With no plane to catch, our wake up call is later than usual. Last night, we arrived after dark, so it is this morning that we take in our first glimpse of our surroundings. The views from the spacious decks of our luxury hotel overlook the sculpted rock formations adjoining Petra, one of the wonders of our world. Sadly, the morning skies are grey and there is a steady drizzle of rain, but the carved and weathered canyons unfolding beyond are breathtaking and inviting exploration. I am disappointed when our hike into Petra is postponed. To pass the time, I pay $10.00 to the hotel for internet connection and manage to send e-mail for one hour. The hour passes quickly; the rain subsides and by late morning our group begins the hike from our hotel into the canyons of Petra. Ordinarily, I have a vision of what to expect; but I know little about Petra and I take each step savoring the moment and without preconception. I am a geologist daughter and the hike itself is the adventure as well as the reward. For the first half mile the landscape is an expansive canyon of weathered rock formations on either side, narrowing imperceptibly as we proceed. We walk gently downhill, stopping frequently to listen to our guide explain the terrain and the archeological significance of this remarkable area. We reach a junction where a small and dry dam protects a narrow canyon branching off from the main artery. As the canyon narrows, I am delighted by the colors of the canyon walls; folds of red, black, ochre and grey rock create an abstract painting and I wish for better light and fewer tourists in order too take my photos. I wish that this canyon to go on indefinitely; but 3/4 of a mile further on, at the final snake of the canyon, the architectural splendor of Petra unfolds. The monumental facade of a building, over 200 feet high is carved into the rose colored rock face of the canyon wall. Please don't test me on the particulars of Petras' history; but as I understand, the city flourished in the 1st century B.C. and A.D. Petra was the thriving hub of commerce and trade. Frankincense oil, gold and spices were of considerable value and were stored and traded within Petra. Caravans arrived and departed from Petra.
"The ancient city of Petra was literally carved from the sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan. There the Nabataeans built temples and tombs, houses and halls, altars and aqueducts. And they built a civilization that stood at the crossroads of the ancient Near East, a center for commerce as the spice routes and trading trails of the time all flowed through Petra. At its peak the city of Petra was home to some 20,000 Nabataeans who, in the midst of the desert, built an ingenious system of waterways to provide their city with the precious liquid."
All is utterly breathtaking and unimaginable.