There’s so much to see in Petra – It’s a whole city carved in mountains, to check a whole city in one visit, then you need to make it 2-3 months visit.

The Nabataeans buried their dead in intricate tombs that were cut out of the mountain sides and the city also had temples, a theater, and following the Roman annexation and later the Byzantine influence, a colonnaded street and churches.

inside Petra Jordan: Exploring the Ancient City Built by the Nabateans

is jordan safe for solo female travellers

The city of Petra, nestled within the rugged canyons and desert landscapes of southwestern Jordan, holds a rich tapestry of history woven by the Nabateans, an Arab Bedouin tribe native to the region. Established as a bustling trading post by these resourceful people, Petra flourished as a vital nexus for commerce during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

In its prime, Petra served as a bustling crossroads where caravans converged, laden with precious cargoes from distant lands. Here, the incense of Arabia, the silks of China, and the spices of India changed hands, fueling the vibrant economy of the region. Situated at the junction of vital trade routes linking Arabia, Egypt, and Syria-Phoenicia, Petra became a hub of cultural exchange and commercial activity, drawing merchants and travelers from far and wide.

The Nabateans, adept at harnessing the wealth flowing through their city, amassed considerable riches and established Petra as a symbol of their prosperity and ingenuity. However, their success also attracted the attention of external powers seeking to exploit their wealth. In 312 B.C., the Greek Empire, envious of Petra’s prosperity, launched a fateful attack on the city, marking the first recorded reference to Petra in history.

Can you go inside Petra

This is “Ill-posed problem”
Petra as described earlier is a city, of course you can get inside archaeological lost city (You will pay 70$ for a ticket to get inside).

But if you mean to get inside “Al khazneh” the Treasury of Petra, then; unfortunately, you can’t!
It was allowed until 1997, primarily due to concerns regarding the preservation of the delicate interior structures and artifacts. The architectural features inside the Treasury are susceptible to damage from exposure to moisture, fluctuations in temperature, and human touch. Allowing visitors to enter could accelerate the deterioration process and compromise the integrity of this ancient monument.

Additionally, the narrow passageway leading to the Treasury’s interior presents safety hazards, such as the risk of overcrowding and potential structural instability. Therefore, prohibiting entry helps ensure the long-term conservation of the Treasury while safeguarding the safety of both visitors and the site itself.

By the Way – There’s nothing inside the Treasury. There are no ornaments, no reliefs. Nothing. Just plain rock.

archaeological site of Petra Jordan

How big is Petra inside

Petra is a huge city that covers an area of 264 square kilometres, roughly 50,000 footballs fields. Usually, you only see the photo of the Treasury which is at least a 30-minute walk to get to itself . However, there is so much more to Petra than just the (Al khaznah) Treasury.

Now, tourists are not covering all (264 km2 (102 sq mi))of those – but you will be doing a significant amount of walking before you get to the main attractions!

The farthest attractions in Petra are Little Petra and the Tomb of Prophet Aaron. Little Petra is 10 km from the visitors’ centre, while Aaron’s Tomb is 5 km away.

Inside Petra Map – Starting from visitor center

Exploring the Marvels of the Rose City: Inside Petra, Jordan

Obelisks Tomb

A beautiful monument and perfect example of the artistic intermarriage of styles between east and west. It is located to the left of the road, the Tomb of Obelisks is one of the more unique buildings in Petra. Dating back to the first century BC, the tomb features one chamber containing five graves and four columns extending from the tomb, each measuring 7 meters in height. In addition, there exists a statue among the obelisks of an older man who is thought to be the owner of the Tomb of Obelisks. The ground floor represents a funeral hall that was used for holding celebrations.

The Dam

The Dam was renovated by the government in 1964 in the same way originally built by the Nabataens. This dam was built to protect their capital from floods that arrived during the seasonal rain from the mountains and hills across the valley.

