Petra is the high spot of any visit to Jordan and it does not disappoint! In fact, it’s even more overwhelming than any description or photo could ever hope to achieve.
We spent much of our day there yesterday and were glad that we wore a decent pair of walking boots and brought our treking sticks with us. The area covered is vast and the heights very varied too.
After entering through an informative visitor entrance we soon found ourselves in that amazing gorge or siq with sheer, ever tightening sides, hoping at every corner to come across Petra’s great icon, the treasury. Instead, we met with tombs, acqueducts and other monuments. Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish natural rock formations from the buildings the mysterious nabateans had erected during their long occupancy.
Then, through a crack in the gorge, there it was, the so-called treasury. This extraordinary creation reminded me almost of a Borromini creation in Baroque Rome , with its broken pediments and concave features.
Yet clearly, Borromini could not have known of these buildings which were only brought to the attention of the Western world through the subterfuge efforts of the Swiss explorer Burckart in 1812.
The siq now opened out into the city of the living and we entered a colonnaded street with a great temple on one side and a nympaeum or fountain next to an ancient pistachio tree on the other.
Now our climb was going to start. To reach the greatest of the Petra buildings one has to go up almost a thousand steps and each one is worth it for at the top is the so called monastery, perfect in its setting overlooking a canyon of immense dimensions.
Inside, like the majority of Petra’s buildings, there was little to see. All the glory was on the outside.
Then the long return to the entrance gate (of which there is only one) commenced.
Sunset was starting and the huge wall of the royal tombs became ablaze with almost rainbow colours. For the real beauty of Petra is the intimate communion of extraordinary sandstone formations with the exquisite sculpting hands of those long gone but never forgotten people who had made this place the eighth wonder of the world.