Our local guide had everyone link hands and close their eyes. Not really understanding why, everyone begrudgingly abided and lined-up on one edge of the canyon. The walls of the steep canyon tower 50 stories above our heads on each side, while we stand in a gap so small that you can sometimes touch both sides. The canyon looks as though it were carved and painted, presenting a natural beauty that seems to add mystique to the experience. The canyon, known as the Siq, is nearly empty due to our early start, a choice most people won’t appreciate until they make the return journey amidst the daytime crowds.
The Siq was actually carved, but not by the roughly 30 thousand people estimated to have lived here almost 2000 years ago. A giant sandstone slab of rock was split by an earthquake before being worn smooth by water over hundreds of years. Later additions, such as the Roman paving stones or the exquisitely cut mini-aqueducts on each side of the canyon can go almost unnoticed as visitors stare up at the immense 1.5 km canyon they are walking through. This wasn’t the usual front door, archaeologists now believe it was the royal entrance, reserved for special visitors and important caravans.
My first trip to Jordan was only half for work. I tagged along on a friend’s tour of the country, enjoying the nice things about being on an organized group tour without having any of the responsibility. I spent a bit of time with our passengers, but mostly I was intrigued by the locals. To this day, I consider Jordanians to be some of the most genuine people on earth. I have since been back dozens of times as Jordan is a place I will never tire of.
The group, eyes closed, stumbles forward one step at a time. With arms linked, 15 people shuffling with eyes closed into the final gap of a massive canyon in front of one of the most recognizable monuments on earth would have appeared to be quite the ridiculous sight had anyone else been around to witness it. Our guide chuckled and lead the group that extra 10 meters forward before saying “Open your eyes!” as the entire group let out a gasp.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the Treasury of Petra many times, whether on this site, in travel books, in your own travels, or by watching The Last Crusade. The massive facade is carved directly into solid sandstone, standing almost the same height as a 14-story building. Petra’s significance is truly unique in its strange mix of architecture and theology. A statue of Isis sits below a Nabatean/Greek eagle, with Victories on each side. Castor & Pollux, sons of Zeus, flank the bottom entranceway. Everywhere there are dramatic lines that even today seem to have been cut perfectly.
Among all the perfect lines, shades of blue, green, yellow, black, and grey all crisscrossing, the natural red shade of the rock seems to overpower everything else. Despite being one of the most amazing carvings in the world, it seems as though nature feels it should get the credit.
As everyone dashed off to various corners of the open plaza to snap photos, I said “It’s amazing… To think that we are walking in the footsteps of kings, royalty, & adventurers…”
“Forget the kings,” my friend replied calmly. “You’re walking in the footsteps of Harrison Ford.”
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