The Lost City

Visiting Petra can be a real-life adventure

By: Riana Lagarde

This is not a sci-fi movie set but a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nestled deep in the Jordanian desert is the ancient city of Petra. Where did they go? How did they chisel their homes, temples, alters and everlasting tombs out of this dusty, pink, sheer-faced rock thousands of years ago?

Well hidden and encased in striated, three-story-high cliffs, Petra was not discovered until the 19th century by a real-life Indiana Jones. He was a resourceful explorer (disguised as an Arab) that traversed a gorge all the way through a thin chasm to reveal this forgotten eighth Wonder of the World.

Since I am a contemporary swashbuckler and was a little sluggish in the hot July sun, I lazily rode into Petra on horseback. As I passed through winding stone overhangs, I caught my first glimpse of the Treasury Building; my jaw dropped. A massive facade 150 feet high and 100 feet wide had been completely hand-carved out of the sheer cliff, and this was just the beginning. Clients can still see 500 awe-inspiring structures.

Inside the citadel, I met some archaeologists digging out a pre-Roman-style theatre. Of course, I asked if they had found any bodies. Isn’t that what any action-adventure movie fan would ask? They said no, only seven odd skeletons in total had ever been recovered in this vast abandoned valley. I sifted though the red clay dirt under their field tent and listened intently as they shared knowledge and recent finds: jars, tools and the hipbones missing from the female skeletons (probably used for some kind of magic, they hypothesized). I found a few shards of intricately carved pottery and handed them over to be added to a huge bucket already overfull with remnants of an unknown era.

I wandered through Petra, aimlessly climbing cliffs and soaking up the blazing Jordan sun. In my heat-induced haze, I could almost visualize Petra full of bustle thousands of years ago; hear the nomadic traders hawking their wares; witness Nabataean engineers writing plans on papyrus; observe with trepidation workmen scaling cliffs with chisels in their mouths; and smell the smoke rising from the temples.

Jordan is a small and easily traveled country. After two days in Petra, I journeyed to Wadi Rum, set in southern Jordan on the way to the Red Sea and not too far from Petra.

Wadi Rum is a hiker’s delight for discovering an untouched oasis and marvelous canyons with 4,000-year-old cave paintings. Here, tour operators often rent four-by-four vehicles (with driver/guide) or camels and go deep into the desert to camp with Bedouins under the stars and eat a traditional campfire meal accompanied by Arabic music.

Tours are available that offer cuisine, handicraft classes, hot-air balloon rides and ecotours to get off the beaten path. Whatever your clients choose, they will find unparalleled Jordanian hospitality and graciousness on the quest for adventure, as I did.


Jordan Tourism Board

Petra Moon Tourism Services
Commissions and special net rates are available. The company offers custom tours, ecotours and cuisine courses.