It was cloudy when we left Aqaba but all of the forecasts predicted that rain would cease around midday when we were set to arrive in the ancient city of Petra. Situated in the Wadi Musa, Petra was established by the Nabateans around 400 years before Christ. In its heyday, it was home to 30,000 people.
What happened here?
The Romans came and colonized and built their amphitheaters, baths, and shopping colonnades and then the earthquake took care of the rest. It was a well-kept secret for over 1,000 years until a Swiss explorer rode into the city disguised as a holy man. The game was up and it was on the tourist map. But this is no ordinary place. Cut into the sandstone and chiseled into huge blocks of pink and red cliff, this place has everything….except decent places to grab a bite to eat and a cup of tea!
Standing by the main palace entrance, walking into the tombs, or wandering down the narrow, towering vertical walls are some of those extraordinary moments in travel when you pinch yourself. Running through the Siq is one of the great walks of travel. It is a walk of anticipation that was made into a sacred way by the Nabateans who had their eye for a dramatic moment or two clearly.
You don’t know whether to put your camera down or just keep hitting the shutter. Then you spill out onto the masterpiece called the Treasury. It is like a movie set. It is a movie set and the tour has not really begun. We spent the best part of six hours there.
The houses carved into the cliffs go on and on. You can get lost as you wander down that valley. Imagine that this place was practically shut down for 1,500 years? No water (the aqueducts were broken) and no civilization. Just a few Bedouin’s holding one of the great secrets of time. Somehow most of it hung in there. If you have never dreamed of going to Petra, go! We came in on a horse and we left on a camel. Incidentally, it was only an hour ride on the camel but it felt like a month. I had so much more respect for Peter O’Toole than ever before!
Back to Aqaba for an evening dinner and an early departure.