Petra

JORDAN

ANCIENT WONDERS

Meandering for almost a mile along the twisting turning Siq, I find it grows ever darker as the walls close in, never revealing much of what lies ahead. I stop, frozen in my tracks. Although very little is visible in the brilliant morning sun that squeezes through the narrow opening, I know I'm looking at something remarkable. I shield my eyes as I step into the sunlight filling the courtyard of Petra's most famous building, El Khazneh - The Treasury, revealing the full beauty of the massive structure. I look up and my eyes move over its ten-story height and the mountain rising above it, which seems to touch the sky.

 

 

I feel a bit apprehensive as I approach the road and stand to scan the rock wall before me. Drawing closer, a narrow passage becomes visible. I walk through the fissure, called the Siq, toward the ancient city with its secrets hidden by a sheer faced mountain that seems impenetrable. I am surrounded on all sides by a rock that soars a hundred feet into the cloudless blue desert sky; I feel like Moses crossing the Red Sea just after it parted!

 

 

This is no ordinary building. It is hand-carved from solid sandstone, fifty years in the making. The sun gives it a reddish hue, which is why Petra is called "The Rose City". I remember seeing it the first time years ago, in a film, "Indian Jones and the Last Crusade" but nothing prepared me for the scale and beautiful detail I now see. Two hundred years before Christ, Petra was a bustling Nabatean city. As I walk along its well preserved main street, I imagine people living, working, and playing around this impressive rock-hewn city. I feel especially in awe of the amphitheater. Chiseled from solid rock, it seats 4,500 spectators. I walk along the aisles and sit on the pitted rock bench. I can feel the heat, stored in the rock from the morning sun, through my clothes.

Petra
Jordan

As I rest, I daydream and see actors appear on the stage before me performing a Greek tragedy. My mind fills in the color, the music, the movement. A passing couple wakes me from my reverie. I lazily scan the cliffs around me. There! Nestled in stone and frozen by time, I see the royal tombs of Nabatean kings and queens I visited earlier. I am so excited, sitting here in the center of Petra, an "ancient wonder", an almost mystical place that I have dreamt of visiting since childhood.