Ma’an Governorate
N30 19 50.016 E35 26 35.988
Date of Inscription: 1985
Criteria: (i)(iii)(iv)
Property : 26,171 ha
Ref: 326

Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabataean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.

Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and inhabited since prehistoric times, the rock-cut capital city of the Nabateans, became during Hellenistic and Roman times a major caravan centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India, a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. An ingenious water management system allowed extensive settlement of an essentially arid area during the Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine periods. It is one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites set in a dominating red sandstone landscape.

The Outstanding Universal Value of Petra resides in the vast extent of elaborate tomb and temple architecture; religious high places; the remnant channels, tunnels and diversion dams that combined with a vast network of cisterns and reservoirs which controlled and conserved seasonal rains, and the extensive archaeological remains including of copper mining, temples, churches and other public buildings. The fusion of Hellenistic architectural facades with traditional Nabataean rock-cut temple/tombs including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Deir (“monastery”) represents a unique artistic achievement and an outstanding architectural ensemble of the first centuries BC to AD. The varied archaeological remains and architectural monuments from prehistoric times to the medieval periods bear exceptional testimony to the now lost civilisations which succeeded each other at the site.

Criterion (i): The dramatic Nabataean/Hellenistic rock-cut temple/tombs approached via a natural winding rocky cleft (the Siq), which is the main entrance from the east to a once extensive trading city, represent a unique artistic achievement. They are masterpieces of a lost city that has fascinated visitors since the early 19th century. The entrance approach and the settlement itself were made possible by the creative genius of the extensive water distribution and storage system.

Criterion (iii): The serried rows of numerous rock-cut tombs reflecting architectural influences from the Assyrians through to monumental Hellenistic; the sacrificial and other religious high places including on Jebels Madbah, M’eisrah, Khubtha, Habis and Al Madras; the remains of the extensive water engineering system, city walls and freestanding temples; garden terraces; funerary stelae and inscriptions together with the outlying caravan staging posts on the approaches from the north (Barid or Little Petra) and south (Sabra) also containing tombs, temples, water cisterns and reservoirs are an outstanding testament to the now lost Nabataean civilization of the fourth century BC to the first century AD.

Remains of the Neolithic settlement at Beidha, the Iron Age settlement on Umm al Biyara, the Chalcolithic mining sites at Umm al Amad, the remains of Graeco-Roman civic planning including the colonnaded street, triple-arched entrance gate, theatre, Nymphaeum and baths; Byzantine remains including the triple-apses basilica church and the church created in the Urn Tomb; the remnant Crusader fortresses of Habis and Wueira; and the foundation of the mosque on Jebel Haroun, traditionally the burial place of the Prophet Aaron, all bear exceptional testimony to past civilizations in the Petra area.

Criterion (iv): The architectural ensemble comprising the so-called “royal tombs” in Petra (including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb and the Corinthian Tomb), and the Deir (“monastery”) demonstrate an outstanding fusion of Hellenistic architecture with Eastern tradition, marking a significant meeting of East and West at the turn of the first millennium of our era.

The Umm al Amad copper mines and underground galleries are an outstanding example of mining structures dating from the fourth millennium BC.

The remnants of the diversion dam, Muthlim tunnel, water channels, aqueducts, reservoirs and cisterns are an outstanding example of water engineering dating from the first centuries BC to AD.

Suggested Bases:

Ma’an is a city in southern Jordan, 218 kilometres (135 mi) southwest of the capital Amman. It serves as the capital of the Ma’an Governorate. Its population is approximately 41055 in 2015. Civilizations with the name of Ma’an have existed at least since the Nabatean period—the modern city is just northwest of the ancient town. The city is an important transport hub situated on the ancient King’s Highway and also on the modern Desert Highway. Ma’an was founded by the Minaeans (known as “Ma’in” in Arabic), an ancient Arab people based in Yemen, between the 2nd and 4th-century BCE. The site was located on a major trade route and was settled by Minaean traders and merchants. Local tradition has it that the city was named after “Ma’an”, the son of Lot. [read more]

Aqaba is Jordan’s only port city, located on the Gulf of Aqaba in the extreme south of the country. Aqaba is Jordan’s window on the Red Sea. Historically the same city as Eilat on the Israeli side of the border, plans for a shared international airport and other forms of cooperation have cooled down in the past few years during a period of political tension. Aqaba has seen a lot of development in the last few years. This has improved the infrastructure and facilities. Be prepared for road maps to be incorrect/out of date. Taxis are easily available in the city. A ride within town should cost no more than JOD2. A ride outside town (to a beach near by or to any border crossings) costs around JOD5.  [read more]

Amman is the capital and largest city of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Amman forms a great base for exploring the country and does, despite popular belief, hold a few items of interest to the traveler. The city is generally well-appointed for the traveler, reasonably well-organized, and the people are very friendly. Although not seen as much when in the air over Amman, the city holds many surprises for the visitor. Anything can be found in Amman if one asks. Visit Roman Amphitheatre or study in the University of Jordan or stay in a luxurious hotel. Shopping malls are abundant in Jordan. With new construction in Abdali, in a few years the high-end traveler could eat in the most high-end restaurant, study in the American University of Jordan, stay in a five star hotel or shop in massive malls, all a few metres from one another. [read more]

11 replies »

  1. Most people remember the site of the carved Treasury facade from ‘Indiana Jones and Last Crusade,’ but the UNESCO World Heritage Site is so much larger than just the one building. To get a different perspective of this iconic view, take the Al-Khubtha Trail just to the left of the royal tombs. You will find a rock staircase leading you over 600 steps to the top. An enterprising Bedouin has the best views from his tent, where you can buy tea or water for 1 dinar or simply relax and admire the view.”

