Petra wasn’t voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the world for nothing!

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The treasury of Petra

Petra, Jordan is one of those places that really lives up to the hype. We saw it for the first time in the dark when we visited Petra by Night. While the actual performance of traditional music was less than stellar, the walk through the candle lit Siq to view the legendary Treasury building was awe inspiring.  The Siq is a narrow gorge winding its way towards the ruins for over 1 km. With cliffs reaching up to 80 metres, it is absolutely one of the most phenomenal gorges on earth.

A Visit to Petra by Day

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Horses gallop by at the entrance to Petra

We awoke bright and early to beat the crowds. Our tour of Petra was led by an officer from Petra Development Authority. He was hired to stay with us while we took photos of Petra. Lucky us! We retraced our route from the night before to Petra’s most famous monument.

Later that day, we were told that a horse ride was included in our entrance fee. It would have taken us from the visitors centre to the entrance of the siq. I wish we had known, that would have been cool. But something tells me we wouldn’t be riding as fast as that guy above!

As it turned out, we needed the extra time to walk anyway because we arrived at the Treasury too early. We had to wait for the sun to make its way over the high cliffs.

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The sun lights part of the Treasury at Petra

It wasn’t long until the sun peaked over the walls lighting the treasury with its golden rays. The crowd was sparse at this time of the day. Since we had the officer from Petra assigned to us from the Jordan Tourism Board and our guide Ali working together to keep the area clear for photographs, Dave managed to snap photos of Petra that people only dream of getting.

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A private vantage point of the Treasury in Petra

Petra’s History

Petra by Day the Treasury

The Treasury of Petra

We spent quite a while at the Treasury. While Dave explored with the Petra Official, I sat with Ali (our personal guide who rocked by the way) as he told me the history of Petra.

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Only Bedouins are allowed to reside in Petra

Little is known about Petra and its history. It was built by the Nabataeans over 2000 years ago where it was an important stop on the Silk Route to China and India. Petra was a flurry of activity with camel caravans stopping frequently en route to the Far East. It remained under Nabataean rule until 100 AD when the Romans invaded. It was some time during the 12 century that it was finally abandoned and left to the local people.

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Hard to believe Petra was lost for centuries

Surprisingly, Petra was forgotten by the Western world for centuries. It wasn’t until 1812 that it was “rediscovered” by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

In 1989, Hollywood chose Petra as a film location for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Most recently we have seen Petra featured in Transformers II. But we’re trying to forget that that movie ever happened.

Ali told me that much of what we know about Petra is speculation. The Treasury was named so because it was believed to have treasures hidden inside. They say, the Bedouins used to shoot at the facade because they thought that Pharaoh put his gold and treasures there. The official from Petra  told Dave that even his father used to shoot at it. You can still see the bullet holes on its facade today.

People of Petra

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A permanent fixture in his Keffiyeh at the treasury in Petra

One of the most popular people in the entire complex is a dashing man who sits in front of the Treasury. He’s a local Bedouin who lives in the nearby caves.

He is pestered all day long by tourists wanting a photo with him or his camels. Looking at him, I can understand why. He is the epitome of what a person thinks of when traveling to an exotic place like Jordan. His striking eyes peer playfully from behind his keffiyeh (traditional headscarf) as he sits in his long robes beside his decorated camel. Who wouldn’t want a photo of him?

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Hangin’ out with their Camels at the Treasury

As we chat with him we find out that he has already been featured in several magazines. He jokes that he will allow us to take a photograph without signing a release because we are nice. But he’ll look us up online because he has Wifi in his cave!

We never did get his name, but we won’t forget the fusion of ancient and modern life colliding. Looking at him, you see a man from centuries past. But talking to him you get a man in tune with the rhythm of today. His earbuds connected to his iPod are hidden under his headscarf, he speaks with quick wit and references pop culture. He’s a living contradiction.

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The Royal Tombs are a sight to behold in Petra

We can’t decide if he is teasing us and actually lives in a cave or if he goes home each night to an apartment with big screen TV and modern conveniences. The cave wouldn’t surprise us because we learn that many people still live in the surrounding ruins and that the families who work in Petra are granted permission to stay there there.

