Haifa, Beyond Ordinary: Jerusalem, Masada Deadsea, and Petra Overland
History and culture. On Windstar’s 10-day Greece, Israel and Egypt: Footsteps of Faith in the Hold Lands voyage, you’ll encounter both. Ancient cities, sites of historical and religious significance and natural wonders. The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Leave the yacht behind to travel deeper into the region on a two night, three day overland excursion out of Haifa into the Holy Lands and the site of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History of Petra
Established as a trading post by the Nabateans, an Arab Bedouin tribe, the ancient city lies 150 miles south of Jerusalem in Jordan. It was a bustling center of trade between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106. Built in the rugged, desert terrain, it’s a striking sight of ingenuity – a rose colored city carved out of rock.
The site is important to historians and architects for its rock-cut architecture created by the Nabateans and the water supply system they created to control floodwaters and use rainwater year-round in the desert. The system allowed them to live in the city even in seasons with limited rainfall. Around 30,000 people lived in Petra in its heyday.
Incursions to take over the city and its wealth rolled through over the years. The Greeks were fought back but the Romans invaded and took over in 106 A.C. After a major earthquake that destroyed many buildings hundreds of years later, the Byzantines took over. Each culture left a mark on the city’s architecture creating a mix of styles. Abandoned by the eighth century, it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer. A formal excavation began in 1929 and findings at the site are ongoing.
What’s unique about Petra?
Now included on the list of the 7 Wonders of the World, only 15 percent of the city has been uncovered and 85 percent is still underground. You are seeing a once vibrant city, buried by sand for centuries, come to light again. And it’s hard to imagine how the Nabateans created it, carving buildings out of sandstone in shades of red, pink and white.
Walk through the winding, narrow As Siq passage at the eastern entrance and feel the security it afforded the city from invaders. This sandstone slot canyon, created by natural forces of wind and water, was an important defense and is incredibly stunning, a moment you will remember as you wind your way into the city, landing in the Treasury. Afterwards, the path widens out into an open area with tombs and houses built into the mountains.
Petra is known for its 800 carved monuments including tombs, buildings, baths, temples, arched gateways, and funerary halls, all made out of the area’s natural sandstone. You’ll also see a mix of architecture – Nabatean mixed with Greco-Roman styles. Much is yet to be discovered. In 2016, satellite imagery revealed a large, unknown structure buried beneath the sands.
And of course, if you are an Indiana Jones fan, you’ve seen a glimpse of Petra in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We guarantee it’s better in person.
Tips for your day tour to Petra
- Be prepared to walk – wear comfortable shoes
- It may be hot and dusty – bring hat, sunglasses, scarf
- Bring water
- Wear loose clothes to attract less attention; lightweight clothes are best for the heat
- Buy from the Bedouins to support them but be prepared to bargain
- Take money to buy souvenirs and to tip the restroom attendant
On the overland tour, you’ll also visit Jerusalem, view the city from atop Mount Olives, and walk through the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus walked prior to his arrest. At Mt. Zion, visit the Jewish Quarter and the Roman Cardo to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In Bethlehem, see the Church of the Nativity where Christ is said to have been born and the Western (Wailing Wall). Wander around the Masada Fortress in the Judean Desert and float in the salty, buoyant waters of the Dead Sea.
After your visit to Petra, you’ll join back up with the ship in Ashdod Port, richer in history and culture after your inland journey.