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Petra - the Rose-red City - Page 1

" .. . match me such a marvel, save in Eastern clime A rose-red city, half as old as time."
Petra by Dean Burgen

Nothing quite prepares you for Petra, not the famous poem quoted above, not (as we did) reading numerous guide books and looking at photographs. Not even this page will suffice, but we will try to give you a taste of what to expect.

The sheer size of the site is mind-boggling. Having spent half an hour getting to the famous Treasury, it is tempting to think that you have 'done' Petra, but there's much, much more. In fact, guide books recommend at least two or three days, including at least one evening. We had a single day and no evenings, but what a fantastic day it was!

Petra - which means rock - is located in a natural fortress. It is surrounded by steep sandstone cliffs and mountains. The only way in is through a narrow crack in the 150m high cliffs. This channel, known as the Siq, is 1200m long and only a few metres across. Being so fortified made Petra an ideal place for a secure city, and it was very prosperous some 2000 years ago when the Nabateans made it a centre of trade to equal the likes of Damascus. It eventually deteriorated when trade routes moved to the East, and none of the original buildings has survived. What has lasted for two millennia, however, are fantastical, gigantic facades cut into the rock itself, sometimes with caves behind and sometimes just facades. These look like grand houses, but are much too big. They may have housed tombs, or could simply have been monuments.
This rickety buggy is an alternative to walking through the Siq
Our carriage awaits
The Siq, Petra, Jordan
The start of our journey through the Siq

On arriving at the gates of the site, you can choose to walk the few hundred metres to the Siq entrance or take a horse. Both of these require you to walk through the Siq itself. A third alternative is a horse-drawn buggy which is the only vehicle permitted to go through the Siq. We took a buggy and it was a very bumpy ride - not recommended if you have back problems. The passageway's floor is mostly sand, though presumably full of stones, but occasionally the original paving stones appear and these parts are even more bumpy. The main advantage of a buggy ride is its speed, so worth trying if you are short of time.

The Siq at Petra
We approach the final corner of the Siq, then finally . .
The Treasury, Petra, Jordan
. . emerge to see the magnificent and gigantic Treasury

Rounding a corner at the end of the Siq, we got our first glimpse of the Treasury, glowing pink in the morning sun. This is the image that appears in all the guide books, but it is still a stunning sight first hand. It is very difficult indeed to convey is how huge the Treasury is. Take a look at the the picture below and then marvel at how big the doorway is. This is the building that featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, though unlike in the movie there is actually very little behind the facade itself.

We waited by the Treasury - not really a treasury, but the place where legend suggested that treasure was stored - for those on our tour who walked through the Siq. This gave an opportunity to have a cup of sweet sage tea, and sit amongst the camels whilst listening to excited Americans from cuise ships that call in at Aqaba.

The Treasury at Petra is absolutely huge Cafe and shop opposite the Treasury at Petra
Taxi! Follow that camel.

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Petra seeks to become 'world wonder' (BBC)

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