The ancient city of Petra
in Jordan certainly deserves to be on the new Seven Wonders of the World list. Dermott Brereton was lucky enough to experience the amazing site which was carved by hand from solid rock by the Nabataeans in around 200 BC.
The industrious Arab people settled in southern Jordan more than 2000 years ago and they knew what they were doing. Their kingdom sat in the middle of the exotic trade route linking China and Rome. They carried frankincense, myrrh and spices from Yemen Those wanting safe passage paid tax and the Nabataeans became very wealthy.
Petra is in the mountains on the eastern side of Arabah, the valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Its 30,000 inhabitants deserted it after a series of earthquakes weakened the buildings in the third century. It remained unknown to the Western world until it was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
The rock-carved rose-red city of Petra (which means "rock" in Greek and Latin) is admired for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The town grew around its colonnaded street and by the mid-first century achieved rapid urbanisation. Among the most remarkable achievements is the hydraulic engineering systems the Nabataeans invented. They included water conservation systems and dams to divert the rush of swollen winter waters.
To enter Petra today, visitors travel a dusty trail along The Valley of Moses. There are small Nabataean tombs on rocky outcrops on both sides, and further on, sandstone cliffs rise like a huge wall. A narrow passage, known as a siq, leads into Petra. The natural geological feature formed when there was a deep split in the sandstone. It's just 3m wide in places. The long, cool and dark chasm is a fantastic way to reach the magic of Petra.
The Petra basin boasts more than 800 monuments including buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways and colonnaded streets. They were mostly carved from the kaleidoscopic sandstone. There are guards around, but mostly visitors choose to roam freely around the site.
The Treasury, El Khazneh, is the most famous building and one of the largest at 40m high. According to legend, the urn at the top is full of the pharaoh's treasure.
Qasr al-Bint was created around two centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ and is remarkable as it was the only freestanding building and withstood every earthquake thrown at it thanks to wood being laid between the stones. From there you can hike the 800 steps up the mountain to visit the monastery and what you see will make a lasting impression.
It's best to visit Petra in the early morning and late afternoon when the rising and setting sun works its magic on the multicoloured stones. After a day of walking around catch a buggy, camel or donkey back to the entrance.
Guided night tours will put an entirely different slant on your visit to Petra. They set off at 8.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, making their way through the dark valley lit by 2000 candles. You could listen to a Bedouin piper playing as you sip tea and hear about the amazing history of Petra.
Once you're there, you will soon realise Petra deserves more than a day trip and Mövenpick is the place to stay. The luxurious resort is at the entrance to the city and rooms have private balconies perfect for taking in the beautiful surrounds.
There is a Wellness Centre, outdoor pool and steam bath and two restaurants. A cool drink at the rooftop garden at sunset is a great way to end the day or get you in the mood for a night tour!
You can vote for Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef to be included in the official new Seven Wonders of Nature competition. Hundreds of natural icons worldwide are battling it out to become one of the final seven. Tourism Australia is rallying to make sure our own icons are recognised.
The 77 highest-ranking nominees will be assessed by a panel and just 21 finalists will be announced on July 21, 2009. The will proceed to the final stage of voting mid-2011.
Vote for Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef. Voting closes 7 July 2009.
Petra in Jordan, a three-hour drive from the capital, Amman.
Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre has a three-day Petra Experience including return transfers in an air-conditioned vehicle with English-speaking driver from Amman, two nights' accommodation in a three-star hotel, breakfast, horseride and entrance fees. They start at $739 per person twin share. They operate year round. They can book rooms at Mövenpick Resort Petrafrom $428 a night twin share. Breakfast is included.
Emirates has great low fares to Amman. They are for a limited time only so visit www.emirates.com/getaway for more details.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Mövenpick Resort Petra
PO Box 214
Ph: +962 3 215 7111
Fax: +962 3 215 7112
Visas: Australians require a passport and a visa.
Electricity: 220V/50Hz Continental round pin and UK plugs.
Time zone: GMT +2.
Currency: The dinar.
Travellers should be "in date" for the standard Australia or New Zealand immunisation schedules and should consider routine traveller vaccines against food- and water-borne illnesses. Other health precautions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor six weeks before travel. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.