Petra is very isolated, just outside the small mountain town of Wadi Musa in the desert, south of Jordan’s capital, Amman.
After some airport delays, and a 150 mile taxi ride (a result of transit day complications that dominoed) we arrived late last night. Winter nights are truly frigid in the desert, and this morning was no exception. To beat the crowds we planned an early start, so we shivered our way down the gravel road toward the ruins, bundled in (just about) all the clothes we have with us!
Petra was located at the crossroads of a number of trade routes, and the Nabataeans became very wealthy as traders. Because they had contact with many cultures, they were impacted by different architectural influences. The first major tomb we encountered is called the Obelisk Tomb, which shows the intermarriage of a number of architectural styles. In addition, it shows another amazing aspect of Petra: these tombs and buildings are carved from solid rock. They aren’t built brick by brick, but chiseled out of mountains. The work involved is astounding!
Farther along is the “Siq” (Arabic for shaft), The Petra complex, built 2700 years ago, is spread over a large area, and the mile-long Siq is the nearly hidden entrance to the major valley of the tombs. The hike down this narrow, twisting gorge was truly unique, and it alone, was worth the trip. It’s a study in bizarre-looking sandstone formations, intricate rainbow coloration, and weathering effects. If this looks a little familiar, one of the scenes from Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark was shot here.
Toward the end of the Siq, the gorge gets very narrow, dark, and closes in. Up ahead is a column of light that reveals one of the most dramatic sites we’ve seen in ancient ruins, “The Treasury.”
This is probably the most famous site in all of Petra. For years it was thought to house a cache of treasure, but in actuality it was a nobleman’s tomb. This stunning sight is also a beehive of activity. It’s a collision of shutter-happy tourists, local vendors, camels, donkeys, and some welcome sunshine for freezing travelers.
Photos of Petra and accounts of its history inspired us to visit, but after today, we realize that the beautiful photos we’ve seen don’t do it justice. It’s an awe-inspiring place, and it’s hard to imagine how fascinating it must have been in its heyday. We took over 200 photos today and we’re going back tomorrow.
James & Terri