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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
James & Terri