The first sight visitors see upon emerging from the 1.5 kilometer-long Siq is the Treasury (Arabic: al-Khazneh), the most magnificent of Petra's sights. One of the most elegant remains of the ancient world, the Treasury is carved out of solid rock and stands over 40 meters high.
History of the Treasury
The Treasury was probably constructed in the 1st century BC. As its design has no precedent in Petra, it is thought that it was carved by Near-Eastern Hellenistic architects.
The purpose of the Treasury remains something of a mystery. One thing that is fairly certain, however, is that it was not a treasury. In reality, the Treasury is generally believed to be a temple or a royal tomb, but neither conclusion is certain.
The tomb/temple got its popular name from the Bedouin belief that pirates hid ancient pharoanic treasures in the tholos (giant stone urn) which stands in the center of the second level. In an attempt to release the treasure, Bedouins periodically fired guns at it — the bullet holes which are still clearly visible on the urn.
When the first Western visitors arrived at Petra in the 19th century, a stream ran from Siq and across the plaza. The stream has since been diverted and the plaza leveled for the sake of tourists.
What to See at the Treasury
The Treasury's façade has two levels, decorated with columns, classical rooflines and badly weathered sculptures. Perched atop the façade is an eagle, a Nabataean (and Greek) male deity symbol.
The central figure on the upper level tholos may be the fertility goddess of Petra, El-Uzza (associated to the Egyptian goddess Isis). The vertical footholds on either side may have been made to aid the sculptors.
The portal on the bottom level is reached by small flight of steps, and is flanked by mounted figures believed to be Castor and Pollux, sons of Zeus.
Inside, a colossal doorway dominates the outer court and leads to an inner chamber of 12 square meters. At the back of the chamber is a sanctuary with an ablution basin (for ritual washing), suggesting that the Treasury was a temple or some other kind of holy place. The chamber can no longer be entered, but it is possible to look in from the doorway.
Quick Facts on the Treasury
|Names:||al-Khazneh · Treasury|
|Categories:||temples; rock-cut architecture; World Heritage Sites|
|Dates:||1st C BC|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||30.322475° N, 35.451572° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Treasury|
- Petra - Official Website of the Kingdom of Jordan
- Petra: The Treasury Plaza - Nabataea.net
- The Mystery of the Treasury Monument - Nabataea.net (suggests it was a library)
- Photos of the Treasury - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Treasury, Petra
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Treasury. 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.