To see the Nabataean ruins of Petra by day is amazing (and I’ll write more about my trip there soon), but two times a week, there is an event at night that offers a beautiful and mysterious walk by candlelight into the mile-long chasm leading to the first marvelous ruin at Petra, the stone-carved facade of Al-Khaneh, a tomb known more commonly as the “Treasury.” We arrived just after dark, with a few hundred other tourists. It had been a long day for me: two tough hikes inside Petra — to the ruins known as the Monastery, and up a climb to an overlook that looks down at the canyon and the Treasury — and my feet and legs were jellified. But once we entered the gates, I knew this was going to be a special evening. To get to the Al-Khaneh site involves a kilometer or more walk down a pathway and then into the sheer-walled canyon known as As-Siq. At the end of that winding path is a view to the Treasury, peeking through the crack in the canyon walls. At the evening walk, candle-filled bags known as luminaria line the pathway and light up the natural stone hallway. With the clear night sky, and the near-full moon rising, I set my camera on long exposures and used a borrowed mini-tripod to capture a few images along the way.
Once you arrive at the Treasury, the canyon opens up and the central area is filled with hundreds of candles, with the audience seated in a circle around the natural courtyard. Bedouin musicians play, and a haunting flute tune echoes around the canyon walls. Bedouin men serve the audience tea as they sit on woven mats in the candlelight.
Though I got quite a blister on the walk out after the third big hike of the day, it was an evening stroll well worth the injury.
VIDEO: To view some of my video of the Treasury (during daylight), click here. You’ll need quicktime player (downloadable for free online), and it may take a while to load. I’ll write more about Petra and the beautiful desert landscapes of Wadi Rum soon.