The donkey looked me square in the eye and challenged me to pass without taking its picture, stepping left, it shifted, stepping right, same response. There was nothing to be done, but place my backpack down, accept the inevitable and acquiesce to the wishes of my wannabe model. Several minutes later, after he seemed satisfied I was permitted to continue on my merry way, well at least until I met the camels! It’s tough being a photographer at Petra, in Jordan.
Red-Rose of UNESCO
Petra, known as the “rose red city” is one of those places most people recognise without possibly knowing the name, or even where it is located. The ancient Nabataean city, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but for many it is recognisable for the cameo appearance of the “Treasury” in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.
Just outside the entrance Indiana Jones memorabilia is popular, several shops sell hats and even whips, alongside miniature, pottery treasuries and cotton scarves.
After purchasing tickets, there are several ways navigate the steep sided canyon, known as the Siq which leads to the city, horseback, horse drawn carriage or shank’s pony, yes that’s right walking. Most of our group chose the latter, enjoying the narrative of our guide as he explained some of the most significant sites along the 2km passage and avoiding the fast-moving carriages, careering through the narrow gorge.
More from Jordan: Jordan: Jordan; Beyond Petra in Pictures
I soon got my first glimpse of the Treasury as the Siq comes to an end, the sandstone pillars just coming into view glinting in the afternoon sun, a silent whistle escaping my pursed lips. Of course, I’d seen the film and seen images of the Treasury in magazines and television documentaries, but as it emerged into full view the only thing to do was stand back and admire.
Our group was whisked away quickly for lunch, which was probably quite tasty, but I was itching to get back out and explore, so barely tasted our meal.
We were afforded a whole hour to explore, which seemed dismally short, especially considering my encounter with the camera-friendly donkey, but that’s the challenge of a press trip.
Even so, wandering aimlessly along the “Roman Highway” taking photographs whenever seemed appropriate, seemed the only way to absorb the splendour of Petra.
It’s not only the Treasury that is spectacular, but there are plenty of impressive structures including the Street of Facades, Royal Tombs, Roman Theatre and Monastery. In the modern age of towering buildings of glass and steel, the grandeur of the monuments of Petra, which were constructed between 6th century BC and 1st century AD are testament to the ingenuity and engineering skills of ancient civilisations.
Read about culture in Oman: Sultanate of Oman – A Culture of Welcome
The sandstone structures carved into the rugged hills of the Jordanian landscape had a shiny orange and yellow glint in the mid-afternoon sun. The distinctive red for which it is better known became apparent as the sun crept lower in the sky and the light softened.
A steady stream of visitors on horses, camels or foot browsed the souvenir stalls, stopped for refreshments or posed for photographs in front of the famous buildings. However, I had expected to see many more, and it seems tourism in Jordan maybe suffering a backlash from the reputation of its rowdy neighbourhood.
A welcome in Jordan: Postcards from Coffee Club in Jordan
It is also possible to visit Petra at night, and from some of the images I’ve seen it is especially beautiful and atmospheric in the twilight, lit by hundreds of candles. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to have this included in our itinerary, but if the opportunity arises, take it!
The horse wranglers offered us a ride to avoid the draining (their description) walk back through the Siq, but this would only have appealed if we’d been able to gallop out Indiana Jones style. Instead, a slow stroll back to the hotel provided ample opportunity to contemplate the stunning grandeur of historic Petra.