I discovered Petra late in life, and yet, my initial impression of it holds a perennial place in my memory. Growing up I was always fascinated by the civilizations of the past. This fascination eventually turned into my career of choice as a literary scholar of the Middle Ages. As such, I was always interested in ancient manuscripts, artifacts, history, and architecture. In fact, visiting medieval castles and other sites when I travel has become a tradition I keep close to my heart.

As I move through these spaces I can imagine the different functions that the structure served, and I can picture events that transpired or could have possibly transpired within them. I have the knowledge to make these kinds of educated guesses. But when I discovered Petra, I was awe-struck in a distinctive manner.

I should mention, however, that my appreciation of Petra has only been mediated through photographs and other images. I have never visited the site myself. And yet, even in photographs, my reaction to this marvel of previous civilizations is nothing short of sublime. And my reaction is not from a technical point of view, since I am a terrible photographer and would not be able to assess an image’s artistic value or the artist’s skill (as I always say, I was born to be in front of the camera, not behind it).

Returning to Petra, however, I must say that modern-day Jordan is not a place I was familiar with (and I still have much to learn about this place and its rich history). But it was ironically my lack of familiarity with the place that sent me into my curious journey. As this person was sharing with me images of this structure carved into the rocks, my mind went in a million directions, trying to piece together the when, why, how, and for what queries concerning this ancient marvel. I have done my homework since then, and do know more about the site, but my honest awe at the site has stuck with me through the often disenchanting journey of learning about something.

As I imagine the people that called this place home back in the day, as I think of the ambition that led an artist to imagine this place, what this rock cliff could be, as I imagine people burrowed in, living inside of the rock, I can only be amazed at what humans can achieve.

– Jonathan Correa (Ph.D. Candidate)