A faded and slightly brown stained 2-inch square picture made a huge impression on me as a child without knowing it at the time. Seeing the image for the first time it certainly did have an effect that in later life started me into two careers rolled into one, a travel photographer.
It was a picture taken in the late 1930’s when my father was in the British Army serving in what was known then as Transjordon. The country and people he often spoke about with great warmth and nostalgia.
Yes, it was my father and not Grandfather as I was born when he was 49. With what was a missed generation of a parent, he was but for a few months nearly a Victorian and served in a cavalry regiment, when they all still had horses and not as now tanks.
The picture was from a collection of many from his army service in Germany in the mid 1920’s and then later in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in Jordon. When he spoke about Petra in the 50’s little was generally known about it. He explained a place that could be reached on horseback down through a long winding ravine that then opened out into a city carved in rock, I was hooked!
The Pyramids had their magic and everybody had heard about the numerous details of them, but at that time back in the 50’s as a very young boy Petra was for me unique. I had this direct first person tale of the place and a tiny photo of what was that famous view of the Treasury. Generating something inside of me seeing and hearing stories about that picture really did trigger off a desire to travel and find out about such places. Geography and history were easily my favorite and best subjects at school and looking back it all seems to make some sense now.
A PERSONAL JOURNEY TO PETRA
After leaving school and traveling a great deal of the world in the Royal Navy I did get to see some amazing countries and places. However the very closest I got to Jordon then, was Malta but in one of those strange coincidences I do have a picture of my father on a troop ship, in Malta around 1934!
After leaving life in military service, family commitments, general lack of money and at the time the cost of travel itself did make it difficult to achieve that Jordanian trip. But in life things change and I was offered a great chance to travel to Jordan with the tour company Bales, writing a travel report for the paper I work for at the time back in 1992. And what happened next was to put my possible Petra visit off? A small matter of the Gulf war thus the chance went begging because of security concerns at the time.
Fate then played its part… In the guise of a raffle prize! A ticket drawn out at a travel awards dinner in London I had attended gave me the chance of a week’s holiday to Northern Sinai at Taba.
This seemed to be the chance to at last see this ancient wonder that kicked off that yearning for travel all those years ago.
It all came together in the end very smoothly with arrival in Taba the arrangements were soon made for the excursion to Petra. Although a very exhausting almost 21 hour long day trip, involving a dead of night coach ride, a dawn Red Sea ferry trip and another coach ride through the deserts of Jordan and at last to Petra…The Rose Red City.
My sojourn even with early morning and late night was somewhat easier than my father’s, whom I suspect did it on horseback, possibly camels or on some early type of more primitive military transport with not a hint of the luxury of air conditioning, as I had!
All because of a tiny ‘black and white’ photograph.
Where that photograph is today, I just do not know?
With numerous family moves and frequent changes of locations in the Navy and later job moves with much packing and unpacking, it seems that its whereabouts are a mystery, very much as was Petra a mystery too.
LIFE’S JOURNEY STARTED HERE IN PETRA
That tiny little image somehow brought me to the world of travel and the joys of working, seeing and experiencing as much of the world as possible. To walk through the narrow red rock ravine and to stand in front of ‘The Treasury’ and wonder at what had happened on that spot some 80 plus years ago when he took that picture. How would he ever had known at that time that it would go on to be such a catalyst in his youngest son’s career?
There was a hint of a tear in the eye as I stood there with swarms of visitors flocking around with cameras poised and they too being captivated at the view of The Treasury. No-one was taking any notice of just another tourist whom was there to take in that compelling view as well, but he had a little matter of a personal pilgrimage to complete. I am certain that no one anyone else noticed this one person who perhaps spent a little longer in that spot than most? Just there reflecting on the inspiration that little picture was to have on my life and how it eventually gave to me a career to feel very much part of and fulfilled in.
Inspiring in me a lifelong interest in the world of travel, a tiny inanimate object and a personal family story about an ancient wonder of the world…Petra!
People often say, “What good is history?” I say, “Just wait and see”!