Correction: After it was brought to our attention by Darren of RTW travels that people don’t live in the caves anymore, we did some further investigation and found out that people are not allowed to live in the caves anymore and have been moved to a nearby village by the Jordanian government.

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Caves are scattered everywhere throughout Petra

The walk to the Royal Tombs involves scrambling up rocks, ducking through caves and getting lost in passageways. This route takes us to the top of a stone mountain overlooking the complex.  It is here that we see the paths to both the high sacrifice and the Monastery. We can also look down on the Petra Theatre. This 3000 seat amphitheatre looks to be Roman architecture but was actually build by the Nabateans in the 1st century.

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People are still living in the caves of Petra today

There are countless monuments and it is hard to believe that much of Petra was destroyed during a massive earthquake hundreds of years ago. Imagine what this great city looked like in its prime?

Monastery or HIgh Sacrifice?

Since we only had one day at Petra, we had to choose between the high sacrifice and the Monastery. We chose the Monastery which some say is more impressive than the Treasury.

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We begin the walk up to the Monastery

This 45 minute climb get’s the blood pumping and our guide Ali was not enjoying our fast pace. While we explored the area on our own, Ali took a well deserved rest to enjoy an icy lemon mint. If we were wise we would have hired a donkey for all of us to scramble our way up the stone path.

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Welcome to the end of the world Petra style

We paused to view the Monastery before walking higher to gain a better vantage point. Following the trail we came upon a sign stating The View of the End of the World. I’ve always wondered what the end of the world looked like, so we marched on.

the-end-of-world-view-petra-jordan

A view of the end of the World…scary!

It may not have been the end of the world, but I can see how the Nabataeans believed it to be. There seemed to be nothing beyond the borders of Petra. One would think that people would see no reason to leave the safety of this secluded city that was once the crown jewel of the Middle East.

Gazing towards the horizon I could almost imagine a camel caravan descending upon the city. Petra would be a welcoming sight after a long journey through the arid landscape and as I stood atop the mountain, I had visions of the generations who came before me. What did they think as they stood in this exact location gazing over the desert while admiring the beauty of the monastery below.

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The Monastery of Petra, Jordan

We would like to give a hearty thank you to our guide Ali from the Jordan Tourism Board for checking our facts and keeping us well informed about everything in Jordan, including Petra!

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106 Comments

  1. Mark Wiens

    Wow Dave! Unbelievable photos with the perfect brightening filter to add to them. The black and white portraits are absolutely stunning as well! Incredible – these photos have put me into a mesmerizing dreamy daze.

    1. davendeb

      Hi Mark, I didn’t use a brightening filter. It was the natural lighting of the day and a polarizer. I have used HDR processing in some of the photos to bring out the shadows but no brightening filter. Petra and Jordan are just that stunning and did most of the work for me. Cheers!

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Iain. Petra is quite the place. The setting alone is stunning and then to have these incredible monuments built into the rocks sets it over the top of great ruins of the world!

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Andrea, Agreed, Petra is an incredible location. We have been to a lot of the great ruins on earth…the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Tikal, Machu Picchu… and Petra is something very different and unique from anywhere else.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Dean. I took so many photos of Petra that it was difficult to choose which ones to use. I could dedicate an entire book to it! Cheers.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Jeremy and Shirlene. You must go, Petra is one of thos e places that will not disappoint. Glad we could inspire you to go one day.

  2. Dalene Heck

    Stunning pictures, as usual! I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at Petra pictures, but I never tire of them. I think that means I need to get there. Now!

    1. davendeb

      Definitely true. I know that Petra is very popular right now on the Internet, but that’s totally because it is such an amazing location. I hope you make it there soon and hint, go early.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Debbie. It is a very picturesque location. I think it is difficult to take a bad photo of Petra:)

  3. KayteinLA

    Great photos! How awesome to have the cooperation of the tourism rep and your guide to clear the shots for you. Looks like it was a wonderful trip. Still on my bucket list!

