Two structures in the vast experience of Petra had the most distinct impact on me as buildings and the way you see them for the first time: this is the second, and the “Treasury” was the first. In both cases, one first views the structure after an extended walk or donkey ride. For context, remember that we’re now around 3:30 or so, and my day began with a walk through the Siq before dawn, to get high above the Treasury before the sun fully illuminated it. We’ve now reached the pinnacle of the day, literally the highest point we’ll see. I introduced you to the building in its own right yesterday, so here let’s give you a geographic context.
In the first photo above, you see the town of Wadi Musa in the distance. Yes, I’ve walked all that way past everything I’ve been showing you since Petra.23, all in one spectacular day’s exploration 😊. In the panoramic shot immediately above, you begin to see how the mountains drop off to the left, which is to say to the west and north of this site. I’ll soon show you more of that view, because I did walk over to the last place you can (safely) walk, where the cliffs drop off to the desert and the border between the modern nation-states of Jordan and Israel, with to the north views of the region commonly called the Palestinian Territories, or the West Bank.
As you’ve seen, these hills are quite rugged, so the shot just below was taken from my perch atop another cliff which gave me this vantage. If I’d had the energy, I could have joined the brave few who followed a very narrow path and climbed up onto the roof of this building itself. I thought I’d managed to photograph some folks climbing up or down, or standing on top of that rounded cupola looking down at us, but I can’t find them in the vastness that is the building and its surroundings. A guide offered to take me up, but I knew I had the long walk back to Wadi Musa ahead of me, so I declined.
Tomorrow we’ll show you more of the views across the border, and then we’ll start our descent from this high perch down to the basin, Qasr al Bint, the Great Temple, and then back along the trail past the Royal Tombs, the Treasury, through the Siq and out to the modern town one last time. For better or worse, my friends, we’re nearing the end of this extended Petra series, but we’ll have enough posts to last through about Christmas, at which point I rather expect I’ll give us all a break from the daily doubles and most likely from posts, full-stop.
You should imagine Paul, belly full from a pretty decent lunch buffet with plenty of water and tea, now walking up a long path with a welcome amount of shade because I timed this for the afternoon when the cliffs on our left would provide some respite. The path leads to a building that is quite amazing, which is high enough up that it’s less than ten minutes further on to where you can look down over a precipitous drop from the edge of these mountains, over to the Negev Desert in Israel, and north to the Palestinian Territories. The vendors really wanted business. I may have bought more than I normally would, because it was just so clear that tourism was way lower than usual and everyone needs to earn a living. I don’t regret a single thing I bought :-). Below: the obligatory orientation shot to show you where the cliff face of the Royal Tombs sits as seen from this path. You’ll notice that we’re now higher up and farther away.
Here you see the Qasr al Bint (free-standing, square building to the lower left), which you’ve seen before, and also what remains of the Tempe of Winged Lions, to its right and slightly uphill. You can’t get into or walk around that temple, so I didn’t see the winged lions of which you can read below. Next posts, we begin the climb to the building called “The Monastery,” which as you’ll see from the map, is quite a piece uphill to the right, as seen in this photo.
As you see two shots above, we’re now just downhill from the Blue Church, under that roof. Which I assume is there to protect these mosaics, which are pretty cool when you think how long they’ve held up in this climate :-).
We’ll be showing you some Byzantine ruins today and tomorrow, still following more or less the sequence in which I saw and photographed things after I left the overlook above “The Treasury.” You can see why they call this the blue church :-). In two of the shots below you’ll see a modern tent-like rooftop, which covers what seems to be the main church – check the map and you’ll see these are just next to each other. Mosaics from beneath that roof coming tomorrow :-). In another shot, you’ll see the cliff face with the “Royal Tombs,” as in one of the photos I showed yesterday. I also mis-stated a bit yesterday: in the first photo below, you’ll see another ruin between these columns and the mountain — that’s also the Winged Lion Temple.
= You may recall that your last glimpses of Petra were my tea stop during my walk back down from that lovely morning spent watching the sun rise high enough to shine directly on the whole “Treasury.” That trail brought me back down to the Royal Tombs, which you see in the first photo, taken from a ways down the path. Turning around to look ahead, you’d see what’s in the photo just above: the path leading onward through the Colonnaded Street towards Qasr al Bint, the Church (the real Byzantine Church), the Great Temple, and the paths leading up towards the (so-called) “Monastery,” which was yet a further one hour +/- from Qasr al Bint, which is that large free-standing structure in the distance on the photo above. Make note of it – and remark that it stands out quite literally, in that unlike nearly all other Natabataean ruins here, it’s free-standing instead of carved out of the cliff faces. Below are a few more shots taken along the walk down towards that structure and others in the basin at the base of this path. In the days ahead you’ll see more of the (real, Byzantine) churches, and other sites along the road. If you’d like to follow along and have a sense of what’s yet to come, remember I put a map (click on that word) in one of the earlier posts here. I’ll post most of these remaining Petra posts (I’m guessing it’ll take about two more weeks to wrap up our Petra tour, depending how many posts I choose to break it into) mostly in the order in which I saw things, as I walked those paths you see on the map. It’s a very enveloping experience, being in Petra :-).
One last view of the treasury, in 360-degree video reality for those of you with sufficient bandwidth to load it, so you can see me in situ at the beginning of my morning contemplating the beauty of the universe. If you’ve had enough of Petra, then … sorry, there’s still more to come, another eight hours or so of hiking and, if you go back to the map I posted in Petra.3, you will note that once I climbed back down to ground level at the base of the Royal Tombs, well…there’s a lot more of Petra left to be seen, and see nearly all of it I in fact did.
We come to the highlight of my morning on high: sitting in stillness for a few hours as the sun rose, the day warmed, and remarkably few tourists made it up to these heights to enjoy watching the line of sun versus shadow steadily creep lower and lower on the Treasury. A reminder: it’s not a treasury, it’s a tomb. Most of these buildings were tombs, but later generations decided money must be hidden there so they called it a treasury. Above is a photo taken out of sequence, and I chose it because it gives you a sense how the Treasury sits within the cliffs and hills of the landscape, not because it’s the best view of the building itself. 🙂
There’s a lot more of Petra to come – also more from Jerash and Amman. I hope the rest of the photos below this will appear: I’ve had trouble with more complicated formats so it’s possible they will disappear, as they did when I first put this post up yesterday….It’s a lot more of this building then you ever thought you’d want to see, but it was a lovely morning.