The ancient charm of the hidden city that has captivated millions of people is transformed in a spectacle of light on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays starting at half pas eight each of these nights. During winter time the hours are often shifted to an earlier slot. Often the very first introduction to this World Heritage Site and the magnificent Treasury that stands in its colossal form on the other side of the Siq, is through the Petra By Night experience.
The manifestation of Petra during the night is by placing white candles in brown paper bags starting from the very entrance of the site, along the paths that go through canyons. The walking adventure starts off as a charming evening activity. As the canyons become narrower and the sand is replaced by cobble stones, the sounds that echo add to the mystifying treasures that lie ahead in the night.
The candle lid paths remind us of the inhabitants of this hidden city who made their way day and night for purposes of trade and to be reunited with their families. The dim light cast shadows on what can only be the rock formations and rock art that we have been reading in history books. Who knows the actual spots during the darkness of the night? It almost creates an feeling of anxiousness to return when the sun lights the paths to complete discovery.
The touch of these sandstone walls renders a cool feeling of peace. The city sleeps and we are about to embark on a discovery of our own, one that the famous Siq obstructs for only a little while. The closer to the Siq, the more pronounced the foreign music becomes. Bedouins have made themselves comfortable playing their ancient lullabies between a sea of candles. The square in front of the Treasury looks like a lake of fireflies and only when the eye becomes accustomed to the new light after the darkness of the paths, do you see the magnificent Treasury that stands high and mighty in front of you. Even by the candle light, the pink sandstone is evident and simply breathtaking. Once again that anxious feeling erupts to see this place in the sunlight.
The Bedouin hosts tell a story in their mother tongue while a passerby translates the ancient tale. Another Bedouin plays his rebab accompanied by a flute, whilst the candles crackle. These tales often go way back before the discovery of Petra in eighteen twelve by Ludwig Burckhardt from Switzerland. It often tells of people back in 1200 BC when the Edomites influenced trade routes to Damascus and Arabia. They speak of the earthquake of the year 363 that couldn’t shake the structures of Petra, and of the earthquake of the year 551 that eventually did change the fate of the city. Tea is served and people get to wander around, but only as far as the candle light stretches.
The entire Petra By Night experience lasts approximately two hours at the cost of twelve Jordanian Dinars per person. In winter it often rains, but if the candles stay light, the experience goes on. The spectacle of light doesn’t end at the Treasury though. On the way out you get to see the hills of Wadi Musa with the lights of the villages and Jordanians conducting their daily lives. The stars will also make their appearance, which seems like millions of stars in such a fast stretch of sky.