The Khazneh

The Treasury at Petra

The best-known of the monuments at Petra, the Khazneh, is also the first to greet the visitor arriving via the Siq. The facade, carved out from the sandstone cliff wall, is 40m high, and is remarkably well-preserved, probably because the confined space in which it was built has protected it somewhat from the effects of erosion. The name Khazneh, which means 'treasury' comes from the legend that it was used as a hiding place for treasure. In practice, it seems to have been something between a temple and a tomb, possibly both at once.

Behind the impressive facade, a large square room has been carved out of the rock of the cliff. The corners and walls have been squared off meticulously, but no attempt has been made to extend the excavations further or to reproduce the kind of ornate carving of the exterior. This is typical of the tombs in Petra; the interiors are as plain as the exteriors are intricate. From inside, you can look out through the doorway towards the Siq.

The Khazneh faces onto a large open space, floored with soft sand and surrounded by high walls. It is possible to scramble up to a point on the facing wall about fifty metres or so above the ground, and look down on the facade from above. From here you can clearly see damage done to the central urn by the rifle bullets of would-be treasure hunters.

Surrounding the open space dominated by the Khazneh are other tombs and halls, mostly little more than man-made caves carved out from the rock. To the right, the path continues between more widely-spaced rock walls studded with smaller tombs, which are visible as black holes in the rock. A little further on, on the left is the giant semicircle of the amphitheatre, which had seats for eight thousand people. Behind it, the rock wall is pitted with tombs.

Close to the amphitheatre, a flight of steps marks the start of the climb towards the High Place of Sacrifice, while continuing towards the right, the wadi widens out. Ahead lies the city center, while following the cliff face further to the right takes you to the Royal Tombs.

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