Wine Dine and Play: Petra - One Of Seven Wonders

Petra - One Of Seven Wonders







Better than seeing it on Indiana Jones
Wadi Musa, Jordan
Visited in November 2012
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
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“It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
Eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city half as old as time.”


Petra is the fabled "rose red city, half as old as time,”(Arabic: البتراء, Al-Batrāʾ; Ancient Greek: Πέτρα) and is an ancient Nabatean City that they called ‘Raqmu' and was established as early as 300 BC in the southern region of Jordan. Due to its unique and awe-inspiring views along with the many ruins, Petra was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and was chosen in July 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The other six are the Chichén Itzá (aka: Temple of Kukulcan), The Roman Colosseum, Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, Christ The Redeemer, and the Great Wall of China.

Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans kingdom who were nomadic Arabs who took advantage of Petra's proximity to regional trade routes to establish it as a major trading hub with Africa and Asia. The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans continued to expand the city. As an important center for trade and commerce, Petra continued to flourish until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled vital water management systems around AD 663. During the Crusades and Saladin's conquest of the Middle East in 1189, Petra was abandoned and the memory of it was lost to the West.

The ruins remained hidden to most of the world until the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin-occupied City in 1812. The first major excavations of the site were after World War One, in 1929 during the forming of Trans-Jordan. Since that time, Petra has become Jordan's largest tourist attraction. The site was even included in the Steven Spielberg movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989 as the secret castle where the ‘Holy Grail’ was hidden. In 2016, archaeologists discovered a large, previously unknown monumental structure buried beneath the sands of Petra using satellite imagery.

Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and John Rhys-Davies
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989
I visited Petra while on a quick turn and burn three-day tour of Jordan back in November 2012. This entire trip is what inspired me to begin writing this blog which now has over 400 published restaurant, travel, and wine articles associated with it. I arranged the entire trip through my hotel in Jordan which included a driver, and the entry to the Petra. By itself, the entry ticket costs 90 JD ($127 USD). The trip from Amman was nearly two hours, and along the way, I saw a fuel tanker that had turned over along the median of the highway, and hundreds of people had pulled over, gathered around the tanker stealing all of the fuel. Some of them were smoking while collecting the fuel, and I told the driver to go through quickly not wanting to be incinerated if the tanker exploded. The same event happened on June 25, 2017, in Pakistan killing 153 people when the tanker did explode. 


As we drew closer the red and brown sandstone mountains came into view, and the nature and beauty of the area along were beyond breathtaking. The first place you come to after passing the hotels on Tourism Street is the Petra visitors Center (مركز (زوار البترا) where there are many concession stands to buy souvenirs, water, bars serving alcohol, and restaurants. One concession stand was called the Indian Jones Gift Shop. The Petra Complex has four main sights to see. The Siiq, followed by the Treasury, then the City, and finally the Monastery and beyond. It can all be seen in one day, which is all I had, but to really get a good feel for everything and to visit every tomb, fortress, and hillside alter would take an average of two to three days.


The Siiq
The Siiq (or Al Siq) is called the path to Petra and is a narrow passageway of sandstone rock that goes from the damn which begins after you pass through the concession area of the park and it leads to the famed Treasury. The length of the Siiq is about ¾ of a mile (1.2 kilometers) with a height of up to 260 feet (80 meters) and in some areas only a few feet wide. There are a few small tombs dotted around the area of the Siiq and is a beautiful walking sight that will give your neck a little cramp as you continue to look up. There are also local horsemen (people from Wadi Musa); be very careful in dealing with them, they will tell you that the horse ride is free, but once you are riding, will reveal that the "tipping" cost is actually 18 JOD per person (around £15 GBP/20 Euros/US$25), the same applies to the carriage.




The Treasury (Al Khazna):

The Siiq opens up onto Petra’s most magnificent façade; the Treasury, or Al Khazna. This is the famous sight from the India Jones movie and the most recognizable picture of the Petra Complex. It is almost 130 feet (40 meters) high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more, directly sculpted into the mountain rock-face. The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh’s treasure. The Treasury was constructed in the 1st century BC and consists of two floors. 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 has unearthed a graveyard beneath the Treasury. It has three chambers, a middle chamber with one on either side, and an elaborately carved facade represents the Nabataean engineering genius of the time.

