If I ask you to picture the country of Jordan, I can almost guarantee that one particular image will spring to mind. An image of one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, of a UNESCO World Heritage Site made famous by the movie ‘India Jones and the Last Crusade’ – of course I am referring to the Treasury of Petra, the shining star of the Rose Red City.
The incredible sight of Petra’s Treasury facade was one that I was fortunate to view from three different approaches, three completely different perspectives, at three very different and contrasting times of day and night. Each time it came into view the excitement I felt recurred, and got stronger – I don’t think I could ever tire of seeing this amazing place. Travelling on the 11 day Road to Jerusalem tour, I got to spend two days in Wadi Musa, the entrance town for the lost city. We had a ticket which allowed unlimited entry into the site for two days. I had dreamed of coming to Jordan for what feels like forever and my first viewing of the Treasury was stunning, romantic, almost eerie, and mysterious.
Petra by Night
Three times a week the Treasury is illuminated by candles and moonlight accompanied by an acoustic traditional performance, which travellers can experience for themselves on a Petra by Night excursion. On our visit a full moon led us through the long narrow passage of the Siq, and being our first visit we were full of excited expectation to see the famous facade and not knowing when the at moment would be. The journey through the Siq was an unexpected delight in itself; in the shadows I could make out images in the rocks around me – were they real, was it my imagination, did I just pass by faces looking down at us, was that a temple on the right?
As we walked my concentration was on the changing terrain of the path and the rings of gold cast out by the pathway of candles. My senses we supercharged, my camera was clicking and everyone was silent as we shuffled along. The further we walked the narrower the passage became and the candles closer together, then it got darker and the sound of an instrument playing grew louder, then bam! There is was, glorious! A sea of tiny orange flames ebbing to the hauntingly mesmerising music and lighting up the facade of the Treasury, my first view was greater than I could have imagined.
Petra by Day
The next morning we were up early for a full day of exploration. Meeting outside the entrance some of our group decided to experience the first 800 metres on horseback, a novel mode of transportation that also provides income for local people. Walking down the Siq yet again – the very same I had encountered under moonlight 12 hours earlier, could have been on another planet! It was such a different experience, seeing the colours and shapes within the rock corridors changing in front of my eyes as the sun changed position in the sky. Trees, shrubs and flowers clinging to the sides of the rocks provided bursts of colour against the earthy rocky passageways.
I never expected how much more there was to see on the way into the Treasury. There were ancient caves, funerary monuments, initiation sites, temple caves and dedication points. The terrain changed about halfway through our walk, from gravel and rocks underfoot, to stone and sand. The passageway narrowed as we approached the end of the Siq and then there is was again! My second viewing of The Treasury, this time in daylight, was another fabulous experience. We got to get up close and discover new vantage spots. Selfies, groupies, jumpies – we were snapping every creative and unexpected angle. The novelty didn’t grow old.
Petra from above – The secret entrance!
We spent the entire previous day discovering Petra – accomplishing the mammoth climb to the Monastery, exploring the Roman amphitheatre, villages of caves and more. On our final day our guide offered those with energy in reserve the chance to trek a ‘secret path’ to what he promised would be an even bigger highlight. How on earth can there be a bigger highlight?!
Led to an undisclosed pathway we started out climb on a route marked by rock markers and natural indicators. There were ridges, small valleys, flat stretches, more caves and footholds, though at times the best route was to slide down on our bottoms. The diversity of this trek was a highlight in itself! Two and a half hours later we were sweaty and dusty, but we’d made it. Our guide was beaming, he had a surprise. He urged us to go near the edge of a ridge and peer over the other side – WOW!! We were looking down over the facade of the Treasury, right near the exit of the Siq where we could see people see this iconic landmark for the first time in awe. It was an exhilarating experience – indeed the highlight he had promised!
If you ever get the opportunity to experience the world wonder of Petra for yourself, my advice would be don’t hesitate, get on the go!