“Match me such a marvel,
save in Eastern clime,
a rose red city
half as hold as time…”
(John William Burgon)
One afternoon is really not much time, not even to grasp the magnificient beauty of Petra: a lost city, carved in rose-red rock, born two thousand years ago (although nobody really knows precisely when it was built). Indiana Jones made his way through its fascinating paths on the movie screen, but in the first century BC this city was already a huge commerce hub for traders in frankincense and spices. Over the years, the influence from the various empires that dominated Petra gave amazing architectonic structures and monuments to this city, which have been remarkably preserved to this day!
For more than ten centuries, Petra was abandoned and forgotten. Exception made to a local community of Bedouins, nobody lived there or visited for a long long time, and the city was considered a myth, kind of a lost Atlantis. In 1812, the Swiss explorer Johannes Ludwig Burckhardt convinced the Bedouins to let him in and when he found himself face to face with the Treasury (the city’s most magnificent facade), he understood the importance of writing about it and for everyone to know. And that’s what he did when he came back to Cairo, and Petra began attracting visitors from all over the world again.
In one afternoon I only managed to see half of the main things that the four kilometers walk offers. It’s almost impossible not to stop at every turn, gasp with marvel and take thousands of pictures. Petra reveals itself corner after corner in the first trait of walk, called the Siq, a passage in the rocks formed by water over the centuries.
Both naturally and artificially created, the Siq was crucial to control and distribute the water in the city, and with its system of channels it really helped preserving Petra to this day. While walking along the Siq, pay special attention to the horse carriages that ride at full speed (if you don’t want to be knocked down – I mean, there’s plenty of tombs in Petra, no need to add yours).
The Siq leads to the amazing Al Khazna Treasury, a pink stone building dated around 1 A.D., almost 40 metres high. Its impressive facade is beautifully decorated with figures and Corinthians capitals and is crowned by a funerary urn. Was it once used to store the Pharaoh’s treasure? That’s what the legend believes (the Pharaoh wanted a place big enough to contain all his treasure, because it was not safe for him to carry it around), but the exact purpose of this fenomenal building is still a fascinating mystery.
The Street of Facades parades a row of monumental tombs carved in the cliff, and it works as an interesting walk before arriving to the beautiful Theatre (carved at the foot of the High Place of Sacrifice), with its seven stairways of seats, able to accommodate up to 4000 spectators back in the day!
The Theatre was the last place in Petra that I’ve been able to see due to the short time available… A comeback is definitely on my bucket list, to complete the whole path and tick off the following must-sees:
– the Royal Tombs Trail
– the Numphaeum
– the Great Temple
– the High Place of Sacrifice
– the Monastery.
Petra is considered World Heritage Site, and one of the New Seven World Wonders. And it’s really worth a visit, because you won’t see anything like this in the whole world.
A legendary fable city that survived history and it reveals, in its richness and marvellousness, in front of your eyes.
Have you been to Petra? What was your exprience, and do you have any special suggestions?