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Queen Elizabeth’s Call to Aqaba

May 10, 2012


Posted in: Guest Stories, Special Guests

Guest Blog: Richard Smith, Guest on board Queen Elizabeth

More than 1000 of us travelled to Petra from Aqaba. If you have not been to Petra, you need to add it to your ‘must visit’ list. Petra is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is stunning.

The city of Petra was built by the Nabataeons, who had moved from Arabia in the 6th Century BC. Work started in 169BC and most of the city appears to have been completed by 106 AD, when the Romans conquered Petra by cutting off the water supply! Amazingly the Nabataeons had constructed water channels which can still be seen. And to survive in the dry seasons they constructed dams and reservoirs.

The Nabataeons continued to occupy Petra, despite parts of the city being destroyed by earthquake. But eventually Petra became a ‘lost’ city and for nearly 2000 years its existence was forgotten by Europeans. But in 1812 a Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt found it again.

Regular World travellers with Cunard, Mary and Celia, with combined ages totalling nearly 180 years were determined to visit Petra. They each thought the other was too old to do so, but they both decided to go and felt that the horse drawn carriage was the option for them. The problem with the carriages is that the Bedouin drivers take the journey at speed and the surface is not flat, but Mary and Celia survived the bumpy ride and loved the experience.

The Bedouins occupied the lost city until 1985 when the government persuaded them to move to homes built for them on the hill above Petra to allow archaeologists to explore and excavate and to enable visitors to enjoy the site. In exchange the Bedouins were allowed to run the visitor facilities – the horses, the camels, the carriages and the market stalls.

If you continue to walk down the valley you encounter the Street of the Facades and then the dramatic theatre which is thought to have accommodated 6000 people. Wherever you look there are hundreds of tombs, many of which you can enter. At the end of the Paved Street you will find the Temenos Gate. You also need to find the Temple of the Winged Lions and numerous other beautiful structures carved out of the sandstone rocks.


Petra is an amazing place. Although it is not the easiest place to reach I recommend that you try it. In my view it is well worth the effort.


  1. Roger Hallett says:

    An excellent blog and photos. I will certainly put it on my list.

  2. S. Nicol says:

    We have wanted to visit Petra since we discovered the artist, David Roberts. Wonderful views of so many places in the Middle East.
    Is it a tight squeeze through the siq with speedy horse-drawn carriages and walkers?!
    Did it feel crowded with 1,000 visitors from Queen Elizabeth plus presumably many others?

  3. Richard smith says:

    Sarah – yes, the Siq is a busy place and walkers quickly learn the need to stand clear when carriages approach from behind! But Petra is vast and although the Siq felt crowded, the rest of the city did not. Richard.

  4. William James Dundas says:

    Well done Richard.

    A really concise and interesting introduction to Petra and its visual treasures.

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