Petra: Stepping back in time in the Rose City

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Scubaverse blogger Sean Chinn continues his travels in Jordan with a trip to iconic Petra.

It’s no great secret that Petra is Jordan’s most famous and most visited tourist attraction. Classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, it is the perfect addition to any dive trip. Take a day off from diving and step back in time to around 300 B.C. visiting the ancient carvings in the pink sandstone cliffs. Be blown away by the intricate details in the architecture and the sheer size of the cliffs that tower above.

It takes around two hours to drive from Aqaba to Petra, but after an early rise to make the most of a full days tour, it’s enough time to rest your eyes and re-energise. As you get closer to Petra, the journey through the desert becomes more scenic and there is a chance to stop for refreshments at a roadside tourist shop with panoramic views over the canyon – Wadi Araba View. It was a breathtaking sight, reminiscent of when I stood and looked over the Grand Canyon five years ago. From there it was a short journey down the mountain to the entrance to Petra.

Unfortunately, I have to admit we hit a big crowd on our trip due to a cruise ship mooring that morning and a number of guests opting to visit Petra on their stay. I was a little worried that this could put a dampener on the day but luckily it’s quite a long walk through Al-Siq (a narrow canyon carved through the sandstone cliffs) of around 1.2km. This meant that the crowds had chance to spread out the more you ventured inside. We took our time to allow more chance to really get a feel for the beauty that surrounded us on our walk. The Siq is a natural geological fault split apart by tectonic forces. It was only later that it was worn smooth by water that flowed into Wadi Musa. The textures created in the sandstone gorge from this are an absolute marvel to behold.

Al-Siq serves as the gateway to Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), one of the most elaborate temples carved out of a sandstone rock face in Petra. No words can truly describe the feeling that you get when your eyes first witness the carvings through the narrow canyon walls. The phrase ‘it takes your breath away’ is used far too easily but in this instance I did take a little gasp as I composed myself to take a photo.

It’s a lot bigger than you imagine and towers high in the cliff face. The craftsmanship that went into building it beggars belief, especially in a time without the modern technology we take for granted today. You can tell it’s the site in Petra that most go to see and the crowds that seemed to disperse as we walked through Al-Siq had now gathered under this amazing sight.

I’d love to visit again at a quieter time and plan my trip to see Petra by night lit up with thousands of candles. I also didn’t get the chance to take the longer walk to The Monastery, which is around an hour’s climb north of Petra’s city centre. Certainly something I would have liked to have done given more time on my trip.

Petra truly is an amazing wonder of the world and well worth a visit as part of your dive holiday. If historical, cultural attractions and sheer, beautiful landscapes are of major interest to you, then I would even recommend staying overnight in Petra and taking your time over a two day tour. That way, you really get chance to explore everything and immerse yourself in the magic. Something I may consider on my next visit to Jordan.

Sean Chinn

Sean Chinn

Sean Chinn’s scuba diving adventure started in a freezing cold quarry back in January 2011. Maybe the reason he wasn't instantly hooked! However, after an amazing trip to Indonesia in 2013, he realised he needed to see more of the underwater world. With no photography background, he enlisted some help in developing both his diving and photo skills. This kickstarted his diving and underwater photography adventure which has become something of an addiction. Seeing and photographing wildlife is Sean’s real passion in diving but he is always keen to try new ideas.

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