I knew as soon as I booked a trip to Israel that I wanted to find a way to get to Petra, Jordan, too.
Years ago, I'd seen the city, carved into rocks, in a photo in a magazine. It immediately went on the travel to-do list. Since visiting, I think a fair amount about Petra, the "Pink City."
It feels mysterious and unknowable. But it was astounding, nevertheless, to walk down the main "street," in the place that was home to the nomadic Nabataeans, who began settling in the Petra Valley in the 4th century, B.C.E.
What remains for visitors now are tombs and mausoleums, remains of a colonnaded street and ruins of temples, altars and rocks and more rocks, variegated in color with reds, oranges, and browns striated with black.
I like how the Jordan Tourism Board puts it: "The giant red mountains and vast mausoleums of a departed race have nothing in common with modern civilization, and ask nothing of it except to be appreciated at their true value - as one of the greatest wonders ever wrought by Nature and Man."
Having never heard of the Nabataeans until shortly before my visit, I did just that: appreciated a great wonder for what it was. Beautiful, unique, special. Not simple to get to but worth it.
The admission fee is hefty. About $60 if I remember correctly, or 90 Jordanian dollars if you want to check today's exchange rate.
The cost is almost halved if you stay overnight in Jordan, instead of staying in Eilat, Israel, and visiting for the day, as we did. It's the country's way of getting more money into its economy and why shouldn't they?
After entering, you start walking down the Siq.
The mile-long narrow gorge reminded me of Canyonlands in southern Utah. The passage narrows at points as it winds through wavy walls of rock.
When you come to the end, a sight that stuns comes into view. The Treasury building--or Al-Khazneh--golden when lit by the sun, pinkish at other times.
The tomb of a king, carved in the early first century. Surely the most photographed building in Petra. And the most complete structure remaining.
And in this place, abandoned by the Nabataeans centuries ago, mills a rabble of police, security guards, vendors, camels, ersatz guards with spears who will pose for your photos, locals in keffiyeh and assorted visitors from Jordan, Israel, Canada, the United States.
All united in awe.
Photos: Ellen Perlman