If you didn’t think there could be anything more magical than Petra by day, think again. Come and visit Petra by night.
The Magic of Petra by Night
We were late. We turned up at the gate, but everyone had left. Ahead of us, the way to the Siq was pitch black. Behind, the gaudy lights of souvenir shops gave out a visible haze. I was tempted to run, not wanting to miss the show. At the same time, it was too quiet, too peaceful, too mysterious to miss.
My eyes got used to the darkness, and as we progressed slowly down Bab ul Siq I could make out the shapes of rocks and temples around us. There were no horses, or Bedouins, or visitors at that time of night. A shape moved quickly between the columns on the façade of the Obelisk Tomb. Whether it was man or animal, I do not know. I walked on, making for the twinkling lights ahead.
The Siq. The narrow canyon that concealed Petra from the outside world for thousands of years was lined with fairy lights, thousands of lights stretching for kilometres all the way to the Treasury. There were no electrical lights; only tiny, flickering candles showed us the way. Time passed, my eyes got used to the mellow orange light, that made the rocks look eternal, enveloping and everlasting.
I had forgotten where I was. A distant melody played, plaintive and magical, like the spell from an ancient oracle. I felt myself drawn to it. I wanted to move on, to get to the music. I looked up for an instant to the sky pierced by a million stars, the Milky Way visible like a plume of solid smoke. This is how it must have been like to reach the great Petra of the Nabateans.
For a moment, I was a trader, I had crossed the Arabian desert with a caravan of a thousand camels, laden with gifts for the great Nabatean king. I was tired and dirty, fatigued by months of travelling the desert, my skin cracked by the desert wind.
All of a sudden, the canyon opened on a wider expanse. Candles burned on the pavement, people sat in a circle around a lone musician, playing a sad but bewitching melody on the rababa. Behind him was the Treasury, imposing in the sculpted rockface, maroon and purple with star and candle light. He told us a story, and the sound of his voice lulled me to sleep. I so longed to be able to sleep on the carpet of a Bedouin tent, or on the floor of a cave. I laid on the ground, and fell asleep with the stars in my eyes.
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