The dam protected the city of Petra by redirecting the flood waters into a tunnel, which was later titled the ‘Dark Tunnel’. Proving to be successful, the dam thus represented the Natabataean’s skillful and modern infrastructure. During the excavation, it was found that the original name of the old city was Raqeem. However, upon their arrival, the Greeks renamed the city ‘Petra,’ meaning the rock

The Siq

The Siq, which is the ancient main entrance leading to the city of Petra, starts at the Dam and ends at the opposite side of the vault, a split rock with a length of about 1200 m and a width of 3 to 12 m, and height up to about 80 m; most of the rock is natural and another part was sculptured by the Nabataeans.

The Siq, the main road that leads to the city, starts from the Dam and ends at the Treasury. It is a rock canal that measures 160 meters in length, 3 to 12 meters in width and reaches up to 80 meters in height. 

The Treasury

is one of the most beautiful buildings in Petra. It was named the Treasury because the Bedouins used to believe the urn sculpted at the top contained great treasures. However, in reality the urn represented a memorial for royalty.

The Treasury consists of two floors with a width of 25.30 meters and a height of 39.1 meters. The purpose of the Treasury is unclear: some archaeologists believed it to be a temple, while others thought it was a place to store documents. However, the most recent excavation here has unearthed a graveyard beneath the Treasury.

The Street of Facades

After exiting the Treasury, the Siq begins to widen gradually as it reaches into an open area. On both sides, there are a number of Nabataean burial interfaces decorated with grindstones along with other decorations; and some of these interfaces were destroyed by natural factors, it is believed that these interfaces represents some of the senior officials in the city or princes.

The tomb Anesho is located in the far south of this group and overlooks the external Siq. Anesho was the Minister of Queen Nabatiyeh Shaqilh II, who ruled between 70 and 76 AD as guardians of the throne of her son, Rabil II. 

Petra - Bowl and basins
Bowl and basins

A narrow staircase leads to a round bowl recess on the surface. Its last step is extended by a lateral ledge, obviously to make it easier to turn towards the bowl (Ø ca. 110 cm). A second round recess (Ø 44 cm – see the detail photo) with a hole in the middle was hewn into it. From the middle cavity a drain was carved to the outer edge of the block and there further down.

Liquids poured into the bowl thus drained off immediately. Libations were probably offered here. According to Dalman, the special shape of the bowl reminds of images of the solar disk with a double circle and a small central ring.

The Theater

As you enter heart of the city, the Nabataean theater is located on the left. It was built in the first century AD in the form an arc that is 95 meters in radius and 2.23 meters in height. It is carved in the rock with the exception of the front part, which was already sculpted by the Nabataens. The Theater consists of 45 rows of seats.

The theater was built in the early 1st century AD and was expanded after the Roman annexation of the Nabataean Kingdom in 106 A.D., slicing trough some older tomb facades. Its auditorium could seat up to 8.000 spectators.

The Urn Tomb (Court)

After passing the Theater, on the other side, there is a set of interfaces, the first one of these interfaces is the Urn Tomb. It measures 16.49 meters and 26 meters in height and comprises two floors supported by arcs. The graves were located at the back end of the tomb but later, as evidence in the Greek inscriptions in the Urn Tomb, in 447 AD were converted into a church with new side doors were added.

The greatest peculiarity of this monument is the large colonnaded courtyard in front of it, from which you one can enjoy a spectacular view over the entire city. Only the northern (left) colonnade has escaped the wind erosion due to its protected location. It has five columns (height 4.6 m) with a pilaster at either end. The front two columns were built, while the other three were carved from the rock. They seem to support a carved architrave. Above them, there are four loculi and a shallow niche.

The Silk Tomb

Located to the north of the Urn Tomb, the tower dates back to the first half of the first century AD. The interface measures 10.8 meters in width and 19 meters in length with a door in the middle, and features four columns.The name comes from the rich color of the sandstone. It is one of the most dramatically colored tombs in Petra.

A principal order with entablature supported by four half columns; a dwarf order with pilasters and mouldings (fascia, torus and large cavetto); and a frieze of two sets of five steps facing each other. The doorway appears to have been plain, with a loculus above it. In the spaces between the outer half columns there are framed niches with an extremely weathered relief figure.

