This is a part of a series on Petra in Jordan (not possible to cover all in one post).
The Siq is one of the most interesting mile long (actually less than a mile, about 1.2 kms) walk you can take. It is sandstone gorge, that may have been created by the natural splitting of the mountain; it gently winds towards the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, every step offering a new attraction. Cliffs go up to 80 metres high, and you can spot bizzae looking geological formations, colourful rocks, agricultural terraces and man-made features cut into the rocks. You can cover it in double quick time, or take even half a day if you like.
If you had been born a little sooner, a triumphal arch would have greeted you at the beginning – but it collapsed in 1895. Petra was a bustling city in its time and travellers, visitors, pilgrims, traders etc. all walked along the Siq to get there.
If you look under your feet, you will be walking on what is referred to as the ‘Paved Road’ likely to have been built towards the end of the 1st century B.C. Limestone was used for the paving, and the original work still exists in patches.
The Nabataeans cut out channels along both walls of the Siq; clay pipes ran in them to carry water from the springs to the city. You need to rely on bottled water for yourself though – and lots of it when in Petra.
All along the walls, it is interesting to see niches with sacred stone blocks within – these were called Baetyls. Along with God blocks, these were placed to offer protection to those passing through the Siq. At a point called the Sabinos Alexendros Station, you can see the work of a person named Sabinos, who was the master of religious ceremonies to honor Dusares at Adraa (today Dar’a in Syria). He and other masters visited Petra to honor Dushara here as well (in 2nd or 3rd century A.D.). The two main niches depict the domed Baetyl of Dushara from Adraa, and another deity, Atargatis, on two lions.
Camel Caravan Reliefs (100 – 50 B.C.)
This monumental relief depicts an actual caravan in procession. It consists of a group of camels and drivers entering Petra. About ten meter further up, there is a similar carving of a caravan leaving Petra, but that is mostly eroded. These carvings symbolize the endless procession of people and goods entering and leaving Petra, the economy of which was based on caravan trade. The first camel in this procession has a high hump, indicating that it is a caravan carrying goods. Close inspection of the upper group reveals that the lead driver, whose figure is preserved from waist down, is clad in a loosely, pleated cloth garment of wool. He holds a stick in his bent left arm with which to guide the animals.
The first view of the Treasury
The Treasury is Petra’s most famous structure, and stands at the end of the Siq. The first view of the Treasury is never a complete one – you only see parts through the converging rock faces of the Siq. Leaving you asking for more. You want to hurry and see the whole thing. But you also want to stay firm and keep looking one of the most interesting ‘peeks’ into history. More on the Treasury in the next post.
An anecdote: I noticed two western tourists stopping – like everyone else – to take a picture of the Treasury as you see above. Their imaginative guide took out his mobile, held it close to their camera and pressed ‘Play.’ What do you hear? Music from the Hollywood hit, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which was shot here.
And do join us for a coffee at the Kunzum Travel Cafe in Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, India.