Al Khazneh, also known as the Treasury, is one of the most impressive sites of ancient Petra in Jordan. Al Khazneh, along with the other architectural sites of Petra, was hand carved from the beautiful red sandstone mountain. The Treasury suddenly comes into view at the end of a twisting, narrow 1.5 kilometer path. Petra is a natural fortress that today attracts millions of tourists.
Al Khazneh: What is the History of Al Khazneh?
Al Khazneh’s timeline is often debated but it is thought to have been inhabited early on by the Nabataen’s. The historian Diodorus of Sicily, writing in the first century BC, gives us the earliest authentic description of a Nabataen Petra.1 These people greatly capitalized on its location being along a much traveled trade-route into Syria. Al Khazneh is also believed to have gotten its name from a legend about pirates who hid their ill-gotten treasures in this structure.
The story says that the pirates hid their bounty in a large urn on the second story. Since the Treasury is believed to have been previously used as a royal tomb, the urn would have been a natural place to disguise the bandits’ stash of stolen jewels, coins, and other items of value. Others believed that treasures from ancient pharaohs had been placed there and explains why bullet marks are seen on the urn. The Bedouins are credited with having shot at the urn in hopes of breaking out the treasures inside.
The exterior holds many speculations as well. Much of the intricate carvings on the outside of the structure have worn away. However, it is believed carvings of many gods or goddesses graced the exterior of Al Khazneh. It was not uncommon for the region’s pagan inhabitants to worship multiple false deities and they seemed to have one for almost every facet of life.
Al Khazneh: What has become of it? Al Khazneh has been inhabited by many groups through the centuries and was in fact, uninhabited for many generations until a Swiss adventurer-scholar Johann Ludwig Burckhardt2‘rediscovered’ Petra on August 22, 1812. The site is one of the most beautiful of Petra, and is of course included in Petra’s designation as a “World Heritage Site,” so declared in 1985. The site hosts thousands of tourists from around the world. It has been featured in movies such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as well as the move Spyhunter.
Tourists are here in big numbers. And they all want their photo standing in front Al Khazneh. Dreaming of that perfect, unobstructed shot? Unfortunately a dream is all it shall be.
Actually, the perfect, unobstructed shot is possible, just not in the middle of the day. Come back just before closing, or first thing in the morning, and you might be lucky enough to have the place all to yourself.
Practical information and how to reach Al Khazneh:
The Nabataean city of Petra is accessed from the new city of Wadi Musa, a 4 hour drive (250 km) from Amman, the capital of Jordan. More transport info here.