    1. davendeb

      Hi Kaytein, I have to admit, we were spoiled. how on earth will we visit world ruins again without the official and a tourism representative? :-) We’ll just have to make due and do our own crowd control. Not that anyone will ever listen;-)

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  5. Wai Tsui

    Exceptional photography! Petra by day is just as awesome as Petra by night! Funny that how the ancient people loved to think that they had somehow reached the end of the world. Thanks for sharing again!

    1. davendeb

      I have to admit, I don’t know if they actually thought it was the end of the world, but I can believe it. And I’ll take the sign as meaning that they did ;-)I would have if I didn’t know any better. And standing there certainly felt like we were looking out over the end of the world. It was so beautiful. Cheers and thanks for stopping by.

  6. Darren Weir

    WOW… I am blown away by your spectacular photos. I was there last week and your photos put mine to shame. Just one point, I had two guides when I was there and was told by both that nobody is allowed to reside in Petra any longer. Everyone was moved out to a new town just west of the site in the late 1980′s. Today decendents of the Natataens live in this town and travel to Petra every day to work.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Darren, we appreciate the compliment. We were definitely told that there is a tribe that is allowed to live in Petra. Maybe not in necessarily in Petra proper but in the surrounding caves. I wonder if The Jordan Tourism Board can weigh in on this. As I looked for information it states that everyone was relocated to a town, but even when we talked with tribe in Wadi Rum, they said that many people have been relocated to town, but many still live in the desert. I wonder if this is the case in Petra. The Petra officer specifically said to us that families working in Petra are allowed to stay there. I’d love to know for certain. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ali checks this out and answers. He has been an excellent fact checker for us:)

      1. davendeb

        Me too. If not I wil facebook Ali, to ask him. We are facebook friends and keep in touch at least once a week. I love how the Internet brings people together.

      2. Darren Weir

        I know… what did we ever do before the i’net??? and how could people travel with just sending postcards and calling home??? Glad WE connected… especially since we’re just a couple of world travelers from CANADA!

      3. davendeb

        Hi Darren. Ok. Ali confirmed that you are absolutely right. Nobody lives in Petra today. I will make sure to change it in the post. We had more than one person tell us differently while visiting Petra and Dave and I both could have sworn we recalled Ali stating that as well, but I guess we were wrong:) On facebook Ali confirmed what you said that they have all been moved to the village. Thanks for the correction.
        This is something else I love about the Interent, people can fix problems instantly. A newspaper has to write a little blurb the following week to make corrections or to hear the other side of the story in the editorial section. We have instant discussions right here on the post and people can instantly correct the mistakes that we make.
        Cheers

  7. Anne Marie

    Wow! these are wonderful photos! the more I look at your photos, the more I remember the long walk in Petra, I had almost forgotten about the distances and amazing sites.
    PS: I like your note about who/what you refer to as ‘living contradictions’, I live in a place where you see many of him, daily.

    1. davendeb

      Wow, you must live in a very interesting place. I love how the old is colliding with the new in the world today. It will be sad when the earth becomes one big generic corporation of chain stores and shopping malls. I hope it doesn’t happen any time soon. Hopefully people will hold on to their heritage and keep individuality. It is what makes travel so exciting. I’m certainly not saying that people can’t evolve and become modern, I just hope that the culture stays in tact in countries and that the Starbucks generation doesn’t take over too much.
      You are right, the walk to the Treasury is a long and beautiful one for sure.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Randy. It was certainly fun learning about Petra and witnessing it’s beauty.

  8. Mike

    Wow, just wow. Agree with Darren. They definitely put mine to shame. Especially jealous of tourism rep crowd control and a lack of a fence and grating in front of the treasury. I was also told by a few of the people there that they live in the caves in Petra.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Mike, I am sure yours are awesome! We have to say that we were very spoiled having Ali and the tourism officer helping us out. I am glad to hear that you heard about people living in the caves as well. I have to send Ali a message to ask him for certain.

    1. davendeb

      Sheryll, Thank you very much. Our jaws were dropped during out entire walk through Petra. It is truly like stepping back in time.

