If the photograph looks familiar it’s because you’ve seen it before in the last scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The “treasury” serves as a secret temple lost for hundreds of years. In the film’s climactic final scenes, actors Harrison Ford and Sean Connery burst forth from the Siq (the narrow gorge passageway leading in) and walk deep into the labyrinths of the Treasury in their quest to find the Holy Grail. But, as usual, archaeological fact bowed to Hollywood fiction when Indy came to Petra.
Making the trek to Petra infact feels like you could be in an Indiana Jones movie as the lead up is mysterious but once you’re there it is truly an amazing sight to behold. Hidden deep in the mountains, one has to be there in person to really witness it as the ancient place is impossible to capture in normal still photographs. Literally carved directly into vibrant red, white, pink, and sandstone cliff faces, the prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was “lost” to the Western world. The City was rediscovered by a young Swiss explorer by the name of Johan Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
I made the trek crossing over from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt (where I was staying) to Eilat in Israel and then over to Petra, in Jordan. The borders are actually fairly close to each other so it didn’t take as long as it seems – maybe 3 hours. From Ammn in Jordon we took a bus ride for about two hours along nothing but sand tracks in the desert. Then the fun began; we rode on horseback until we reached the ancient red city carved in rock. We left our horses there and entered through the very narrow gorge (the Siq, shown in photo above) with a breathtaking view of the building called the “Treasury”.
It is called the “rose red city” for a good reason. Temples, tombs and other buildings are all carved out of the red sandstone cliffs. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
At its peak the city of Petra was home to some 20,000 Nabataeans who, in the midst of the desert, built an ingenious system of waterways to provide their city with the precious liquid.
Since the early 1800s, when it was “rediscovered,” clues to daily life in this “lost city of stone” are being unearthed and today we are beginning to see once again what Petra looked like 2,000 years ago.
Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, Petra was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.
I feel incredibly lucky that I had the opportunity to make this trek and witness in person the physical splendour of this ancient city.