The most famed of Jordan’s landmarks is a mystery. Why was the Al Khazneh, or The Treasury, in the ancient city of Petra, built? No one knows for sure. But everyone wants to visit it when in Jordan. And for good reason.
It stands at the end of The Siq – dwarfing you as you step into the sunlight after a long walk in the gorge. Its façade is about 30 metres wide and 43 metres high – and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, decorative bands, figures and more, and crowned by a funerary urn (containing a Pharaoh’s treasure according to local legend). Scholars guess it may have been the mausoleum of an important Nabataean king, likely to be Aretas IV (9 B.C. – 40 A.D.), and subsequently used as a temple. One theory, not supported much, suggests it was the point to collect tolls from passing caravans. This could suggest the name given to it.
At the same it was discovered in 1812 by Swiss traveler Ludwig Burckhardt, a stream flowed through the Siq and in front of the Treasury. The area, prone to flash floods, had resulted in tons of debris covering the plaza in front of the Treasury; archaeological excavations in the early 21st century has now revealed some of what lay below. Unfortunately one is not allowed to go inside anymore. If you get close to the building, you can see some steps going down to what is believed to be a tomb – but this too has been secured with an iron grill.
The crowds come in early to Petra – sensibly so, it is best seen in the morning light before the sun gets too high. People are all over – at the plaza, clambering on to cliffs, on benches meant for seating, perched on camels – and clicking away to glory. The foreground always has some camel ‘taxis’ passing by or just parked waiting for a customer.
The Treasury attained fame when it was featured in the Hollywood hit, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Sean Connery and Harrison Ford on horseback with the Treasury in the background sure gave a fillip to Jordan tourism.
Enjoy the images!
To read a piece on the restoration of Petra, click here (http://nabataea.net/trestoration.html)
And do join us for a coffee at the Kunzum Travel Cafe in Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, India.