Siq, Petra

The Siq is a mile-long narrow gorge that leads into the city of Petra, emerging dramatically in front of the Treasury along the way. To reach the start of the Siq, visitors must first walk about a half a mile along the wide valley known as the Bab as-Siq. If it all seems rather long, there are two pieces of good news: 1) you can rent a horse or donkey to carry you there; and 2) there are several interesting sights to see along the way.

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What to See at the Siq

The journey to Petra's center begins in the Bab as-Siq (Gate of the Siq) or Outer Siq, a modern gravel road with a side for horses and a side for pedestrians. It runs alongside the Wadi Musa, which is dry most of the year but runs with water in the winter. Unlike the famous "rose-red" hue of the rest of Petra, the Bab as-Siq is mostly white rock with subtle earth tones of browns and beiges.

Around the first corner of the Bab as-Siq is a first glimpse of Nabatean rock-carving: three god-blocks, standing 6 to 8 meters high. They were almost certainly shrines for the gods who guarded Petra's water supply, but the Muslim Bedouin called them "jinn blocks" based on the belief they contained Djinn, or desert spirits. Opposite the god-blocks is a cave containing a relief of an obelisk, representing the soul of a deceased person.

The first major monument visitors encounter in Petra is a few meters down from the jinn-blocks. Actually, it is two separate monuments, stacked on top of each other: the Obelisk Tomb (upper) and Bab as-Siq Triclinium (lower). The four great obelisks of the Obelisk Tomb, with a figure in a niche in the center, guard a rock-hewn cave containing burials.

The lower half, the Bab as-Siq Triclinium, functioned as a dining room (triclinium) where feasts were held in honor of the dead - a practice that was also common among the Romans. The interior is a single room with rock-carved benches on all three sides.

Across the road from these monuments is an inscription in Nabatean and Greek, recording that Abdmank chose this site to build his tomb. This may or may not refer to the tombs across the road.

The Siq itself begins where the path drops sharply down. The entrance to the Siq was originally marked by an ornamental arch; it collapsed in 1896, but its decorated abutments survive.

The Siq is not technically a gorge, as it was formed not by erosion but tectonic forces, which caused the the rock to split dramatically in half. It was only then that the waters of the Wadi Musa flowed in and the winds blew through the newly-formed gap, gradually rounding the sharp edges into smooth curves. Today, the Siq is a meandering path between beautifully-colored sandstone cliffs about 150m high on each side. Occasionally the path widens enough to allow in warm sunlight and even a tree; other times it becomes so narrow (as little as 2 meters apart) that the stone seems to block out virtually all heat, light, and sound.

Along the way are some small niches, shrines and carvings to investigate, and running alongside the length of the Siq are water channels carved by the Nabateans to provide water to the city of Petra. Anticipation builds as the walk goes on, and the end of the Siq is a dramatic moment - planned that way by the Nabateans to impress their visitors. The gorge narrows, and the soft curves of the Siq frame a sunlit strip of an extraordinary sight: the Treasury.

Quick Facts on the Siq

Site Information
Names:Siq
Country:Jordan
Categories:ruins
Styles:Nabateans
Status: ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:30.323100° N, 35.453911° E
Address:Petra, Jordan
Lodging:View hotels near the Siq
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. The Rough Guide to Jordan, 2nd ed.
  2. Lonely Planet Jordan, p. 197.

More Information

© N Creatures
© Aaron Wenner
© Leon Meerson
© Sharron McClellan
© E. Zarwan

Map of the Siq, Petra

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Siq. 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.