The ancient city of Petra, dating back to 800 BC, feels far out of reach for many of us. It’s tucked into the sandstone cliffs of what is known today as the Golden Triangle of Jordan: the red deserts of Wadi Rum—well known as the setting of Star Wars—the Red Sea port of Aqaba, and the ancient city of Petra. In February, I journeyed to Petra from Tel Aviv by bus just to spend a few hours exploring. While I wouldn’t recommend three bursts of 24-hours travel within a one-week period, this time it was well worth the discomfort!
Rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss-born explorer John Lewis Burckhardt, his original travel journal reveals in vivid details the wonder and perils of his journey to the site, what he found, and the condition, size, and more of this ancient relic. The entirety of Petra is really an artifact in situ, in the traditional sense of the word “artifact.”
Archeologists have combed through the grounds bit by bit to unravel the complexities and brilliance of its design, solving for riddles such as:
- Did they start carving from the top or the bottom?
- How did the population survive where there was no ready water source?
- Why is their representation of God nearly shapeless at the entrance to the city and two dots and a line (eyes and a nose) further in?
- What do the camel and riders, the eagles, and other adornments carved into various city elements represent?
- How was each city area used, and by whom among the royalty, nobility, and commoners?
- And ultimately, what happened to those who once lived here? Why did the city fall to disuse after intruders arrived?
- We’re acutely aware that the Artifcts we create here together will reveal far into the future much more about the objects we leave behind and how we lived than ever before. They will tell community histories and personal histories.
We all need a history, and we hope you’ll discover the power in Artifcting to transform objects of your everyday life into shared pieces of your history.
Bonus! My Tips for Visting Petra
Should you decide to visit Petra, here are a few of my tips while they are fresh in my mind:
- Unless you are used to deserts or are a camel, visit outside of peak heat season. There’s very little shade and considerable distance on sandy, rocky 3,000-year-old road to travel for a worthwhile visit. When it’s not hot, it can be quite cold. Consider gloves, a puffer jacket, and a turtleneck.
- No matter the time of year, bring extra bottled water for this desert experience.
- Prepare to spend more for a ‘full’ experience. You want an iconic photo of the famed “Treasury” building, which is actually a cemetery, from above? Even though you paid a park entrance fee, you must pay additional cash on site to go up that path. Camel, donkey, and cart rides if you have mobility challenges or are short on time are also extra.
- Do not turnaround at the Treasury. Equally grand sites are much further down path, notably including the Monastery.
- You need six hours minimum unless you’re coming from a local location and can easily pop in and out. Overnight would be still better. And ideally you’d have a few days to visit the whole Golden Triangle.
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