It seems no work of Man’s creative hand….from the rock as if by magic grown, eternal, silent, beautiful, alone… a rose-red city half as old as time. – Petra by John Burgon
We were back in Petra bright and early after our exhilarating Petra by Night experience. We were excited beyond words to finally explore it by day.
The walk from the site entrance before we reached the Siq was a pleasant surprise. We didn’t realize that the dark path where we walked by the previous night was lined with amazing stone formations and structures. Petra, meaning “stone” in Arabic, is a land of beautiful rose red stones indeed.
We passed by a structure called Obelisk Tomb named after the obelisks that adorn the top. The top level is the tomb proper and the lower level is a dining hall for Nabateans funerary rites. (For brief history about Nabateans and Petra, see Petra by NIght.)
You can journey through the Siq by horse or horse-drawn carriage, but we encourage you to walk through it to best experience its atmospheric effect and to enjoy the delightful details you will discover along the way.
Being dwarfed by its immensity was humbling.
The Nabateans were not only architectural geniuses and shrewed business people who made fortune by levying tolls to caravan traders, they were also masters in water engineering. This canal was one of the impressive systems they created to channel water through the Siq into the dry desert city.
In fact, the Swiss explorer who rediscovered Petra in 1812, gained access to the fiercely guarded site by pretending to be a devout Muslim who had to pass through to make a pilgrimage to the nearby mountain where Prophet Aaron was buried.
The Bedouins inhabited the caves of Petra until the 1980’s when the government moved them into the nearby village to preserve the site as well as to protect them from stone erosions.
Finally, the light came at the end of the Siq and the magnificent treasure of Petra emerged.
Although we had seen the Treasury the night before, witnessing it during the day was still surreal.
Deftly chiselled from a solid stone and completed about a century before Christ was born, this Nabatean masterpiece was built as a tomb for an important Nabatean king and later became a temple. (And yes, it was the temple in the final scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.)
The building is called the Treasury because the Bedouins believed that the urn carved above the entrance contained treasures. The urn, in fact, is riddled with bullet shots inflicted by tribesmen who tried to loot the urn, which turned out to be a solid rock.
From the Treasury, we walked along the Outer Siq which led us to the Street of Facades, lined by facade of tombs of prominent Nabateans. At this point, we realized that like many great ancient civilizations, the Nabateans put great importance in building funerary structures.
A Bedouin man selling old coins and a little girl selling rocks. Although they no longer live in Petra, the Bedouins are still very much present at the site where they practice their entrepreneurial skills. Bedouins are hard working people. They don’t ask for money, they like to earn it.
We were excited to finally head to the grand finale of our Petra exploration – the Monastery. But we had to work our way to get there. It entailed climbing a flight of about 800 steps cut from the rock and some steep slopes that twist and turn through a gorge to the Monastery on top of the mountain.
We could have take another form of Petra taxi (donkey) to get there but we chose to earn our way.
Although the Treasury is hands down the loveliest structure in Petra, the Monastery was our favorite. We liked its peaceful and beautiful location and that it was not crowded at all. We got to enjoy it pretty much to ourselves from the nearby cave we discovered.
Not only we were able to rest and enjoy the sight of the Monastery from the cave but we also had the pleasure of hanging out with a fascinating 9-year old Bedouin girl. She spoke excellent English, really smart and feisty. She asked if I was wearing a gel nail polish. I asked, “How did you know about get nail polish?” She quipped,” I’m a Bedouin. We Bedouins know everything!”
Our little Bedouin friend highly recommended (or more likely “ordered”) that we climb this hill located across the Monastery. Although our guidebook marked the Monastery as the end of our Petra trail, we felt that we had to heed the wisdom of this young Bedouin who knew everything. More than halfway through the hill, we stumbled into this huge chamber which according to the the site marker was called ” Room 468″ and contain an idol niche which is the “most finely-carved example in Petra.” Keith was happy to take the place of the missing idol.
So there goes the Petra of my dream. Was I satisfied? Yes! Do I want more? Hell, Yes!
Some excavation work is currently underway in Petra. According to National Geographic, only 15% of Petra is uncovered. The rest of it is still underground and untouched. Hey Petra, see you again! Looking forward to meet your 85% someday!
This link is part of Travel Photo Thursday and The Tablescaper. Check it out for more interesting travel links.