Travel tales

Exploring Petra: Following the Siq to the Treasury

The Treasury at Petra in Jordan

The ‘rose-red city half as old as time’, Petra is Jordan’s most famous tourist attraction. It’s one of those places you almost feel that you know before you get there, having seen it in so many photos and films. This mysterious city has been capturing people’s imaginations for hundreds of years. It was built by the Nabateans back in the fourth century BC. Normally a nomadic people, they had amazingly advanced skills in architecture and irrigation and built a spectacular city at Petra, a prime spot on their trade route between Rome and China. But it started to decline after being taken over by the Romans, and by the 12th century the site was abandoned and forgotten about by the rest of the world until it was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. You can still follow the same route as Burckhardt took back then as you come into Petra to its most famous rock temple – the Treasury.

The Siq rock corridor in Petra, Jordan

The pathway through the Siq

The mile-long pathway to the Treasury winds its way through a gorge called the Siq. The name al-Siq means ‘the shaft’ and you can see where it gets its name, as shafts of light filter down onto the dark pathway below. At times the gorge is only about three metres wide and the rocks above can be up to 180 metres high above you. The Siq was formed as tectonic movement pulled the rocks apart, and over the years water has rubbed the surfaces smooth into sinuous curves of orangey-pink rock. It’s a quiet walk along the pathway, interrupted by the occasional horse and cart, and the air of anticipation starts to build as you get closer to the Treasury. As you go around each corner you keep expecting it to appear in front of you. A mile doesn’t sound that far but it feels a lot longer as you keep walking onwards.

First glimpses of the Treasury at Petra, Jordan

First glimpses of the Treasury through the Siq

And suddenly the sound of voices and the flashes of cameras announce that you’ve finally arrived. The first glimpses of the Treasury are from between the narrow walls of the gorge, where it emerges out of the darkness. First thing in the morning it’s illuminated by bright sunlight, and in the afternoons it glows orange as the sunset is reflected onto the rock. You come out into a mixture of people milling around – tour groups snaking after their guides, tourists posing for photos, Bedouins and their camels. But if you look beyond the crowds and upwards, they all disappear and you can almost imagine what it must have been like for the first visitors coming into Petra after it had been lost for so many years.

The Treasury at Petra in Jordan

The Treasury

The Treasury – or Al Khazneh in Arabic – is Petra’s most iconic sight. It’s carved into a sheer sandstone cliff almost 40 metres high. And despite it’s name, it was probably a royal tomb or temple rather than a treasury, but got given the name by the Bedouins who thought that pirates had hidden treasure in a giant urn there. The urn’s on the second floor and you can still see the bullet holes where they tried to break the ‘treasure’ out (the urn’s actually just a solid piece of sandstone, so they were out of luck). The design of the Treasury mixes Classical and Arabian styles, and the details are still so well preserved and detailed that it’s hard to believe they are over 2000 years old.

The Treasury at Petra in Jordan

Camels (and Romans!) outside the Treasury

You can spend hours sitting outside the Treasury, watching people go by and the light change over the rocks. The one thing you can’t do though is go inside as it’s only a facade. But although the Siq and the Treasury are the most well-known parts of Petra, this is only a fraction of the ancient city. There are over 60km² worth of caves, temples, mountains and pathways. We were only just getting started…

The Treasury at Petra in Jordan at sunset

Afternoon sunlight reflects on the Treasury and makes it glow orange

Read more

Pin it

Exploring Petra: Following the Siq to the Treasury  On the Luce travel blog

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

36 Comments

  • Reply
    Travelbunny
    December 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Stunning Lucy- desperate to go after seeing your photos 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      It really was spectacular – I have so many photos still to go through but will do a post on some of the other lesser-known parts that were just as stunning.

  • Reply
    AniShah
    December 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Really pleased you’re enjoying it! Strange to see these pics having been there just a month or so ago…memories flooding back!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      I really enjoyed reading your Petra posts, especially as I knew I was going to be there so soon! Back home to the cold now but lovely reliving all the photos and memories.

      • Reply
        AniShah
        December 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        What an experience, ay? Where to next?

        There is something rather magical about the cold too…i’ve just posted pics here of snow in Zurich…magical!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      I do love a bit of snow too – especially if it comes with a log fire and some mulled wine!

