About halfway between Petra Visitor Centre and the entrance to the Siq, look out for three enormous, squat monuments, known as Djinn Blocks or God Blocks. Standing guard beside the path, they take their name from the Arabic word for spirit, the source of the English word 'genie'. Other than the fact they were built by Nabataeans in the 1st century AD, little is known about their why or wherefore.
Many visitors miss the blocks in their hurry to reach the Siq but they are worth a pause to speculate about their purpose. Some suggest they represent the start of tombs, or were associated with funerary dedications or the worship of water and fertility. Whatever their intended function, they are the lodestar for the modern visitor – a tantalising taste of the monuments to come, or announcing journey’s end on the weary return.