    1. davendeb

      Photoshop is used in photography today like dark rooms were use when shooting with film. All photographers have used post production techniques in the past and today to dodge, burn, crop and correct colours. And yes, playing with photoshop is fun for both photographers and non-photographers.

  9. Michael Figueiredo

    Wow! These are gorgeous shots! I first heard of Petra when I saw that Indiana Jones movie. I still haven’t made it there yet, but these photos are convincing me that I really need to go there!

    1. davendeb

      Hi Michael, I didn’t even know that Indiana Jones was filmed in Petra before going there. You were ahead of us in your knowledge. I hope you make it there one day soon, it was awesome.

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    1. davendeb

      Thanks Clare, You will love it when you go. Make sure to go early, the crowds build up by 11:00 am

  11. davendeb

    You are absolutely right Kirk. Transformers was shot in Jordan at Petra and Wadi Rum. When watching that movie, I really wanted to go to Petra. I can’t believe that we got to go so soon!

  12. Darren Weir

    That’s great that we got that cleared up. After following some of the comments here I was sure I was wrong but am glad we got it sorted out. I love that about the internet too. I love how I can read other people’s posts about the same places I write about, to get a different perspective (and sometimes to double check my facts). I look forward to reading more and more of your posts and following your adventures.

  13. Amanda

    Amazing pictures. Really puts Petra in a different perspective. What kind of lens did you use?

  14. Renee

    Those photos are truly stunning! So surreal… I am curious about the history of the structures, and wish more info had been included, particularly years of construction. But hey, that’s what Google’s for, I guess. :)

    1. davendeb

      Hi Renee, the problem with Petra is that there isn’t a lot of information. If you read what I had to say, I state that there isn’t a lot of information on the city and that a lot of what we know today is speculation. There are 1530 words in this post and for a blog, that is quite a bit of information. I chose to share what I learned and what I know and yes, you are right that is what Google is for. I also actually say it was built by the Nabateans over 2000 years ago. It remained under their rule until 100 AD where I am sure that they kept building on to it. It was then taken over by the Romans. I know that the pictures make it seem that there isn’t a lot of text and it is easy to become distracted by Dave’s incredible work, but there is quite a bit of information in the post if you do read it.

  15. Lauren DiMarco

    wow! i feel like such a jerk for not looking at these before now. unbelievably beautiful. i can see why many of the comments said you’ve inspired future trips to petra. thank you for sharing!!

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Lauren, I appreciate the compliment. I hope that we inspired people to go, it was an outstanding ancient city and worth seeing.

    1. davendeb

      I take it you would like more HDR? Yes, it is very subjective as to how much to go with. some people like less, some like more. Thanks for the feedback.

  16. Thomas Dembie

    Great photos! The polarizing filter definitely helps show this area’s true natural beauty. I visited Jordan as part of a day trip from Sharm Egypt. One of the issues with this is that by the time we made it to the site it was swarmed by tourists, so it was impossible to get clear shots like the ones above.

    1. davendeb

      That is very true Thomas. We noticed all the day tours coming in to Petra as we were leaving. YOu really need to get there early to avoid the crowds. Even then, it took a lot of patience to wait for people to clear the shot.

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  18. Richard

    How I wish that I can also have the chance to be able to visit the place you’ve visited . Looking at picture they are quite remarkable and amazing.

    1. davendeb

      Hi Richard, thank you for the kind comment. I hope that you get to visit some day too! Petra is a great thing to put at the top of the list.

  19. Mack Reynolds

    these pictures are absolutely crazy. excellent job capturing this place i’ve never heard of before. it looks like quite an adventure indeed. i can’t believe it’s carved right out of a mountain!

    i want to go there now too.

  20. Nancie

    There really are no words are there? Awesome…………and I want to go there. You know I might even be convinced to ride a donkey again :)

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Cole, thanks. You must go to Petra for sure, Jordan itself is a very magical place.

