This post was written about April 10, 2014.
I had wanted to visit Petra ever since I was a small child. I’d seen a documentary on it when I was about 7 or 8, and then, of course, I’d seen the Indiana Jones movie that was set there. Several friends of mine had visited and I’d seen their photos – this was at the very top of my must-see travel lists.
Matt and I had planned to have two full days in Petra and we’d also planned our week’s itinerary around being able to attend the famed “Night show” at The Treasury. After our dusty camel ride out of Wadi Rum, we enjoyed a very scenic two hour car journey to Petra. Checking into the Petra Palace hotel early was not a problem (they let us use our room to shower even before they’d had it cleaned!) and freshened up, we felt ready to take on the giant historical site.
Following Yoann’s suggestions (whom we’d met in Wadi Rum) we walked the full six miles all the way to the Monastery first and then back-tracked to visit what sites we wanted to, always knowing how much energy we had left to make it the full distance out of the site. After purchasing tickets and descending a pale rock gorge, one enters a tunnel-like bright red rock gorge known as “The Siq”. It was so beautiful, so narrow, with walls towering either side of you – the sight of it, plus the emotion I was feeling at the realization that I was finally here, after all these years, moved me to tears.
After about 3 kilometres, you emerge from The Siq and your eyes are immediately drawn to The Treasury – one of the most stunning ancient buildings I’ve ever seen – carved out of the red rock possibly as early as 312 BCE as the capital city of the Nabataeans. I was so immersed in the beauty of the Siq that it wasn’t until I caught Matt staring at me, waiting to see my reaction to my first glimpse of The Treasury, that I actually noticed it.
I do not have words to describe how it felt to be in it’s presence. Something like awe.
The entire city of Petra continued to defy belief as we walked the miles to the “end” of the main city to a site known as The Monastery. Stopping to enjoy a traditional Mint with Lemon after climbing over 800 steps, we sat and just soaked in the atmosphere.
Summoning a little more energy, we climbed a little higher up to a viewpoint known as the High Place, with godlike views over the peaks down to the far-distant Wadi Araba, over 1000m below.
Heading back as the sun was starting to go down and the crowds had already left the site, was a real treat as we felt as if we increasingly had the site to ourselves. The temperature was also a little more forgiving. We took in the Roman Collonade, imagining what it might have been like to live here in Roman times, the incredible Amphitheatre, and of course, all the numerous royal tombs.
By the time we got back to the Treasury, there were no more horse carriages taking people back up through the Siq. We were going to grab one back to the main entrance to save our legs (and Matt’s poor ankle which gives him a lot of trouble) because we knew we were going to be turning around and walking back down to the Siq in less than two hours for Petra by Night!
It was pretty special to have the Siq all to ourselves though.
We grabbed a quick dinner and got in line for the almost procession-like descent back through the Siq at nightfall. The entire route was lit with ground-based candles, making it feel almost like a religious experience.
Arriving to the Treasury, the entire land mass in front of the edifice was a sea of candles and we were all shown a row to sit in and take in the atmosphere. After a few minutes, once the several hundred people had found a comfortable place to sit or stand, a man came out and started playing a flute-like instrument.
It was hauntingly beautiful.
That is, until he had played in excess of 15 minutes. At which point, you just started wanting it to change or stop altogether. Was this it? We’d paid to come down the Treasury to listen to an hour of Flute?
Matt and I proceeded to giggle incessantly after pointing out to one another that this show could use some production value and choreography. I suggested a Las Vegas style show with dancers doing high kicks to Arabian music. Matt got me laughing so hard I almost snorted suggesting that if this show were being staged in the States, they’d simply cover “that old monument thing” with a giant cinema screen and project the most awesome scenes from Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, with lots of loudspeakers blaring the musical anthem to rev up the crowd. Then I suggested that they hire an Harrison Ford Look-a-like to then “appear” high above the crowd to zip-line his way over our heads for the grand finale.
It was a memorable night, not for the candles and flute playing, but for painful laughter-suppression hour I shared with my wonderful boyfriend.