All night long a stiff east wind had been blowing, the sign opposite our front door creaking as it swung on its hinges. Conditions for exploring Petra would be comfortably mild, but those of us who hadn’t worn a scarf to shield our face were to be troubled by the dust whipped up from time to time by the strong gusts.
The entry into Petra, after passing through the Visitors’ Centre, is in two stages. There is a 600m downward sloping path where walkers take the right hand road and horse-riders take the left. A horse-ride for this section was included in our pre-paid entry fee, but Khalid very wisely advised us that we would better appreciate our horse ride on the way back. How right he was! It was worth the US$3.00 tip we had to pay our horseman to lead us that last 600m.
At the end of this stretch we entered the siq, or canyon, through which visitors to Petra have travelled for thousands of years. The sides soared above us, the rock becoming ever pinker (with iron oxide) as we grew closer to the magical entrance to the “rose-red city” itself.
Khalid stopped us frequently (a little too frequently – we were impatient to get on and be there) to explain carved inscriptions, gods and water channels, but finally he called us all together to point out something high up on the rock wall to the side. No matter how hard we squinted we still couldn’t see what he was pointing at.
“Perhaps you’re looking in the wrong place”, he announced with a twinkle in his eye – and turned us in the direction of the path. Suddenly we gasped. We had our first glimpse of the view that has graced a thousand travelogues - the magnificent Treasury facade! (As I loitered there, snapping more photos, I heard the same scenario repeated by every guide wanting to build the dramatic moment for his flock.)
I thought our group photo on Mount Scopus with Jerusalem gloriously spread out below was pretty impressive, but you have to agree this one is wonderful too – even if Khalid, quite understandably, felt the backdrop was more important than the people!
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