Sunday, January 23, 2011

PETRA by Night and the 7 Wonders of the World

Having the chance to see Petra will be one of our high points of our year in the Middle East.

The ancient city of Petra is one of the seven modern wonders of the world.  Here's the full list of the seven modern wonders.  (Note:  You can click on any of these pictures to make them larger.)
You may be wondering why the Giza Pyramids are not listed here.  Well, they are the last remaining of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.  Here are all the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.
Lastly, while we're on the topic of wonders of the world, there are also 7 Natural Wonders of the World which are:
Here are pictures of the Seven Natural Wonders:
If you'd like to read more about the Seven Natural Wonders, you can visit this website:
Jeff, Cameron and I in front of the Monastery at Petra.
Now, on to Petra.  The ancient city of Petra is more than 3,000 years old and may be the ancient city of Sela (which, like Petra, means 'rock') which is described in the Old Testament of the Bible.  Petra, at its peak, was inhabited by the ancient Nabatean people who came from northeast Arabia as traders in the 6th century B.C.  They cornered the market on the spice trade, dealing with countries such as China, Greece, Egypt and India. 

The city was later occupied by Romans, than Christians, then Crusaders and Muslims.  Petra was a lost city for more than 700 years.  I heard that it may have been abandoned either because of floods or earthquakes.  It was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer who had heard local tales of a lost city in the mountains and went searching for it.   The site still remained quite inaccessible for tourists until the latter part of the 20th century.  In recent times, it has become a very popular tourist sight and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.  When a site is designated as a World Heritage Site, this means the World as a whole has an interest in protecting it.  I think it also qualifies for greater resources to preserve it.  There are more than 900 World Heritage Sites worldwide.  Here's a link to the website of World Heritage Sites that has a helpful interactive map showing all the sites:

Our first night in Petra, we went to the Petra by Night performance.  It happens twice a week.  We went on Tuesday night just after the new year.  The candlelit walk started at 8:30pm with a 45 minute performance in front of the Treasury (-- the beautiful carved stone facade entering the ancient city of Petra).  I'll never forget the other-worldly experience of walking by candle-light through these rock cliffs, in some places walking on an ancient narrow stone road that are more than 2,000 years old.  We went to this performance with a Japanese friend we met at the hotel, Koje.  Like me, he loves to take photos so I may post more photos later of shots he took of us and the event since his camera worked better than mine at night.   

It was magical to sit in front of the Treasury facade of Petra and listen to the Bedouin sing and then play the flute.  (The Bedouin are the traditional pastoral peoples who inhabited this area long ago and are still around today in some parts of Egypt.)  The melodies, echoing within the area surrounded by rock, were hauntingly beautiful.  Here's a tape of the song sung by the Bedouin.
As one Bedouin sang, other moved through-out the crowd bringing some type of spiced tea.  Unfortunately, they didn't reach where we were sitting so I can't tell you what it tasted like.  The tea we usually are served here is a blend of Jasmine tea with the plant leaves and flower blossoms in it.  Then the flute player walked through the crowd wearing a long white gown and a white headscarf around his head.  

Toward the end of the performance, the Bedouin leader told everyone to take a photo of the Treasury on the count of three.  With more than 1,000 people flashing their cameras at the same time, there was finally enough  light to get the photo I posted above.

Lastly, here's a photo of Jeff and Cameron on the kilometer walk back through the Siq (the narrow walkway through the rock cliffs to get to the Treasury).  


  1. Stephanie O'KeeffeJanuary 23, 2011 at 2:35 AM

    Wow -- extraordinary! Petra is on my Bucket List. Petra By Night sounds incredible. You guys are having such wonderful experiences. Thanks for all the photos and the detailed descriptions! All that reporting is a lot of work, but you (and Cameron!) will really treasure all of this detail and information later. Best to all of you.

  2. Hello Stephanie,
    Thanks a lot for your comment! And thanks to Jonathan for his recent comment on the Art in Cairo posting. I'm glad you're both enjoying the blog. You're right, it is time-consuming, but I'm also learning a lot by doing all the background research, so it's interesting too. Petra was amazing... it had been on my list of things to see in life as well. Take care, Carol