"The cliffs around us extended hundreds of feet into the sky, blocking out most sunlight so that we were walking in shadows. Every sound echoed in all directions. After a minute or so, our pathway opened to a big, clear circular space, also bordered all around by high cliff faces.
While the landscape alone was awe-inspiring, the buildings were unlike anything I’d ever seen. They looked like Greek and Roman architecture with oversized pillars and decorative elevations except, and this was a big except, they were carved right into the sheer stone cliffs at ground level. Imagine the White House or Capitol Building or even the Acropolis carved into the side of a mountain."
The abandoned city of Petras in Spartanica is based directly on the actual lost city of Petra in southern Jordan. I'd read about it years ago and was entranced by what its inhabitants had somehow done. Most of the city is literally cut into the rose colored stone (hence the nickname "Rose City").
According to Wikipedia, "...writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans and the center of their caravan trade. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress, but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf."
While I generally prefer to create other worlds using my imagination, there is the occasional exception. Petra is a truly amazing, man-made wonder of this world that I couldn't easily have improved upon. The astonishment you hear in Ty's voice above as he describes is truly mine. I truly hope to visit there one day.