Corinthian tomb

The Corinthian Tomb, which lies after the Silk Tomb, was built between 40 and 70 AD. The façade measures 27.55 meters in width and 26 meters in height. t resembles the Silk Tomb and the Treasury, particularly in the upper part, but is less decorated.

There are four water basins in the front and on the side, which were used in the cleansing rituals. There are four rooms inside the tomb, three of which are square-shaped and lie on the left with one on the right that has an area of 13 m².

Palace Tomb

Located to the north of the Corinthian tomb, the Palace Tomb measures 49 meters in width and 46 meters in height. The lower part consists of 12 decorated columns and four gates. Above the threshold lie 18 pillars. The four gates of the cemetery lead to four rooms for burial, with some graves carved in the walls. This name was given to the cemetery as it resembles a palace.

Petra - The Nymphaeum
The Nymphaeum

The Nymphaeum was a grand public fountain along Petra’s Colonnaded Street. Only the foundations remain today, but in antiquity it was a splendid building with an interior, recessed half-dome.

It was situated at the confluence of two watercourses, dedicated to the water nymphs and was probably one of the improvements made to the city after the Roman annexation. It is a semi-circular public fountain near the junction of Wadi Musa and Wadi al-Mataha and six Nabataean columns decorated the façade. 

Sextius Florentinus

Located northeast of the palace, the cemetery is lined with Latino inscription. The tomb dates back to Sextus Florentinos, the governor of the Arab state (129 AD), and the interface (37.10 m) and height (9.16 m) consist of two floors.

The first floor features four columns and a gate above the triangle and the upper floor shows the remains of columns on both sides crowned with a triangle and an urn; and there are statues above the arch and on the side in the middle.

Baptist Street

At the beginning of the street, one can see the remains of the virgin’s fountain. The street was rebuilt in 106 BC with a width of 6 meters. The excavation fossil indicates that there was an older road with 1-2 floor building, lying on its side. On the left of the portico street to the south, there is a set of stairs that leads to the courtyard, which is called the market.

This is believed to have been the heart of the city and center of various types of commercial activities and transactions during the third century BC. The street continued to be used throughout the Byzantine period during the fourth and fifth centuries, until the sixth. At the end of the road lies the triple gate, which leads to the Girl’s Place.

Pond and Gardens Complex

Built in the first century AD, the entrance is located in the lower arena of the Great Temple. It was thought to have been a commercial market in the past that was linked to the portico street; however, the archaeological work showed that it was, in fact, a garden and pond. The measurements of the pond are 2.43 x 23 x 5 meters and the inside of the building are 14.11 x 5.5 meters; it is open on three sides to the water.

The east-west wall on the north side represents a stone dam, which serves to store the water from the canals and is distributed through the channel along the walls of the pond. The building located at the center represents the island or a floating ship on water and is used as a place for recreation and hiking for the residents of the city.

The Great Temple

Located on the left (south) of the portico street, the Great Temple consists of a main entrance, a lower sacred arena, and two identical buildings in the form of semi-arches on both sides. There are wide steps leading to the supreme sacred arena, and above it lays the Temple, which is the largest building in the city of Petra.

In the lower temenos are triple colonnades on the east and west. Here, large limestone hexagonal pavers were positioned above an extensive water canalization system.

Winged Lions Temple

Situated opposite the Girl`s Palace, this building consists of a front balcony led by columns, (5.9 m) which is accessed through a wide gate to the main hall of the temple in a square shape and surrounded by columns. The name of the temple is derived from the fact that some temple columns contain winged lions.

The main floor was paved using white brown wavy marble while the podium was paved using black and white marble. Décor for the temple and the interior walls consisted of colored plastering and marble; plaster pieces forming human heads were also discovered. Masks and forms of flowers were also decorated on the walls.

The Churches

Petra’s main church is the second church in Petra, after converting the jar tomb to the Church in 446, made up of the church building with the corridors of length (28 m) and view (17 m), in addition to the yard, the Tower of the Bank and the rooms’ side of the north and east.

