PETRA - A BRIEF HISTORYThe classical name Petra, and the early name Sela both mean the same thing, " Rock "; and surely no city was ever more aptly named. But " Rock " only conveys half thepicture of the city: the wild, fantastic shapes of the hills, the great chasms which cleave them, the brilliant colouring--all these must be seen to be be]ieved. Petra is unique alike in its antiquities, its natural setting, and its approach.
The track winds down the hill from the little village of Wady Musa, with its neatly terraced gardens and vineyards looking more like a model than reality, and the first glimpse of the wildness. the first impression of the strangeness of the place is felt on entering the valley at the foot. Rocks weathered by tims into rounded masses like domed towers, the facade of an occasional tomb showing unexpectedly in some side valley--all is so different from what has just been left behind that there is the sensation of having wandered into another world. The valley narrows, and a sheer cliff in front seems to offer little promise of further progress. Rounding a corner, a great dam built of carefully dressed blocks of stone fills the valley from side to side and confirms this impression, but there is a narrow cleft in the cliff- face just by the wall. This is the road to Petra, and a handful of men could hold it against an army.
Entering this great ravine, the path runs along the dry torrent bed, and the sheer cliffs on either side rise higher and higher as it penetrates deeper into the heart of the mountain. Here is perpetual twilight, with an occasional glint of sun on the cliff face high above. In some parts the road is 20 feet wide, in others the rock almost touches overhead; and no sound is heard except the rattling of pebbles under the horses' hoofs and the sighing of the wind through an occasional oleander bush. Along one side is a channel cut in the rock, now fallen or choked with soil in most places, which originally carried water to the inhabitants of Petra from the springs at Wady Musa. The road twists and turns, and can seldom be seen for more than a few yards ahead: it seems to be going on for ever in a rather grim, hopeless kind of way.