Petra – the rock

It is coloured rocks – pink, blue, ochre, red, orange, black, cream, turquoise, charcoal grey, purple, silver grey, mauve, magenta, beige.

It is wind swept rocks, smoothed over by time and craggy rocks towering above you.

It is crevices and gullies, gorges and sandy plains, rocky ledges and caves.

And the Nebataeans came and conquered the rocks.

They turned the massive gorge into a defence causeway, more than 1km long, where echoes passed messages of intruders.

They carved channels into the lower rock to feed water into Petra – right side for drinking, left side for ablutions.

They carved niches into the rocks to manage the echoes and to hold icons.

They carved caves into the rocks to hold their dead.

They carved an ampitheatre out of rock to seat 6,000 people.

But their most amazing feat was the “Royal Tombs” carved into the rock. Imagine a lump of rock, say 80 or 90 metres high. Then imagine starting at the top and carving an urn into the top of the rock. A little lower down in a perfectly vertical line, carve out a few columns topped by a frieze, perhaps in the shape of a pair of broken pediments either side of a rotunda. Include a few statues within the columns. Always carved into the existing rock. Keep working down and carve some more columns topped with beautiful capitals of Nebataean or Greco Roman or perhaps Egyptian style. Carve magnificent doorways into the rock leading to square carved chambers. And the purpose of carving a magnificent ediface into the rock is to bury their dead, gloriously.

This is Petra.

We spent two days exploring “most” of it.

We returned in the evening, walking the 2½km from the visitor’s centre, amongst an excited group of many languages, guided by candles.

We sat on the hard rocky ground in front of the candle lit Treasury and listened to music and heard stories “imagine the times…”. Not a son et lumière, something far more delightful and memorable.

Bruce’s vision of Petra