As much as I had read and seen ("Raiders of the Lost Ark") about Petra in Jordan I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Few places can live up to the hype that they inspire. Perhaps it was because it was in the last few days of an exciting, exotic Middle East tour or perhaps it was the over half a mile hike through the narrow passageway called The Siq, that created the emotion of the moment. When the last narrow slit in the red rock canyon hinted at the masterpiece, The Treasury, straight ahead, tears flowed, surprising me greatly. It was as though subconsciously I had been on pilgrimage and finally had reached my goal.
I seldom ever use the overworked word "awesome" but if any place deserves that appellation, it is Petra. The Nabateans, who created this masterpiece of red sandstone, did so in the 3rd. century BC. From here they controlled the trade routes from Arabia to Damascus. Little is left of the great city that was once here. Most of the ruins are of the magnificent tombs they built. The Monastery was built as a tomb around 86 BC but was probably used as a church in Byzantine times, hence earning its current name. In the late 1980's there were over 700 Bedouins living within the Petra area; today only 20-25 still do and help with security.