Little Petra offers a more intimate view of life at the time of the Nabateans than Petra can. Little Petra is a sort of suburb of the main city but has all it main features on a smaller scale – the acqueducts, the tombs, the meeting places. Again it is built in a gorge full of the most gorgeously coloured sandstone and the gorge closes with a staircase leading to a spectacular viewing platform.
Within walking distance of little Petra is Jordan’s oldest Neolithic settlement with the remains of round huts and even one rectangular one. Approaching the site were stones illustrating important dates in Jordan’s history. I was intrigued that the domestication of the camel took place around the time of the building of Egypt’s great GIza pyramid.
We decided we’d spend the rest of the day visiting those parts of Petra we hadn’t visited yet and entered by a side track.
As with most famous sites it’s amazing how easy it is to get off the beaten track and find oneself far from tourist parties. We descended a valley filled with somewhat eroded but still magnificent temple tombs and eventually finished up near what is popularly known as pharaohs’s daughter’s palace but clearly isn’t. It’s interesting how many buildings still haven’t been accurately identified or even dated. There are lots of mysteries still to be cleared up at Petra.
The museum there was somewhat underwhelming and dusty. The best introduction and museum to Petra, incidentally, is that at the main entrance to the site itself.
We explored the so-called royal tombs. Although we don’t know that they definitely belonged to kings they certainly housed the remains of the highest nobles. The tombs have various names based on their characteristics. The silk tomb, for example, is so-called because of the multi-coloured sandstone out of which it is hewed.
We could only stand and stare at the beauty of these mammoth constructions whose colour was ever changing with the position of the sun.
We returned convinced that what we’d seen that day was probably one of the most extraordinary places we’d ever be able to experience on planet earth!