Petra: The Dream Continues


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Although we could hardly pull ourselves away from the magnificent Treasury, we knew that Petra had only begun to reveal her secrets – plus we had to come back past the Treasury to get out, so we’d have another shot at it. As we rounded the bend, we stumbled into two colorful, friendly looking camels.


Camels play a big role in Petra, past and present. Thousands of camel caravans traded their goods in Petra, and today the Bedouin of Wadi Musa transport and entertain the tourists with their camels … and dashing Lawrence of Arabia good looks.


Watching them plod along, you’d think they had infinite patience. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They’re not known for their sunny dispositions. In fact they often hiss, spit, and bite. The camel in this photo just snorted a “too close” warning, and I am about to break into a run.

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The walls widened into the Street of Facades with over 40 modest tombs that look like Assyrian architecture with their zigzag carving.



Many of the tombs are still in excellent condition, but the beautiful red rocks of the cliff face aren’t always so durable. The rocks at Petra are a classic study in intricately colored sandstone with all the bedding features to make a geologist drool. But over the millennia, erosion by both water and wind has produced some fantastic, fairy-tale rooms, walls, and columns.

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Down the hill is an awesome row of royal tombs, requiring lots of climbing to access. The “Urn Tomb” is the largest and most distinctive. And although it started out as a tomb, the structure was later altered and transformed into a church.

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The “Palace Tomb” is another example of what thousands of years of exposure to the elements can do. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to see what an exquisite carved monument it was 2000 years ago.


The Nabateans were very talented builders who adopted architectural styles of other civilizations – from the Assyrian ziggurats to the Greek corinthian capitals. But the “horned capitals” atop this elegant tomb are strictly their invention.

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Did we mention that Petra is huge and everything is downhill? Then, for many of the sites you want to see, you must climb … and climb … then descend. At the end of the day, you turn around, look up, and start going uphill for miles. And just when you reach the Treasury for a final farewell before re-entering the Siq for the last leg of your journey, the horse cart drivers offer to drive you out through the twisting gorge – just like Indiana Jones. Many succumb, but not us. The Siq is too special – it’s what drew us here – and we want to savor this final climb of the experience of a lifetime.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

19 thoughts

  1. These pictures are wonderful. I was mesmerized. This is practically right out of “Lawrence of Arabia.” Love your description of this place as well.

      1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Joseph. Petra is one of those places where you’re glad to be shooting digital photos. It’s difficult to take a bad shot, and wonderful subjects are in all directions.

    1. Thanks Steve. If you get a chance on your trip, you really should visit Petra. It isn’t one of those places you “drop by” as it takes some planning, but you will not be sorry. It looks like your big trip has gotten off to a great start, and we’ll keep following along.

      1. Thank you. Yeah, I am resigned to the fact that I wont see everything in NZ. Consequently, I will just enjoy the “ride” so to speak and not rush my trip. Petra will definitely be on my bucket list of places to see. Again, thank you for the wonderful glimpse of this fascinating place!

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Petra is a photographer’s dream come true. When you go, make sure that all your camera batteries are charged and take extras. BTW, I love your photos of the Baroque/Rococo (?) church interiors.

    1. Well Jeff, this is a tough one. I’m afraid I’ll have to waffle on this question. Petra is certainly near the top, but Machu Picchu is up there as well. And Angkor Wat is certainly in the top 5. But on a much smaller scale, but just as amazing is the Terra Cotta Army in Xian, China. What are some of your faves?

  2. Love these. Although I’ve lived most of my life in that part of the world – I’ve never been to Petra. While dating my husband took a study trip throughout the Middle East and loved Petra. He hid a letter from me in the cleft of a rock….it’s on my list of must do before I can’t.

    1. Hi Marilyn, Petra was on my “must-see list” ever since we lived in Khartoum, Sudan and went to the pyramids in Meroe. They were so mysterious and little-understood at that time. Consequently, I became intrigued with Petra. It is so romantic that your husband hid a letter for you in the cleft of a rock … and given the lack of humidity I bet it will be there waiting for you when you do visit. All the best, Terri

  3. I have died and gone to heaven! Petra ranks as one of my all time favorite places, and I was turned on to your blog after you visited and ‘liked’ mine. So thank you for that, but more importantly, thank you for all the info about Petra which I visited in 1976, and there were blessedly few visitors back then.

    While I was there with a Director of Antiquities, I believe I was told that they never found any evidence of what tools were used to carve the majestic, magnificent, and magical structures like The Treasury. At that time, at least from what I recall, no one knew whether the tools were wooden or otherwise, as no evidence had been found.

    Do you happen to know if they have further information today? By the way, thanks for the tip to visit the virtual tour. What fun! Your blog’s great. I look forward to future reads! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. Thanks for the comment Beville and for dropping by the blog. Petra had been on our list for years and years, and we are so happy that we finally visited. As you know from your visit, it has to be seen in person to truly appreciate, and no pictures can truly do it justice. Petra is one of those timeless places, and I suspect that it hasn’t changed much from when you visited. As to the carving, I haven’t read anything about the carving tools used, but given the number and extent of the carvings, I always assumed the tools were metal. The sandstone there is very soft, but I wouldn’t expect it to be so soft that wooden tools would work long term. But you raise an interesting question, and I’ll have to check it out. Thanks again for dropping by. ~James

  4. Petra is one of those places I REALLY want to get to and not just because of the name( there are many that add the r to my name for ease of pronunciation.)

    Your photographs are just gorgeous and love that you walked the whole way. Makes sense!! Though I imagine the Indiana cart drive was probably pretty cool too!

    Thanks for reminding us we need to get to Petra!


    1. Peta, Petra (deliberate word placement ;)) must have been on our list for 15 years, and we were so glad to finally make it. It isn’t one of those places one just drops by, but it is soooo worth the effort. I’m sure that I don’t need to say that you should visit, but I can make a couple of recommendations. First, go in the off-season. We went in the dead of winter and almost froze out butts off, but there were fewer people. And second, given the political problems, you should go sooner rather than later. With all those foreigners there, I keep praying that nothing happens, but you never know. I hope you guys can get there soon. ~James

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