Petra by Night is a unique experience that happens three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) in Petra. We had just arrived here, so had not yet seen any of Petra by daylight but were keen to make the most of our visit to this iconic, ancient site.
Petra is an ancient city founded by the Nabataeans about 2,500 years ago and was carved into the pink toned rock. After it declined under the Romans and was subsequently abandoned after a 4th Century earthquake, it lay lost until it was re-discovered in 1812 by a Swiss traveller.
The visit involves a walk by candlelight through the Siq to the Treasury which commences at 8.30pm from the visitor centre. From the ticket gate to the Treasury the walk is about 2km. The candle lit path starts from here – the candles are placed on the ground is a brown paper bag, so give a lantern like effect. The first part of the walk is fairly open, and you keep within the ‘path’ set out by the candles. As you get closer you reach the Siq itself. The siq is the narrow chasm or gorge by which you enter Petra and this part is about 1.2km. As it was dark we didn’t really get the feel for the height of the walls or the size of the chasm. The candle-light path did narrow at places and we did notice it wider in others but we kept between the candles until we came to the end. The walk was done mostly in silence apart from some low voiced chatting, and the mewing of some cats (lots of cats live in Petra, and an unusually high proportion are ginger or ginger and white) which may come out to say hello.
The Treasury in Petra is probably its most photographed monument. At 43m high and carved straight out of the rose pink rock it is an impressive sight at any time, your first view of it will be partial, cut off by the sheer walls of the siq, as you emerge around the slight bend, you will see it all. With hundreds of candles in front of it, and the eerie shadows they have created, it became a very magical experience. Sadly I had to share that magical experience with several hundred other people.
We arrived late for the 8.30pm kick off, so we walked through the Siq on our own, in the quiet with hardly anyone else around, I assume most people walked through previous to this. I am not sure entirely what we missed but there was some talking, some flute music and some singing followed by more talking. If you get there sooner you may find it easier to get a seat on one of the mats. Performance wise it wasn’t particularly gripping stuff, but for me, it was all about the atmosphere. I don’t think it is a long performance, as they list the finish time as 10pm and (I would assume) that it also factors in the walk back, but I couldn’t read my watch that well in the dark so am unsure of the exact time. We stood around for a bit admiring the building and trying to take photos (unsuccessfully mainly due to the light conditions), so that we could do the long walk back without hordes of other people. If you want to get a good photo then bring a tripod and use a camera with a long exposure time.
The path is mostly flat, although there is a slight incline as you come out of the Siq to head back to the ticket office. There are some cobbles and loose stones in parts though. I recommend comfy shoes as it is still a long walk. Tickets need to be bought in advance and cost 12JD (£12). This is without doubt very expensive. If I ask myself honestly if it is worth the price than I can only say no, however you cannot put a price on the experience of the walk and the atmosphere: it was magical and I am glad I did it – but it is not something I feel the need to repeat.