Spectacular Petra

Story and pictures by HOO BAN KHEE

I CHATTED with a group of Malaysians at a small stall while admiring the desert trail that wound through the spectacular stony outcrops of Petra.

Here was the dramatic backdrop for Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, the Last Crusade, and it was a sight to behold.

Star attraction: Tourists admiring The Treasury, dramatically captured in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

Some well-decorated camels were lazing under the shade, waiting for tourists who were game enough to go for a ride. There were two or three donkeys grazing on clusters of grass in the desert sand, and a playful poodle was running around trying to create some excitement.

Farther down is The Treasury, its magnificent, 40m-high, temple-like façade sculptured out of the hill. The massive monument with its huge Roman columns was built during the Nabatean empire around 56BC. Under the blazing sun, it turned a kind of rose-red.

Clusters of massive outcrops dominated the skyline. Further down on the trail, the silence was broken by the sound of galloping horses. Horsemen were charging at their animals, which were running helter-skelter. The scene is almost timeless but for the tourists milling around, the small children peddling souvenir postcards, and the small stalls selling cold drinks and knick-knacks.

Colourful horse cart: One interesting means of transport for tourists in Petra.

Even if you’re not a die-hard fan of Indiana Jones, the stupendous architecture of Petra warrants a visit. It is now a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the seven new wonders of the world.

Petra was once a thriving trade city at the crossroad of major caravan routes. In its hey days, there were some 70,000 residents who left behind a rich legacy well preserved in the dry and hot climate.

Besides The Treasury, the ruins of the Roman street, the wall carvings depicting the caravan trade, the dams and other relics point to Petra being a civilisation once greatly influenced by the Romans.

Roman Legacy: Tourists dwarfed by the huge columns in Jerash, a former Roman city.

Because of its unique landscape, Petra is an ideal site for product launches, exotic car shows, concerts and corporate parties – but only after nightfall, when the temperature cools down to around 20°C.

Located between the Dead Sea in the north and the Red Sea in the south of Jordan, Petra draw tens of thousands of visitors every year, partly due to the publicity from the Indy movie. As I stood back to admire The Treasury, majestic and imposing, it was not difficult to see why George Lucas and Steve Spielberg chose Petra for the Last Crusade.

[Courtesy of The Star, http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2012/7/14/lifetravel/11631830&sec=lifetravel]

Category: Travelogue @ Petra