How many times has this picture been taken over the years? Or sketched, drawn, painted, or simply etched into memory?
Petra was the centre of a Kingdom- the bustling, busy hub for Nabatean caravan routes from Damascus to Aqaba, and Gaza to the Persian Gulf. It was built to impress, and now as then it still succeeds. The Nabateans have mostly faded from popular histories outside of their great masterpiece here, but this remains a testament to skill and purpose.
Two things strike me from visiting- firstly, the aptitude they had for copying designs of the other great cultures of the world- a walk through Petra is like a rock-cut version tour of Athens, Rome and the far-east- and secondly, the incredible architectural precision achieved over 2000 years ago.
The Treasury (pictured) is the figurehead for a visit to the site these days, but even more interesting (to me) are the early representations of the gods of the Nabateans. They take symmetry and balance to a new level- the first deities here were perfect cubes, lacking any human features. Perhaps the gods were assumed to not need to stoop to mimicking the look of mere mortals, or perhaps geometry and equilibrium was the purest form of worship. Maybe someone knows; I don't. But I enjoy guessing.
Petra is best visited with imagination: for what it was like when 30,000 inhabitants looked out from their caves on the passing trade, and also now imagination for all the secrets that are still hidden under the sands, or that have been lost to time.
It is a place that lives up to expectation. Perhaps that's the greatest compliment I can pay it...