Tag: Jordan

Top Destinations for History Geeks: Ancient World Edition

Top Destinations for History Geeks: Ancient World Edition

I love travel more than anything, but long before I started exploring the world, my passion was history. If you’ve read any of my posts, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I can’t just enjoy a place on its own merits… I have to know what happened there in the past. I thought it would be fun to create a bucket list of the best destinations for history geeks like me. This will be first in a series of posts, each devoted to a different time period.

Destinations for History Geeks in Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, were built 2550-2490 BC as tombs for their kings/pharaohs in a shape meant to assist the king’s soul in ascending to join the gods in heaven. The largest is the Great Pyramid, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that survives today. The four sides measure an average of 755 feet at the base and its original height was 481 feet.

Egypt is one of the top destinations for history geeks who find the ancient world fascinating
The Great Sphinx & Pyramids at Giza, Egypt

The Great Sphinx, also in Giza, dates to around 2500 BC but some studies suggest it could be even older, dating as far back as 7000 BC. Sphinxes were spiritual guardians, and were often included near ancient tombs in Egypt. Researchers have found traces of red pigments on the face of the sphinx, which may indicate that its face was at one time painted. Interestingly, the name “sphinx” originates from Greek mythology, so the ancient Egyptians certainly had a different name for the half-lion, half-human creature.

If you can’t visit Egypt: check out a museum exhibit on ancient Egypt. Many museums also offer online virtual visits where you can view their collections online if you can’t get there in person. Some of the best in the world (outside of Egypt) are:

Destinations for History Geeks in Greece

If ancient Greece is more to your liking, there are plenty of destinations for history geeks like you. Many would recommend the Acropolis in Athens, which is nice, but I would rather visit Delphi, the site of the great Oracle. You can visit the Temple of Apollo where the High Priestess was located, and enjoy magnificent views while walking amongst the ruins.

Delphi, Greece is one of the top destinations for history geeks who are fascinated by the ancient world.
The Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece

Also in Delphi, you can view the Athenian Treasury, an ancient stadium/theatre, Tholos of Delphi (a circular temple that was part of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia), and an archaeological museum.

If you can’t visit Greece: Here are some great museums to visit elsewhere in the world (or on the web):

Destinations for History Geeks in England

How can you talk about the ancient world and not think of Stonehenge?

top destinations for history geeks - Stonehenge dates from around 2500 BC
Stonehenge

Dating from around 2500 BC, these stone monoliths in Wiltshire, England form a ring of stones measuring approximately 7 feet wide, 13 feet high, and weighing 25 tons. No one is certain what the origins of this site are, but evidence suggests it began its existence as a burial site. The stones came from about 15 miles away but we do not know how the ancients transported them to their current location.

If you can’t visit Stonehenge: You can find over 300 stone circles scattered about England, more than 500 in Scotland, 81 in Wales, 343 in Ireland, 6 in the Channel Islands, and 49 in Brittany, France. For a full (global) list, check out this Wikipedia entry.

Author’s Note: I’ve been to the “Merry Maidens” stone circle near St. Buryan, Cornwall. It’s nowhere near as impressive as Stonehenge, with stones that are only about 3 feet high. However, it was free to visit and completely uncrowded with tourists, which is always a plus. (Disappointed to report, however, that when I stepped inside the circle I did not get transported back through time like Claire in Outlander!)

Destinations for History Geeks in Jordan

We do not know precisely when Petra was built, but historians believe that the city began to prosper from the 1st century BC. It grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh, and spices. Petra continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city. 

top destinations for history geeks - the city of Petra in southern Jordan
The Treasury – Petra

The building shown above is the Treasury, called Al-Khazneh. Originally built as a mausoleum and crypt, there are four eagles at the top to carry away the souls of the departed.

If you can’t visit Petra: check out the online virtual tour by Google Maps. Then watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The facade of the Treasury represented the entrance to the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

Destinations for History Geeks in Italy

Pompeii is a history geek’s dream – nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, destroying the city, yet simultaneously preserving it under 13-20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice.

top destinations for history geeks - the ruins of Pompeii Italy
Ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii was an affluent city with a thriving arts scene. There was a theatre, a forum, an amphitheater, and multiple sculptures, mosaics, and frescoes. (There’s even a collection of erotic art culled from the ruins on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.)

There are also, of course, many ancient sites in Rome that make great destinations for history geeks. For instance, the iconic Colosseum.

The Colosseum of Rome

Trivia Alert: Did you know that the Colosseum’s proper name is the Flavian Amphitheater? Built around 80 AD, it became known as the Colosseum due to a colossal statue that stood nearby. Another lesser known fact to people who have not been to see the Colosseum is that it is in the archaeological heart of Ancient Rome. There are other attractions nearby, such as the Roman Forum, Arch of Constantine, and Palatine Hill.

If you can’t visit Italy: take a virtual Pompeii tour online, or visit the following museums:

  • Houston Museum of Natural Science – HMNS is hosting a Pompeii exhibition now through September 6, 2021.
  • Musee de La Civilization, Quebec – “Pompeii: The Immortal City” will be on display here from November 18, 2021, until September 11, 2022.
  • The British Museum produced an exhibit in 2013 called Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. You can see the accompanying film, Pompeii Live, by clicking here.
  • The Colosseum and other historical sites in Rome offer virtual tours online. Click here for a list of sites.
  • Room 70 at the British Museum covers over 1000 years of the Roman Empire, from 753 BC to 324 AD.
  • The Penn Museum’s Rome Gallery (Philadelphia) has nearly 600 artifacts. It boasts one of the largest collections of Roman glass in the United States.