    You can see the main sights in a day, but everyone recommends at least two full days, if you want to cover it completely. One-day tickets are currently 50 Jordanian dinar or around $70. If you want a picture of yourself in front of the Treasury building without any people, get up at the crack of dawn to be one of the first in — then you can have Petra all to yourself before the busloads start showing up! Wear sturdy shoes, a hat and bring plenty of water, although you can buy water and other beverages for inflated prices all around the site. Modern bathrooms have, thankfully, been installed in several places to keep up with the growing number of tourists. Now is a great time to travel to Jordan — tourism has been down due to the Middle East conflicts, but Jordan is very safe and the people are very friendly. I never felt in danger.


  2. Petra was much larger than I ever expected. I highly recommend going beyond the Treasury and really getting out there.


  3. If you ever visit Jordan, please add Petra to your sightseeing list. All the images and video in the world can’t prepare you for your first view of the Treasury (Al Khazneh), which was built as a crypt and mausoleum at the beginning of the 1st century AD and also featured in the Indiana Jones movie ‘The Last Crusade’. The walk seemed to go on forever and then all of a sudden, there it was at the end of the siq. I was in absolute awe. It really is an incredible sight. The walk there wasn’t too bad, I was excited and intrigued, and it was on a downhill slope, but the walk back really did get me. I don’t know how far it is exactly, but it’s at least 1.4km from the visitor centre to the treasury. It was hot, humid, dusty and uphill – I was a mess! I was so pleased to get back to the top and drown myself in a freezing cold bottle of water. I wouldn’t advise anyone attempt the walk unless you are absolutely sure you can make it there and back. You can take a horseback ride or horse and cart, so don’t worry, you won’t miss out on anything, just please be prepared for the heat, humidity and a long trek.
    We didn’t have time to explore everything that Petra boasts, but at least now I can say that I’ve seen some of the ‘Lost City’. It really was magical. Even the walk is unlike anything I’d ever seen or done before. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie set.


  4. Petra is one of those destinations that many people feel they know long before they ever arrive. It has served as the backdrop for countless films, television shows and books, and has even been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. But even knowing all of that I was unprepared for what I found when I visited the place. It was far larger, and grander, than I had ever imagined and it is one of those rare places that exceeds expectations.


  5. The most wondrous thing about Petra is that it is actually REAL! It’s hard to accept that till you actually are there. I was in Jordan some years ago on business, and made it a condition of my coming that I spend a day there.

    You know what I took the most pictures of? The ceilings of the chambers. There is such a vast array of color in the sedimentary layers, and when a chamber is carved these undulating layers present an abstract color pattern that is incredible to see.


  6. It’s just gorgeous. I remember wandering around for hours one very hot day and feeling totally exhausted and wondering how I could make it out when I heard a soft voice saying “Miss, would you like an air conditioned taxi?” and I turned and saw a young boy with a donkey! It was perfect! Of course, he was waiting for me the next day but that was fine with me.


  7. Away from the deep yawn of the gully that marks the main tourist route, an entire network of winding Bedouin back roads, narrow goat trails and worn rock-cut staircases wind across the russet-hued cliffs, gloriously empty of visitors; their stony paths leading to rarely-visited monuments and panoramic vistas. Even in one of the world’s most popular sights it is still possible to escape the crowds.

    Most people who visit Petra begin at the Treasury (al-Khazneh), famed for its starring role as the home of the holy grail in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Steer clear of the tourists craning their necks at the ornate 43m-high facade, and instead walk down the main tourist route and up the steps to the cliff ridge bearing the group of monuments known as the Royal Tombs. Just past the three-tiered ruin of the Palace Tomb, a staircase can be seen slicing into the rock. It is a knee-knocker of a climb from here to the top of Jebel al-Khubtha mountain, but worth it for the sweeping panoramas of jagged orange and dusky pink cliffs undulating out across the desert.

    A walk across the summit plateau reveals a craggy ridge from where the Treasury can be seen a dizzying drop below. Looking down at the facade from this angle miniaturises it against the vast, raw amphitheatre of surrounding cliffs, and echoes of the ant-like cluster of visitors in front of the monument soar up into the air. The fact that there is rarely anyone else contemplating this view makes the scene even more surreal. Petra’s back roads do not just give a different perspective on the ruins. Following them allows you to better understand the site.


  8. We are discovering that Petra is huge. It is spread over 100 square miles in the mountains and valleys of Ma’an Governate, about 150 miles south of the capital, Amman. Although you could easily spend a week hiking and exploring the site, we find that the main attractions are on an eighteen-mile route between the Siq and Ad-Dayr, the Monastery, near the top of the mountain. With the help of horses, mules, and donkeys, we are able to manage it all in one day.


  9. Wherever you go in Petra, Bedouins will invite you to drink tea with them. After that, they’ll invite you to dine with them at their homes, in the village or in their caves. While you may be invited dozens of times a day — obviously more tea than you could possibly drink — do accept their invitations when possible. You’ll add a genuine dimension to your experience in Petra, one completely different from that of most tourists. Talk with the Bedouins. They’ll open their heart and tell you their life stories. Some of them have begun to return to their past lifestyle.


  10. Although you could likely see a great deal of Petra in one day if you’re ambitious, I feel like two days is perfect. One day should be spent getting accustomed to the site with a guide and learning about the history. The second day should be spent hiking to some of the more remote sites like the monastery, experiencing mind-blowing views, and capturing great photos.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.