Little Petra – The Second Lost City of the Nabateans

Little Petra, also known as Siq Al-Barid in Arabic, is essentially a smaller version of the now infamous Rose Red City of Petra which is located just a short distance away. While it might be considerably smaller, Little Petra is no less enthralling.

Ironically, it remains one of the most overlooked of all Jordan tourist attractions.

Caved buildings of Little Petra in Siq al-Barid, Wadi Musa, Jordan

Caved buildings of Little Petra in Siq al-Barid, Wadi Musa, Jordan.

It has long since been established that the much bigger Petra site was once the Nabatean capital, and it is believed that Little Petra was perhaps where some wealthy traders lived. It might also have been where passing traders stayed while in the area. However, these are only theories.

Little Petra – A Brief History

Little Petra, which is called Siq Al-Barid in Arabic, is located only a short distance from the bigger and more famous Petra site which is typically referred to as the Rose Red City and/or the Lost City of Petra.

Like the main site, Little Petra also dates back to the 1st century, and the general consensus is that it was essentially a suburb of the main Petra site.

Most archeologists and historians believe that the dwellings that were carved out of the canyon walls probably belonged to the more successful traders from Petra.

To date, it remains unclear if Little Petra was still inhabited at the time when the bigger city was abandoned during the 7th century. Once it was abandoned, however, it remained that way for more than a thousand years, other than when it was periodically used by Bedouin nomads who would take shelter there while grazing their goats.

Over the years, archeologists and historians in the western world got to hear about Petra as well as Little Petra, but were unsure if such places actually existed because under Islamic rule, Europeans were not allowed to visit the Islamic world.

In 1850, the site received its first western visitor, and while several other western visitors soon followed, no attention was paid to Little Petra, but rather, all focus was on the main Petra site.

One hundred years later, in 1950, a British archeologist who was overseeing excavations at the main Petra site decided to extend her work to include excavations at Little Petra.

Excavations continued until 1983, and in 1985, Little Petra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the main site.

What to Expect when Visiting Siq Al-Barid

Temple in Little Petra, Siq al-Barid, Jordan

Temple in Little Petra, Siq al-Barid, Jordan.

To access the site, visitors have to walk for about 400 meters through a narrow canyon which then opens up, revealing numerous buildings which have been carved out of the canyon’s sandstone walls.

Most of these appear to have been dwellings, apart from one which most likely served as a temple. After this, the canyon narrows again and continues to another opening which is home to even more dwellings and other buildings.

There’s also a large cistern which would have been used for water collection.

On the southern side of this opening, there is one rock-carved dwelling with rare Nabatean artwork, and while it is not the only such work to have been discovered, it is far superior to most such discoveries.

Another thing which sets Little Petra apart from the main Petra site is the lighting in the canyon.

Unlike at the main, the orientation of Little Petra prevents much sunlight from entering the canyon, hence the name, Siq Al-Barid, which means Cold Canyon.

Visiting Little Petra with Egypt Tours Plus

While most of our Jordan Tour Packages include a visit to Petra, very few actually include a visit to Little Petra. This is almost entirely due to the fact that the main Petra site is a lot bigger, and there is more to see than there is at Little Petra.

Many of the people, who do visit Little Petra, visit after or just before they visit the main site. However, some travelers chose to visit only Little Petra because it is always far less crowded, and it is free.

When you are at the site, you are quite literally free to wander around at leisure, exploring the area at your own pace, although it is still recommended that you explore the area with an experienced guide.

At Egypt Tours Plus, all of our Egypt and Jordan tours can be customized to meet your own exact needs. Even if Little Petra is not already included in your preferred tour itinerary, we can easily add it if you would like us to.

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