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top destinations for history geeks - ancient world edition
A Visitor’s Guide to Petra, Jordan (Guest Post)

A Visitor’s Guide to Petra, Jordan (Guest Post)

While I’m sorting through my photos and trying to articulate my recent travels in Peru and New York City, I thought it would be a good idea to include a guest post.  This post is from Ketki Sharangpani of Dotted Globe.  Check out her site – she has written about a variety of places and all of her posts include stunning black & white photography. Today, she is providing us with a guide to the famed city of Petra:

Petra is a UNESCO world heritage site in Jordan and is one of the seven new wonders of the world. The rose-red city with its rock-cut architecture has fascinated visitors since its rediscovery in early 19th century. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to Jordan to see Petra each year.  As a result, the historical and archaeological site earns the distinction of being Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction.

How to Reach Petra

Petra is in south Jordan, about three hours away from the capital, Amman. Petra is also easily accessible from Aqaba, Jordan, which is a mere two hours away. Many tourists visit Petra as a one day trip from Amman or Aqaba or from neighboring Israel; however, the Petra archaeological site is immense and I recommend a minimum of 1-2 full days to completely understand Petra and the people who once lkived there.

Petra history

Petra was the capital of the Nabateans, an Arab tribe, that settled in the Jordan Valley around the sixth century BC. The city prospered under the Nabateans and was later annexed by the Romans, who built upon the city’s rock-cut architecture.  The Roman expansion of Petra included an amphitheatre, colonnaded streets, and temples. A devastating earthquake in 363 AD led to the abandonment of the city; as a result, Petra was lost to the world. Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss explorer, rediscovered the site in 1812. Since then, Petra has fascinated millions of people all over the world.

Petra’s top attractions

The Petra site is immense and visitors need to walk long distances to see all the sights. Horses, horse-carriages, donkeys and camels are available for rent from the local Bedouins.

1. Walk through the Siq

Visitors need to walk through the mile-long Siq, a narrow rock canyon wedged between tall sandstone cliffs, to reach Petra. Partially carved by nature and partially carved by the Nabateans, the winding passage of the Siq features beautiful sandstone patterns on its walls. Nabatean sculptures are engraved in the walls of the Siq; in addition, water conduit systems are built into the sides.

Petra Jordan Siq
The Siq – a narrow gap through which visitors to Petra must pass.

2. The Treasury

Petra’s most celebrated monument is the Treasury. Visitors exiting the Siq get their first view of Petra in the form of the Treasury, a majestic rock-cut façade. An urn, rumored to hide a Pharaoh’s treasure, is at the top of the Treasury. The elaborately carved façade features intricate patterns; most of the details are well-preserved even today. The Treasury is one of the most photographed tourist sites in the world.

petra jordan treasury
The iconic Treasury of Petra.

3. Roman Theatre

Originally built by the Nabateans, the theatre accommodated 4000 people. The Romans expanded the theatre to accommodate 7000 people when the Roman Empire annexed Petra. The theatre is an excellent place to sit and watch the sun set over the spectacular Royal Tombs.

petra jordan roman theater
The Roman Theatre of Petra, as seen from above.

4. Royal Tombs

The Royal Tombs refers to the Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, and Palace Tomb. These are the most magnificent tombs at Petra, built for Nabatean royalty. These majestic and intricately carved tombs are opposite the Roman Theatre.  Additionally, they offer breathtaking views of Petra’s city center.

5. Monastery

The Monastery is the largest Nabatean structure in the archaeological park, one that can only be reached after climbing a hike consisting of 800 steps. The Monastery, like the Treasury, is another building carved out of sheer rock façade. Visitors can actually go inside the Monastery in order to fully appreciate the grand monument.

petra jordan monastery
The monastery of Petra in Jordan.

6. High Place of Sacrifice

The High Place of Sacrifice is on a cliff top high above the Petra town center. Visitors need to hike the ancient Nabatean staircase to reach High Place of Sacrifice. Along the cliff top, visitors will see hand-carved stone obelisks, rock altars for sacrifices, and a cistern. Because of its location, the High Place of Sacrifice offers sweeping views of the valley.

Other attractions

In addition to the ancient buildings, the site includes many other attractions like the Petra museum and Nabatean museum, both of which display pottery, ornaments, coins, tools and statues excavated there.

The nearby archaeological site of Little Petra, located north of the main site, is also popular with tourists. Little Petra has fewer crowds and offers visitors a more relaxed opportunity to understand Nabatean architecture and sculptures.

Petra By Night takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 pm. During this event, thousands of candles light up the Treasury and Bedouin music floats through the air.  Visitors can soak up the atmosphere while enjoying a cup of tea. Petra looks magical in the flickering candlelight and this event remains among most popular things to do in the city.

About the Author

Ketki Sharangpani is a travel writer and blogger on a quest to illustrate the world through travelogues & photoessays. Currently, she is basking in the sun and breathing salty air off the Gulf Coast. Read her free 8 Day Jordan itinerary and follow her attempt at captioning the world on Dotted Globe.  Dotted Globe Ketki Sharangpani