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Petra and Wadi Musa

Petra and Wadi Musa

“… match me such a marvel, save in Eastern clime/A rose-red city, half as old as time.” – (The words of British poet Dean Burgen who famously wrote about Petra without having ever visited).

Well the Nabataean city is not just red, in fact the sandstone into which the Nabataeans were able to carve their tombs and monuments ranges in colour from pale white and yellow to dark brown and everything in between. And at 2600 years old, only the most evangelical of creationists would argue that the city was half as old as the earth. But to Burgen’s credit, a matchable marvel anywhere, you’d be hard pressed to find.

And whether you arrive here to find it heaving with German and French walking stick wielding tour groups, or you’re one of the lucky ones, who arrives shortly after a “terrorist” incident somewhere in the region, or some other source of paranoia; Petra is something very special.

With over 800 registered sites, the major attractions are these enormous facades carved directly into the rock face. Although they may initially look like elaborate temples or palaces, in fact they are the completely superficial exteriors of important tombs, with little of interest lying on the inside.

There are the more famous better preserved facades, like the ‘monastery’ or the ‘treasury’ for example (as featured in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade) but in actual fact there are over 500 facades in total, and every time you visit, and the further you explore, the more you will discover.

The site makes an equally wonderful playground for those who want to stroll and appreciate the archaeology at their own leisure, as it does for those who want hike, trek and climb.

Wadi Musa (The Moses Valley) is the modern town that has sprung up immediately outside the gates to Petra. It’s here that you’ll find plenty of hotels, hostels, cyber cafes travel agencies, restaurants, Turkish baths, and the all important launderette.

Tariq El Kashef

Tariq El Kashef is the author and editor of www.alternativeegypt.com – The Online Egypt Travel Guide