Aaah - death. What a subject. Whether you’re the kind of person (like me) who spends a lot of time pondering larger questions of mortality, or whether you’re happier just ignoring the subject, the fact is that - in time - we’re all going to die. . What happens, then, when we depart this earth? Where do our spirits go? (If anywhere!) And why has so much effort, over the centuries, been put into monuments to commemorate the dead?
No surprise then that I was dying (forgive the pun) to see the Royal Tombs of Petra, long before I’d even arrived in Jordan. Mid-way between the Treasury and Monastery, if you look to your right, you’ll see what is known as the King’s Wall, at the top of which lie four huge tombs - the Urn, Silk, Corinthian and Palace.
And whilst they’re quite a hike up the mountainside, there are stairs (rather than a rocky path) so although it’s a bit of a trek, it’s very doable. If it’s warm weather (and it was when I was there) make sure you buy at least a litre or two of water before you begin climbing (there’s a small cafe at the bottom, by the side of the main street). The stairs are steep and you might well gasp for breath but, cheer up, the fact that there are so many of them is guaranteed to put off the majority of tourists! The views as you walk up are simply astonishing.
Once you’ve made it to the top, and admired the stunning panoramic views. start wandering. The Nabateans carved these tombs to provide their Kings with an ‘eternal’ resting and decorated the façades beautifully - in an eclectic style which is a mixture of Mesopotamian, Greek and Egyptian decor.
Recent excavations have uncovered glass, pottery fragments, jewellry and even oil lamps, giving archaeologists a great many clues and general insight into daily life of the city’s citizens at that time.
As well as enjoying the acoustics (there’s nothing like hearing your voice echo in a burial chamber!), you can marvel at the ceilings. Swirling colours - pink, red, orange - they are quite stunning.
To give you an idea of just how amazing it is, here’s a short video I made as I walked in (it really was a ‘wow’ moment).
Sitting outside, feeling the sun on my face and savouring the stillness, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “I wouldn’t mind being laid to rest here…”
Truly, a tomb with a view.