Sunday, May 9, 2010


For over a thousand years, the Nabataean Kingdom welcomed travelers, traders and visitors to the magnificent rose-red city of Petra, with the offer of safe passage, supplies of food and water and a place to rest for the night. Hidden amongst steep canyons in present day Jordan, the entire city sat at the cross-roads of ancient commercial trade routes, controlling all trade north towards Damascus and Europe, west towards Egypt and Africa, and south into the formidable Arabian desert towards India and the rest of Asia!

Spending three nights and two full days in Petra, I was able to take my time, and visit all of the major sights at my leisure. Some of the highlights include, arriving through the Siq (canyon), bathed in colorful streaks of pink and orange, and catching a sliver of a glimpse of the magnificently preserved “Treasury” though a narrow gap in the canyon walls; hiking up to the top of the canyon opposite from the Treasury to get a whole new perspective of the iconic structure; scrambling up an unmarked trail through an overgrown ravine to discover a deserted overhang on the cliffs above the Royal Tombs for a picnic lunch and a nap in the middle of the day; and hiking up to the High Place of Sacrifice, and down the back side of the mountain.

The Nabataeans were a desert tribe indigenous to the area. As master sculptors, they carved tombs with wonderful facades into the canyon walls, employing elements from Greek, Roman and Egyptian architectural styles. Because they lived primarily in tents, the actual city where they lived is no longer in existence, leaving only the remnants of the tombs and temples which they built around.

Walking through the ancient ruins of what remains today, Petra has surprisingly changed little from the time of the height of its influence. The rhythmic trotting of horse drawn chariots as they move through the narrow confines of the cobbled stone Siq still echo through the canyon walls. It continues to host visitors from all over the world with hawkers and coffee shops still lining the streets selling, food, drink and wares (mostly touristy souvenirs) to the visitors. Back at my hotel, I am sitting around a table having dinner with a group of backpackers representing France, Canada, America, Austria, Italy, Holland and Britain. All night long, we share jokes about travel mishaps, exchange travel tips, befriend each other on Facebook and extend an open invitation for each other to visit our home countries in the future. In so many ways, the city of Petra today has remained true to the original. A cosmopolitan city attracting people from all over the world; a center for the trading of ideas and opinions across cultures. If anything did change, it has only evolved and adapted itself to fit the needs of the 21st century traveler!


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