The church floor is characterized with mosaics paved in the north and south galleries as well as marble in the east hallway and mosaic imagery of geometric, animal shapes and graphics representing the four seasons, the gods of sea and land.

The Girl`s Palace

Dating back to the first century BC, the importance of this palace is that the building survived despite the earthquakes in Petra. It was built using blocks made of juniper wood and placed between blocks and stone, thus easing movement during earthquakes.

The fantasy name Qasr al-Bint Far’un – “Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter” – was given to it by the Bedouin and relates to a local legend. There is no inscription or other clear evidence as to which deity the sanctuary was built for, but it was probably the main Nabataean God Dushara.

Petra - High Place of Sacrifice, Altar
High Place of Sacrifice, Altar

On the so-called throne of the god (mōtab) there is a recess for the placement of one or more betyls. For this and for the ritual acts at the betyl, the authorized person stood on the upper landing of the stairs.

Evidently, the Nabataeans also had a custom of circumambulating the sacred platform, as indicated by the narrow passage behind the block.

The Farasa Valley

It is located on the western side of Mount Altar, and most importantly, it can be seen on the road to the valley fountain. A lion, which is carved in the rock, may have religious significance and in particular that there is an altar with a small face of this fountain.

There are also remaining channels of water carved in rock that lead to water tanks; some parts are built and others carved with a large reservoir depth of almost 17 meters.

The Garden Temple

Garden Temple (it’s function is as yet uncertain) at the top of several steps, with a small cistern cut into the rock that forms the courtyard in front of it. The simple façade of the monument, with two free-standing columns in the center, is flanked by two engaged pilasters.

To the right is a substantial wall which seals off a natural cleft in the rock to form a vast cistern, plastered on the inside. It was part of a Nabataean water system, fed from springs in the eastern hills, and added to by other channels that collected run-off water in Jabal Madbah. It supplied the Wadi Farasa area of the ancient city.

Roman Soldier & Funeral Ballroom Tomb

200 BC – 200 AD, Recent archaeological evidence has indicated that this well-proportioned facade was probably part of a complex that included in front of it giving an interesting new insight into nabataean architecture, the tomb was accessible through a large courtyard with porticos and two-story buildings on both sides and a triclinium opposite the entrance.

It is decorated with engaged pilasters and columns that frame three niches with a statue of a military officer in the central niche-hence the tomb’s name.

The Renaissance Tomb

It is an elegant façade with an intricately-made set of crowns and six Nabataean jars. crowned by a gable that has three funerary urns at the corners framed by Nabataean engaged pilasters. The interior has rock- carved loculi that were not used for burials; the tomb may be dated to 2nd century AD.

One of the tombs one can see on the way to the High Place of Sacrifice, is the Renaissance Tomb; The interface is decorated with an intricately-made set of crowns and six Nabataean jars.

The Monastery

It is believed that the monastery was converted into a monastery for monks in the Byzantine period. There is presence of traces of crosses carved in the rock in the only room in the basement of the interface. Dating back to the first half of the first century BC, the building consists of two floors and animated crown statues; it is larger than the Treasury featuring a width of up to 50 meters and a height of 50 meters.

Inside Petra Jordan

Within the ancient city of Petra, i.e inside Petra Jordan – lies a world of wonder waiting to be discovered. Walking through its narrow pathways, you’ll feel the weight of history in the air, as if the whispers of ancient civilizations still echo through the rock-hewn walls.

The interplay of light and shadow creates a mesmerizing dance along the sandstone cliffs, casting a magical glow over the labyrinthine pathways.

Every corner inside Petra holds a story, every crevice a secret waiting to be unveiled. Petra’s atmosphere is one of mystery and intrigue, where time seems to stand still, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the timeless beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you wander through its ancient streets inside Petra, you can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of the Nabateans, who carved this majestic city into the rocky landscape over two millennia ago.

Petra is not just a destination; it’s an experience that transports you to another era, where the past meets the present in a harmonious blend of culture, history, and natural beauty.

Proceed Booking