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  22. Gretta

    These photos are really incredible. These are the kind of photographs that make me really believe I’m getting a realistic view of Petra. Y’know how
    sometimes you are inspired by your surroundings and get that flutter in your stomach and the itch to photgraph but your pictures never really
    express the magnificence of a place? These seem to do that. These make me want to travel again. I can’t wait to start planning my honeymoon.

    1. debndave Post author

      Wow, Hi Gretta. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad that I could capture Petra for you. It truly was one of those places that didn’t disappoint. Walking through the Siq towards the Treasury is a magnificent experience. That alone is worth going to Petra for. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I hope you have an amazing honeymoon! Enjoy.

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  24. Robert-Kenya Safari

    Petra really deserved a place in the new seven wonders of the world together with such phenomena like the Serengeti -masai mara wildebeest migration in Kenya. Its a pity that not much of its history is known despite some sketchy stories. Those are some of the best photos i have seen with very good technique as well.

  25. ali sabtin

    I just wanted to thank you for the great photos and for the kind words about Petra and the Jordanian people . By the way I am a Jordanian tour guide ,to answer the question about the people living in caves ,it is just like you said some still do not inside Petra its self but in caves on the outskirts of PETRA ,

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks Ali, I am glad that you liked it. That means a lot to us coming from a person living in Jordan. We hope to capture what we truly felt about your country. and thinks for the clarification on the caves, much appreciated.

  26. Tawny of Captain and Clark

    The pictures are stunning! Petra seems like a place that’s steeped in history. Jordan is HIGH on our travel list for 2012. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to see Petra and all its glory in person in the very near future.

    1. debndave Post author

      I’m sure you’ll see it soon! Jordan really is a special place to visit and 2012 is the year to go, it’s the 200th anniversary of it’s discovery. That is discovery to the West, the Jordanians knew it was there all along:)

  27. Linda McCormick

    Killer images, Dave.
    I had Petra on my list for years and when I finally made it, just as the Treasury came into view my camera broke! That was 16 years ago and I could still cry! I’ll get back one day.

    1. debndave Post author

      Oh Man Linda, that is the worst. I can imagine how you felt. Back then there weren’t Internet images to bring back the memory either. At least you have witnessed it with your own eyes and glad we could help you revisit your trip there.

  28. Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    WOW! Your photos are stunning. I’ve always wanted to visit the lost city of Petra. It’s absolutely breath-taking. Definitely high on my bucket list. Maybe we’ll even be able to check it off this year! :)

  29. Canadiantravelbugs

    Wow great shots. What kind of camera do you use? Did you use a filter as the colours and shadows are so vivid and surreal.

  30. DiscoverWithAndy

    Petra is one of my dream locations to travel to. I’m glad that it holds up to the hype – it seems that so few places do that. I can’t wait to check it out someday.

    Also, I have to ask what camera you’re using as well. I’m contemplating getting a new one, and those are some of the best photos I’ve ever seen.

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  33. Emma @ GottaKeepMovin

    This has to be right up there on places I’m desperate to go – anything interesting and ancient and I’m there! Your photos are stunning, especially love the one with the sitting camels in the foreground. Thanks for sharing!

  34. bachelor

    hi dave,

    what a very mesmerizing view. My partner and I are planning to go there. It is just so amazing. How is safety in there? Are there no terrorists? What is the locals attitude towards gay couple?

    Thanks.

  35. Arati

    Your pictures are amazing. My friend and I will be going to Petra in Oct. Did you take your pictures using a tripod? Also did you use auto bracketing for the HDR pictures or did you just shoot in RAW and then let the software handle the rest?

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    If you are looking For tours with your family, then Perta and jardon tour great options for you. would also feel proud of your best choice. You just need to call them up or make your bookings online.

  37. BakoymaTravels

    It’s too bad you missed the opportunity to ride in! I haven’t been myself, but I’ll get on a horse any chance I get and I think riding in this landscape would’ve been fantastic. But you got the best part though, thanks for sharing your experiences and the amazing pictures!

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  39. Jaryd

    Out of this world amazing, best place I have ever visited. Your shots are incredibly great, hats off to you two just simply killing it. Thanks for inspiring me

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