Sep 142015

Petra By Night : A Fairy Tale In Arabian Nights


Petra by night show

The Magical Show illuminated by Candles in Petra


As I start my second walk to the Monastery in Petra during the day  I was wondering how different can Petra by night would be from Petra during the day ?

I am trying to pace myself to the Al Khazneh  (Treasury ) not to rush as there is no light on the path, that is if you do not count the countless candles, flickering inside brown paper bags that caress the Siq, the natural creek in the rugged mountain that has hidden the city of Petra in its bowels for more than 2000 years.

Before you read further may I suggest you first read my post about visiting  the UNESCO Heritage site Petra in Jordan first.

I was raised on a staple diet of fairy tales from Arabian Nights. But then who wasn’t when growing in the pre-internet world?  My grandfather an avid reader and even better story-teller would narrate me tales from distant lands about lost cities, hidden  treasures, magic carpets and Djinns in Lamps. Sometimes I loved the stories, at other time I would be too scared to sleep the whole night trying to figure out ways to slay the monsters in my mind. It is difficult to say how many times I would have dreamed about the mysterious happenings Arabian Sands but even in my dreams I had not imagined that one day I will become a stone listening to the haunting song in the heart of the lost city of Petra in Night.

petra at night candles

The Siq lit in night is your entry to magical land


At every turn, the shadows change shape and tremble as if they could see the ghosts in the darkness. The magnificent march moon is unable to compete with the glowing path and escapes behind dark cliffs only to lurk from the meandering sky.

As my eyes get adjusted to the light escaping from candles I start noticing the shapes and shadows I missed during the day.  Every turn in the path is a mystery you don’t know what lies on the other side of the narrow crack in the rock, your only way to go to the other side. No wonder Petra was never captured by anybody as it was easy to ambush even the mightiest army in the narrow creek and cut them to pieces, must have been easy for the Nabatean architects who carved out a complete city with waterways, dams, monasteries, temples from the rock.

Petra By Night Show

Petra by night: Words can not explain the magic unfolded

But the piece de resistance The treasury is still some distance and I force myself to stop clicking and move towards the masterpiece of the Nabateans , a UNESCO Word heritage site and one of the 7 wonders of the world and one of the most visited places on earth.

But if you have not been to Petra in the night you would have missed the magic that Petra stands for. Unfortunately in my shortsightedness to click pictures on the way all the front seats are taken and I find only a corner away from the action to park myself along with my tripod.

But Petra by night is not only about the magic sprinkled by the candles it is also about standing in front of the magnificent facade that was carved out of stone with simple tools, but also about the show that will take you back to the time before time.

Petra By Night

Petra at night show: Magical Shadows

A shadow emerges from nowhere and greets us, on settling on a stool, the shadow surrounded by 100s of candles multiplies into hundreds of shadows, each witness to  the legend of Petra. I am trying to click some pictures and miss some of the words that the shadow speaks and then the magic of Petra happens. The shadow pulls out a Rebab from nowhere and starts singing a song that he inherited from his Bedouin ancestors.

I remember that song in the story in a fairy tale  where if you look back to see who is singing you are turned into a stone statue. But it is too late the spell has been cast, taking photographs is forgotten and I don’t know what the Bedouin and his Rebab are saying, but it must have meant “STATUEfor I am frozen in my place like a stone as the music awakens my soul while freezes my limbs. I don’t understand a word of the song, but I am carried away to the campfires in the desert as the camels settle near the Bedouin tents and the wind carries the aromas of the meals being prepared, and invites a weary traveler to come and relish the hospitality of a harsh land but generous folks.


Petra by night show

Everybody turns into a statue as the Bedouin Singer tells the story of Petra

The song of Bedouin rises above  Petra, bounces backs from the steep walls, and slowly forms a song storm in the desert. Every single person around me is frozen and unaware of their situation. As for me, who was raised on tales of Arabian Nights, here I was in Petra by Night, listening to a story that I will tell again and again for the years to come, just like my Grandfather told me when I was a child.

As soon as the song ends the magic spell is broken and the motionless statues come back to life and there is a commotion to click and pose for pictures of Petra By Night. A hundred flashes flare simultaneously but still are no match for the countless candles that decorate the ground around us. As people move around in the candles they pose for pictures, take selfies and admire the moving shadows around them.

Slowly the crowd starts dispersing as it is a long walk back through the Siq to the hotels around Petra, there are no cars, camels or hard working donkeys of Petra at night to take you back. But the path is still illuminated by the moon above and the candles on the ground.

Petra By Night

Once the Petra by Night Show ends it is photography time

Yes, Petra is great during the day, but Petra by night is pure magic.

A slightly different version of this post first appeared in the August 2015 issue of JetWings International, the in-flight magazine of Jet Airways. You can read the pdf  here 

How To Reach Petra:

Petra is about 247 KM from Amman, the capital of Jordan. It takes about 3.5 hours by road to reach there.  The Petra by Night show is conducted every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday only and the tickets are 17 JD for the show.

I was in Petra on invitation by Jordan Tourism Board . 

You should check my earlier post if you have any questions about

Travel and Safety in Jordan


Petra By Night

Petra Celebrates Festival of Lights every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 

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Paper lantern Petra by Night Show Jordan

Petra By Night Show

🙂 🙂 🙂

  41 Responses to “Petra By Night – Playing With Lights & Shadows in Jordan”

Comments (38) Pingbacks (3)
  1. Loved this. Spectacular and breathtaking pictures.

  2. What a breathtakingly beautiful place… Magical indeed! Almost surreal.

  3. I like the 4th pic – from Petra By Night – Playing With Lights & Shadows in Jordan post for my desi Calendar 2016

  4. So alluring the story and the pics are! You might have enjoyed a lot. Truly magical even on this blog 🙂

  5. Amazing pictures! Looks so ethereal 😀

  6. You said it right! Petra by night is simply magic which we missed. 🙁
    Your pictures are just gorgeous to create that magic here on the blog.

  7. This would be such an awesome experience…truly magical. Reading this post itself, I am in awe of it.

    Definitely a top spot for anybody visiting Jordan or around.

  8. How magical ! how utterly fascinating. It must have been such a surreal experience for you.

  9. These are absolutely gorgeous Prasad. I missed Petra by night and so can love the moments from your story here 🙂

  10. Wow! It’s magic. An enchanting experience!

  11. Beautiful photography in the night.

  12. The pictures are so beautiful!! Great post Prasad 🙂

  13. mind blowing pictures

  14. Beautiful images! Petra glows in the night.

  15. So beautiful.
    Petra seems to look very dreamy by night.

    Watching everybody engrossed in the song about Petra must have been like a few goose-bump moments. Right Prasad?

  16. Truly Magical experience.Had a lovely virtual night tour with you.:)

    Sriram & Krithiga

  17. Amazing, amazing pictures. And to think that I have been to Petra and not seen this 🙁

  18. The place looks so surreal with all the magical lighting !

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