Ad Deir (The Monsatery)
Located on a remote hilltop, one mile east of Petra, Ad-Deir (the monastery) (in Arabic: Ad-Deir) is rightfully associated by the local Bedouins with a monastic complex. The single winding path ascending to the site includes 800 steps and takes about 1 hour to complete. It is quite a physical challenge, but it is worth it! At every curve of the road new views unfolds before you, providing breath-taking panoramas of Petra’s mountain ridge. Local Bedouin offer a donkey ride up the ascent (JD20), as well as rest places where you can refresh with some desert tea or cold beverages. The ‘Ad-Deir’ monument itself is simply stunning. Being 150 feet high and 165 feet wide, this rock-cut façade is the biggest of all Petra’s facades. It is also highly ornate, second only to ‘The Treasury’. The first floor has 8 semi-engaged columns toppled by Nabatean capitals and false windows flanking the main entry. The second floor is designed lik a ‘Syrian’ Pediment, with a tholos in the middle, crowned by an urn.
What was Ad-Deir Built For?
Although Ad-Deir monument looks like a typical Nabatean tomb facade, there are no burial niches inside it. Instead, there are traces of a Nabatean votive niche (betyl) that was later removed, and wide benches along its walls. This suggests that Ad-Deir may have had a religious function for the Nabateans. An inscription found near the monument suggests it was used for religious assemblies in memory of King Obodas III who was deified after his death. The inscription reads: “Let be remembered ‘Ubaydu son of Waqihel and his associates of the symposium of Obodas the God”. Crosses incised in its interior suggest that perhaps Christian monks also used the place, perhaps even as a monastery.
About 100 feet west of the monument is a breath-taking viewpoint towards the west, providing great panoramas of the Aravah and the Israeli Negev Desert. From here you can also see Jabel Haroun, toppled by a small white maqam. There is also a new exciting 4 miles trail from Ad-Deir to Little Petra, but its best to do it with a local guide.
A visit to Petra’s ‘Monastery’ can be combined with a tour to Petra.