As-Siq and the Treasury – Petra, Jordan
After founding Al-Beida, the Nabateans went on to create their greatest city at Petra. The entrance on the outskirts of modern Petra is reasonably unassuming, with a small ticket office and an unaggressive array of souvenir shops.
Walking beyond this the landscape stretches out, but the view is blocked by a ridge. The sandy path leads round to a deep and narrow gorge called the Siq, hemmed in by cliffs up to 80 metres high. To the right of the gorge is a large dam, designed to avoid the flash floods common in the winter months. Not necessarily a fact you need to learn when visiting in January…
The walk through the gorge is 1.2km long, but there is much to see. I was wary of getting a guide, but the lack of signage meant many of the sights were easy to miss.
The sides of the paved path through the Siq have shallow water channels, used to bring water into the dry and unfertile valley. The Siq is downhill all the way, which makes the walk in easy, but remember that at the end of a long day it’s an uphill walk back out.
Above the water channel there are hints of sculptures depicting the life of the citizens of Petra, and their visitors. The clearest is probably the trader and his camels, which until pointed out looked like natural lumps in the cliff-side.
The Siq eventually starts giving glimpses of the treasury, finally opening up into a rectangular basin holding Al Khazna, the 40-metre high façade to the Treasury.
Despite the name, the function of the Treasury is still unknown – various theories include it being the tomb of the Nabatean King Aretas IV (9BC – 40AD) or that it contains a local pharaohs treasure although little evidence of either was found within.
The two guards show the scale of the façade, which is 30m wide and 43m high.
Tips for the walk to the Petra Treasury
Pick up the two brown fold-out guides from the tourist information office. One is produced by the Ministry of Tourism and has a lot of flowery language, but gives a good history of the area. The other comes from the Petra Development & Tourism Authority and has far more practical descriptions, plus includes a helpful map.