  • Reply
    Kathryn
    December 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Great post Lucy. I can’t wait to read more!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks Kat – lots more of Petra still to come!

  • Reply
    Julie Dawn Fox
    December 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I’m really enjoying reading about your Jordan trip and loving the photos. Thanks to you, it’s been bumped higher up my wish list 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks Julie, I already have one friend who’s booked a trip to Jordan for the spring so will have to see how many more I can get out there!

  • Reply
    elatlboy
    December 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Great pictures Lucy, stunning place! Look forward to your future posts. 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks Aaron, I’m still sorting out all my photos as I took so many but there will be at least a few more posts to come!

  • Reply
    Bama
    December 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Some places are popular because they are that good — Petra is definitely one of them. I’m all prepared to be awed by more pictures that you took around Petra!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      It is definitely worth it, and although the Treasury was busy there are plenty of places at Petra where you can get away from the crowds.

  • Reply
    restlessjo
    December 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Certainly didn’t disappoint, Lucy! I wish … but I’ll just wait patiently for your next post.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Thanks Jo, seems like a long time ago already back home in the cold, will just have to light another fire!

  • Reply
    spotell
    December 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Gorgeous! I want to visit Jordan so badly now!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks, it seems that it’s one of those places that are on a lot of people’s bucket lists!

  • Reply
    Keli D Images
    December 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    WOW! It is places like this that make me want to travel more and more! Thanks for sharing:)

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks for visiting – love your photos by the way, you’d have a field day in Petra, it’s such a photogenic place!

  • Reply
    holidayaddict
    December 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I’m loving the photos and I want to know more! I really, really want to visit Jordan!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      I’m going to have a about ten posts about Petra at the rate I’m going at the moment, there was so much to see there!

  • Reply
    mlbacallao
    December 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    This is incredible!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Thanks, it really was a fantastic place and as good as in all the photos I’d seen of it!

  • Reply
    LensTHERAPY
    December 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    This is definitely on my list. Thank you…now I want to go even more

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      For anyone who loves photography it really is a dream place to visit!

  • Reply
    h0tchocolate
    December 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Jaw dropping photos and I feel like I was there, watching The Treasury for the first time.. Wow! Amazing!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 13, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks – it really is as amazing and awe-inspiring when you see it emerge for the first time, glad I could get a bit of that across!

  • Reply
    cav12
    December 14, 2012 at 4:55 am

    Stunning photos and information. It’s on my list of places to see. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply
    Exploring Petra: Beyond the Treasury | On the Luce
    December 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    […] you think of Petra, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the Treasury and the famous walk through the narrow corridor of the Siq to get there. But that’s only a […]

  • Reply
    2 Digital Nomads
    December 23, 2012 at 12:03 am

    We lived in Egypt for 20 years and I (Bassel) personally went to a Jordan few times but never visit the Petra. Can you believe it!

    The photos and post both are beautiful, thanks for sharing this magical experience with us.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      It’s always the closest destinations that get overlooked isn’t it? Hope you get to visit Petra sometime as it’s really as spectacular as it looks in person!

  • Reply
    Tricia A. Mitchell
    December 31, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Lucy, I’ve been meaning to check out your post from your time in Petra, and it seems you had an amazing journey there! Isn’t it magical glimpsing the Treasury for the first time? We saw it first surrounded by luminaries at night, then returned the next morning. We only spent two days there, but I could’ve explored for many more. I look forward to seeing the other sites you wandered through.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      January 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks Tricia. Yes it was such an amazing moment to get that first sight of the Treasury – the walk seemed to go on forever to finally get there. I loved it by night too, so beautiful. We spent two days there too and only saw a fraction of the site, but certainly took a lot of photos!

  • Reply
    Exploring Petra: The mountainous Monastery | On the Luce
    January 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    […] a first day visiting the Treasury and Petra’s other main sites, day two meant it was time to take some of those pathways and go […]

  • Reply
    A first-timers guide to Petra | On the Luce
    January 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    […] to do the hard work for you. A horse ride from the visitor’s centre to the entrance of the Siq is included in the ticket price, though you’ll still need to pay a tip of about JD3–5. […]

  • Leave a Reply

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