Indiana Jones didnt prepare me for Petra!
It is a revelation!
To stand in front of The Treasury was surreal. But I get ahead of myself. The entry into Petra is through The Siq, a gorge over a kilometre long. It is breathtaking in its own right, resplendant with natural formations, eroded carvings of statues and a roman aqueduct bringing "stormwater" from outside the complex several kilometres into it. But nothing prepares you for the sight of the treasury building as you leave The Siq. It is presented in all its glory - 12 storeys high! I felt like a little kid at christmas. It was very exciting, very imposing and completely memorable. I dont need to tell you what it looks like - but being here in the flesh is sooooo much better than seeing it in the movies.
But, and there is a but. There is so much more to Petra than the famous facade of The Treasury. It has a history spanning hundreds, if not thousands, of years through many cultures including the Nabataeans, Romans, Greeks, and Bedouin. Much of the site is still to be excavated, there are tantalising glimpses of ruins everywhere, just waiting to unearthed. Or not. Walking through the Necropolis is like stepping into another world. The ornate facades of the tombs are carved into the sandstone rockface, and thanks to erosion, are an amazing array of colours - purples, reds, yellows, greys. We sauntered past another roman theatre (this one heavily eroded), strolled though a greek temple, roman church, another temple dedicated to an Egyptian princess, countless tombs and The Monastry. We chickened out of the 800 steps to the Monastry (many more steps to come at Mt Sinai) and took donkeys up most of the way. Not only were my feet grateful (having a terrible time with blisters, folks), the donkeys were a lot of fun. The Monastry itself is hidden from view as you come out of the gorge but turn to the left and there it is, just as magnificent as The Treasury. The photo here is the Monastry - if I stood in front of it my head wouldnt reach the top of the step in front of the entrance.
There are hundreds of bedouin stalls flogging an array of jewellery and trinkets - all "1JD - its happy hour". We met Raami, the son of a bedouin father and a Kiwi mother. What an amazing life he's had. Born and raised at Petra in the bedouin community, in one of the tombs, converted into a house. He went to university in NZ, lived in Australia for four years and now lives in Petra (town) with his own family - selling artisan souvenirs and his mothers book "Married to a Bedouin".
The amazing thing about Petra, and Jordan as Ive seen so far is that being in this landscape doesnt feel like a foreign country. The limestone and sandstone geology is similar to ours in SA, the climate is very similar (Ive done a straight swap of our Autumn for their spring). OK, the camels may be a little out of place (although I have ridden one at Victor Harbor), but there are even Gum trees here! And it is as dry as home. I dont feel out of place here. And.....my eye is gaining an appreciation for Jordanian men. Only my eye, mind.
Im so glad I came.
Tomorrow - WADI RUM!!