up and organising incentives in Petra that draw on the magnificent heritage of the site and its unique history and architecture. Several themes can be considered. Locations range from the monument of little Petra (Beida) to the area next to the archaeological park itself.
Available activities in Petra:
Petra by night
You can always experience “Petra by night” during your travel to Petra as it runs 3 days a week, where the site is lit with candlelight, and guided tours are arranged. The tour is available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The Petra Kitchen
Those who love good food must surely visit ” The Petra Kitchen ” during their holiday to Petra. Here they can learn to cook Arabic food during their time in Petra with the help of a local chef and the women from Wadi Musa, available every night, but needs to be booked in advance.
Petra Holiday Information:
Ancient Petra lies in the dramatic barrier of multicolored sandstone mountains that run parallel with Wadi ‘Araba. Formed by the primeval cataclysms that grooved the Jordan rift, the mountains were then sculpted by millions of years of wind, rain and earthquakes into the landscape of a dream.
During your tours of Petra you can see scattered among these exuberant forms of nature are some of the most prodigious works of man, carved into sheer rock faces some 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans, originally an itinerant tribe from the Arabian Peninsula. No one knows when they first started travelling to Petra; it may have been as early as the 6th century BC, as traders moving along the route by which their most valuable trade goods – frankincense and myrrh- were carried from south-west Arabia, where they grew, to Gaza, for export to Europe.
There is no evidence of the Nabataeans in Petra until 312 BC, by which time they had already acquired vast wealth through trade. It was a time when Alexander the Great’s generals were fighting for his empire and one of them, Antigonus the One-Eyed, attacked when the Nabataean men were at a national gathering, leaving women, children, old people and treasure on top of a high rock, either in Petra itself or nearby. Having massacred many of them, the Greeks made off with a huge quantity of silver and incense – only to be caught sleeping by the pursuing Nabataeans and slaughtered.
Although they had kings at least from 168 BC, it was only in the early 1st century BC that the Nabataeans began to settle, and to transform their occasional base at Petra into a magnificent capital. Their technology was simple: picks and chisels levelled mountain tops to form high places for worship of the gods; they cut stairways to reach them; grooved channels to bring water from miles around; and built fine temples, palaces, market places and houses. And they carved hauntingly beautiful architectural façades in the rock in honour of their dead.
To defend their territory, or to expand it, the Nabataeans fought recurrent wars with Judah and Syria. Aretas II (c. 100-96 BC), his son Obodas 1 (96-86 BC) and grandson Aretas III (86-62 BC) all extended their land, largely at Syria’s expense as the Seleucid state fell apart. But when Pompey annexed Syria in 64 BC, the Nabataeans had to deal with Rome’s Province of Syria in the north and their client state 0f Judaea in the west. The Nabataeans remained independent by careful diplomacy with Rome, exercised by kings blessed with longevity. Greatest of all was Aretas IV (9 BC-AD 40), who initiated many of Petra’s finest monuments. The last two Nabataean kings, Malichus II (AD 40-70) and Rabbel II (AD 70-106), spent more time in Bostra (in today’s Syria), which became an alternative capital. When Rabbel died in 106, the Roman legate of Syria annexed his kingdom in the name of the Emperor Trajan and incorporated it as the major part of the new Roman Province of Arabia.