Jordan explored – Petra by Night

Al-Khazneh - the Treasury - in ancient Petra, Jordan,illuminated at night.
1/20 sec | f/1.2 | ISO 1600 | 17mm

One of the most memorable experiences of our recent trip to Jordan was experiencing Petra, the ancient capital of the Nabataean Empire, by night. On three evenings per week, visitors can take the one mile passage through the narrow gorge known as Siq down to the legendary Al-Khazneh (Pharao’s Treasury), with the walkway being illuminated by six thousand candles.

The Siq in ancient Petra, Jordan,illuminated at night.
0.4 sec | f/1.2 | ISO 2000 | 17mm

As during the day, the walk starts at the Visitor Center down to the entrance to the Siq. Along the way are (real!) candles in bags, placed at regular intervals. Once the eye gets used to the dark, it is amazingly easy to find your way in the dim illumination. Seeing the mountains below the starry sky is truly fantastic. The experience gets much more magic upon entering the Siq canyon, with its 70m high walls and only 2m wide at its narrowest point. The dimly illuminated rocks, and above the spectacular night sky

0.6 sec | f/1.2 | ISO 3200 | 17mm

And then, finally, even more fascinating as during the day, we could finally see the first glimpses of the magic facade of Al Khazneh (The Treasury) appear through the high walls of the canyon.

Al-Khazneh - the Treasury - in ancient Petra, Jordan
0.4 sec | f/1.2 | ISO 3200 | 17mm

The area in front of the world famous royal tomb carved out of the rocks more than two thousand years ago (read about Petra’s history in my previous post) and that was prominently featured in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, was illuminated by a thousand candles as well.

1/6 sec | f/4 | ISO 3200 | 12mm

There were also light projections onto the facade, which, honestly, were a bit over the top. While yellowish light was ok and in tone with the candles, there was also bright green and deep blue projections. The colors were changing so fast, that it was actually kind of tricky to catch the moment with the yellowish color tones. All visitors sat down on mats laid out in the dust, Bedouins served tea. Then came a 30 minute performance of Bedouins playing traditional tunes and telling the story of Petra.

I took all my photos with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and my magic 17mm F/1.2 . For the last image I changed to the 12-100mm F/4 to shoot the Treasury at 12mm wide angle. I took all images hand held. Although there were people bringing their tripods, but setting it up between all the people, especially in the narrow Siq, would not have been practical. Apart from lugging the extra weight along the two mile round trip.

All photos in this post are single exposures, the RAW files post-processed in Lightroom Classic. The tonal range of the RAW files (especially in the image of the candle-lit canyon with the starry sky visible overhead) blew me away.

Stay tuned for more posts from our trip to Jordan.

If you are looking for tips and inspirations around photography for the upcoming weekend, check out my free Learning Center.

On by Pixpa I found a great article called Beginner’s Guide to Night Photography covering topics like camera equipment for night time photos, various techniques and tips of night photography in detail that is very much worth checking out.

Wish you a great Friday!


Related Posts:

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Namibia Starry Night (and how I photographed it)

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Instant Inspiration (10) – Nocturnal Skyline

32 thoughts on “Jordan explored – Petra by Night

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  1. Unbelievable pictures of Petra at night. It is a must see in darkness and in daylight. Thank you so much for your post. It is a trip I plan to make and I am sure I will never forget.

  2. Would you mind if I link to your blog from my blog, Oh, the Places We See, and use one of your pictures of Petra? I’m hoping to craft a blog on taking a virtual vacation since I couldn’t go this week to Amman to build a Habitat house. Let me know. Thanks!

    1. I‘d be honored if you link to my blog, and feel free to use any image. I‘m sorry you miss your trip to Jordan. Now that I‘m under total curfew the next weeks, I will have time to do the rest of my Jordan posts. I totally love your idea of virtual vacations! Marcus

      1. Thanks so much. Your photos are some of the best on the internet — I’ve been looking! And I’m sorry, too, that I missed the trip to Jordan. It may be with the world turning upside down this week that I may never get that chance again. But your posts will help fill the gap. Thanks!

      2. I would really like to see the country. We were also going to Egypt for a week after that. Both trips are no more . . . at least for now. Thanks again for your superb photography. I feel as if I’ve traveled to the heart of Jordan through you.

  3. Since my trip to Jordan was cancelled due to the virus and other things, I’d like to write a blog post on “virtual travel” with a link to this post on Petra at Night. Would that be OK? Also, could I use one of your photos to attach to the link? Oh, the Places We See

  4. Your Petra by day post was breathtaking. By night it looks so surreal like something out of a science fiction film. I am sure you had an awe inspiring experience. Who lights all the candles? Must take hours.

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