Jun 15, 2007
Before coming, I thought of Petra as only the "Treasury" which was made famous by the third "Indiana Jones" movie. But Petra is actually a major city that prospered from 400 BC to 200 AD, and includes 800 registered historic sites.
After walking through a gate, where a guard collects your ticket, you walk down a hill past massive pillars and a couple of temples.
From there, you head into the Siq. It's an amazing two hundred foot deep crevice (70m), with vertical walls, and at times it narrows down to only 6 feet (2m) wide. The Siq wasn't formed by water erosion, but instead by tectonic forces, which literally ripped the rock right in half.
I'm one of the hypocritical tourists who most enjoys places where there aren't any other tourists. But here in this massive crevice, the tour groups seemingly disappear, diminutivized by the immense scale.
The Siq empties out directly into the Treasury. Built in a narrow crevice, and sheltered from the wind, it has survived for more than 1800 years in immaculate condition, with all of the intricate detail remaining intact.
Oddly, and this is true for all of the temples in Petra, the treasury is amazing and intricate on the outside; the inside is nothing but a plain, empty room.
After the treasury, the crowds really do disappear. The tour groups seem go to the Treasury and no further. I continue downhill. The space opens up from being a narrow crevice to an open valley. On either side of the valley, there are more and more temples and tombs built into the hills on either side.
I climb up to the "Urn Tomb". Here I'm struck by the lack of handrails or safety railings. Off the side of the Urn Tomb, there are steep cliffs, with no barricades or warnings at all. If you're not paying attention, you really could easily fall to your death here. I like it. This bit of danger makes the experience feel a bit more authentic, and a lot more fun.
I walk down through an arched entrance, and through a pillared walkway with temples on either side. From there, it's up and up along a twisty walkway to the massive "Monastery" on top of a hill. It's huge. The Treasury is better preserved, but I found the Monastery to be more impressive - 150 feet wide and 140 feet high. The name comes from the fact that some monks lived here during the crusades, but the original temple goes back 2000 years.
The entire time that I was walking through Petra, I had a feeling that was a bit surreal. It felt more like the Lord of the Rings with everything built on an absurdly epic scale, just for the point of being epic, to make the story better. In real life, things just aren't built this way.
Petra was truly spectacular. Come and see it someday.
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