by Khalid Shihabi
People do not learn or grow by standing still; people have legs so they can wander. Throughout the years I had developed a lust for travel and exploration. So much that I moved to different countries often. I explored cities, and discovered the echoes of civilizations, but most captivating was a city I had visited that is thought to be more than 2000 years old. An ancient city that had been referenced in biblical scriptures and was of vital importance for every civilization that had settled there, like Christian Byzantine. Follow my journey through the 'Lost City of Petra'.
On an early summer morning after departing from Amman on a three-hour drive we arrived in Petra. My guide had warned me about the local Bedouins, who had adopted the ancient city's borders as their place of residence. They seemed to have adjusted to benefit and profit from tourism, many of them volunteered as guides or rented their animals to visitors to ride through Petra. Early in the day the children and the women merchants can be seen wandering Petra distributing water and handmade souvenirs.
The beauty of Petra is in its landscape, in its colors, in its history and most of all in its architecture. The majority of the remaining structures were partly built and partly carved into the mountain itself. One of the most iconic structures, the treasury that derives its name from a legend where loot was hidden inside of the monument, but in reality, it was used as a tomb likely for a king. At the exterior, it was decorated with various figures that were worshiped by the Nabatean Arabs, who had initially built Petra. Ironically, however, Petra’s landscape and structures are so huge and enormous that you could easily miss important details by forgetting to look around you or above you. To give you a sense of how enormous the landscape is, I had attempted to use the people in the background of the image as a scale.
On a hot summer day hiking Petra was a daunting task, but surely worth it. I decided to walk off the main path to explore Petra’s less ventured areas. I jumped, climbed, and crawled over the mountains until I got to the highest point. Every step I took echoed through Petra and I felt so liberated in my isolation. I was in awe of the view. You can never truly appreciate the sheer size of the place and other timely architecture by staying on the ground. For a second, I had forgotten time itself and I felt overwhelmed by what I was looking at.
I continued on, walking to the middle of nowhere and found bizarre mountains, formations and landscapes. I could be walking through an almost barren desert and a moment later I’d be looking at a massive cliff with multiple caves, likely used by the early settlers of the area as shelter. I was so far up the mountains, but I was not alone. I could hear steps, but I couldn’t see anything. And then I spotted my follower, a majestic looking goat that was silently watching me. I imagined it to be thinking “Get off my rock, human!” as our eyes met.
Petra is a place that any travel enthusiast must visit. Dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it is one of the greatest testimonies to Arabia's rich history. For those familiar with Greek mythology, I dare to say that the beauty of the Lost City shadows Olympus itself.
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