The City:

Once you spend enough jaw-dropping time taking pictures of the Treasury, you move on down a wider open road that leads to the city. Dotted throughout the area are several tombs which include the Tombs to Roman soldiers, the Corinthian Tomb,  the Palace Tomb,  Uneishu Tomb, Little Petra Tomb, the Obelisk Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Renaissance Tomb, and the Triclinium. I had to rush my way through these to see the rest of the city and complex but could have easily spent hours going through each one. 


Before you reach the tombs or the city, you run across an old theatre, that was carved into the mountainside during the reign of King Aretas IV (4BC-AD27) and it can accommodate 4000 spectators. The Romans later built more onto the theatre for Gladiator combat spectacles. 


Other sights in the city proper include the ancient ruins of the Hadrian Gate and the Cardo Maximus, along with the Street of Façades down the center with the Great Temple of Petra on one side, and further down on Colonnaded Street, the girl's palace, Winged Lion Palace, and the Al-Habis Fortress. 
The “Great” Temple Complex represents one of the major archaeological and architectural components of central Petra. Since 1993 archaeologist from Brown University has been Excavating this temple. The great temple precinct is estimated to be 76.000 sq. feet (7.000 meters squared). Beyond this area is the Restaurante Crown Plaza Basin which also contains a gift shop, Museum, and public restrooms.

Ad Deir (Monastery)

This is one of the largest monuments in Petra. It was used as a biclinium for the meetings of religious associations. And dates to the early 2nd century AD, during the reign of King Rabel II. The hall was reused as a Christian chapel and crosses were carved in the rear wall thus the name “Monastery” (Dayr in Arabic).
When you pass the restaurant a set of stairs will take you to the Monastery, 800 in all, or if you're not in perfect health you can hire a man with a donkey that you can ride on all the way to the top. I was not in the best of shape but managed to do it stopping a few times to catch my breath. It took well over an hour, but my god was it worth it. The views of the valley and all of Petra came into focus and it was beautiful. My father came to Petra later and he told me that because of his OCPD could not make it to the top to see the monastery of the views. The way down was much easier, but you still have to be careful. 


I spent another hour or more looking around the Great Temple Complex of the city, before having to make my way back to the car, and the long two-hour drive to Amman. It was a very tiring day, and I slept for most of the drive. It is a wonderful memory, and I’m glad I had the chance to visit and would love to return to see more of the complex in finer detail. 

Other interests in the area include the Mountain of Aaron (Jabal Haroun) which is the highest peak in the area. At the top, you will find a small church and the tomb of Aaron, brother of Moses. The route to the top and back will take you past the Monastery and will take 4-8 hours depending on your chosen path. That is on my list for the next visit.


Wadi Musa, Jordan
وادي موسى الشارع السياحي - مدخل المدينة الوردية,
+962 3 215 7093




Other articles from my Jordan visit:
Bourj Al Hamam Restaurant Levant, Jordanian, and Lebanese cuisines with buffet in Amman, Jordan
Jordan River Wines A Haddad Estate Shiraz from the Jordan River Valley
Sufra Restaurant Traditional and Authentic Jordanian Cuisine in Amman, Jordan

See the whole list by visiting “The Wine Dine and Play Article Glossary


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See the whole list by visiting “The Wine Dine and Play Article Glossary by country




****
The worlds best restaurants is a subjective list of who is writing it and changes on a regular basis. The Wine Dine and Play best experiences are based on my highest rated stared restaurants, meaning that the visit was an outstanding or extraordinary experience. From cafés, chains, mom + pops, hole in the walls, to fine dining including a few Michelin spots. Visit the Top 100 page to see the entire list.


A few to tease you with…
High Rise Fine Global Dining, Highest Restaurant In The World
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Melbourne, Australia
Haute French Restaurant
Paris, France

Impeccably prepared French fine dining 
Dublin, Ireland
Contemporary, African-French Tasting Journey
Franschhoek, South Africa
Highly creative new American molecular gastronomy tasting menus
Chicago, Illinois, USA





“Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, 
But in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
-Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661)




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TTFN




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