The Monastery is beautifully carved, though much less decorated than the Treasury, and so huge that even the doorway is several stories tall. Its name, like most Petra structures, does not reflect reality: it was probably a Nabatean temple.
History of the Monastery
Like the "Treasury," the name "Monastery" is a rather inaccurate nickname, which is probably based on its remote location and some inscribed crosses in the interior. Althought it may have been later used as a church (or even a hermitage), it was probably a temple. It may have been dedicated to the deified Nabatean king Obodas I, who reigned in the 1st century BC.
What to See at the Monastery
The Monastery is similar to design to the Treasury, but it is much larger (50 m high x 45m wide) and much less decorated. The facade is flat on the lower level and deeply carved on the upper level, with engaged columns and two half-pediments flanking a central urn (10m high).
The flat plaza in front was carved out of the rock, perhaps to accommodate crowds at religious ceremonies. It was originally surrounded by a colonnade. The interior consists of a single room with double staircases leading up to a niche (the same layout as in the Qasr al-Bint and the Temple of the Winged Lions).
On the left side of the facade, there is a very steep path that tourists are generally not permitted to climb, both for the safety of the monument and the visitors. It leads up to the urn on top of the facade. Local kids like to show off by playing on the urn, some even climbing it all the way to the top.
A cave located directly opposite the Monastery houses a small café offering refreshments and a shady place to sit and admire the monument. Other monuments in the area include a stone circle and a cave, and marvelous views can be had by a few minutes' climb up the rocks behind the café.
The Monastery is an hour's climb northwest of the city center on an ancient rock-cut path of about 800 steps. The path begins behind the Basin Restaurant and Nabatean Museum.
It may sound daunting, but there areplenty of places to rest, and donkeys available to rent. Two-thirds up is a peaceful spring, and there are various other minor points of interest along the way, such as the Lion Triclinium.
The best time to climb to the monastery is in the afternoon, when the path is mostly in shade and the sun is shining on the Monastery's facade.
Quick Facts on the Monastery
|Names:||al-Deir · Monastery|
|Categories:||temples; World Heritage Sites|
|Dates:||1st C BCE|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||30.348352° N, 35.437753° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Monastery|
Map of the Monastery, Petra
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Monastery. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.