Petra: Jordan’s spectacular city of rocks of the ages

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  • Juniperus phoenicea, Wadi Musa, Petra, Jordan. (Image by shioshvili at Flickr) Juniperus phoenicea, Wadi Musa, Petra, Jordan. (Image by shioshvili at Flickr)
  • Petra is known as the Rose-Red City for the colour of the rocks in which Petra is carved   (Image Bertil Videt) Petra is known as the Rose-Red City for the colour of the rocks in which Petra is carved (Image Bertil Videt)
  • Mosaics from the former byzantine church of Petra, Jordan (Image unknown for Wikipedia) Mosaics from the former byzantine church of Petra, Jordan (Image unknown for Wikipedia)
  • Obelisk Tomb and Bab el-Siq Triclinium, Petra, Jordan (Image Bernard Gagnon) Obelisk Tomb and Bab el-Siq Triclinium, Petra, Jordan (Image Bernard Gagnon)
  • The Hadrien Gate and the Cardo Maximum in Petra  (Image by Jean Housen) The Hadrien Gate and the Cardo Maximum in Petra (Image by Jean Housen)
  • Entrance of Petra (Image: Jean-Brice Demoulin) Entrance of Petra (Image: Jean-Brice Demoulin)
  •  Facade of Al Khazneh, Petra, Jordan (Image: Bernard Gagnon) Facade of Al Khazneh, Petra, Jordan (Image: Bernard Gagnon)
  • The narrow passage (Siq) that leads to Petra. (Image: Emilio from Germany/Chile) The narrow passage (Siq) that leads to Petra. (Image: Emilio from Germany/Chile)
  • Petra, El Deir - The Monestary (Image Berthold Werner) Petra, El Deir - The Monestary (Image Berthold Werner)
  • Sandstone Rock-cut tombs (Kokh) in Petra (Jordan) (Image Etan J. Tal) Sandstone Rock-cut tombs (Kokh) in Petra (Jordan) (Image Etan J. Tal)
  • Urginea maritima bulbs in Petra (Jordan) in early December (2010) (Image Etan J. Tal) Urginea maritima bulbs in Petra (Jordan) in early December (2010) (Image Etan J. Tal)
  • View on Al Khazneh from al-Siq, Petra, Jordan (Image: Bernard Gagnon)
View on Al Khazneh from al-Siq, Petra, Jordan (Image: Bernard Gagnon)

CHARLOTTEJune 25, 2012 — Traveling to Petra is a journey through a canyon of towering rocks into a land that seems forever sequestered in the past.

The wind gently whistles across ever-changing shades of sandstone while colors adjust themselves to the movement of the sun as it makes its way across the ancient Jordanian sky.

Here the unseen hand of nature has sculpted the rock into an awesome, breathtaking adventure.

Centuries of rushing water flowed through the soft rock, penetrating ever downward through the earth’s crust.  Though it was a natural phenomenon, the water surged as though it had some strange, mysterious purpose.

Whispering sands blow through a majestic canyon carved by wind and rain, caressing the stone into wild, fantastic shape and vast chasms.

The Bible called it Sela.

The ancient Nabataean tribe who built the city within called it Rekmu or Rekem.

Today it is called Petra; a monumental rock-cut civilization that expands the imagination far beyond the scope of modern technology and knowledge.

Petra traces its beginnings six centuries before Christ.  When translated, it means “the rock,” and truly it is a rock of ages.

The once hidden Nabataean city is located in southern Jordan.  To reach the grandiose setting you must travel by foot or on horseback through an ever-narrowing mile long canyon.

Weathered rock rounded by time leads the way into another world; a valley dominated by sheer cliffs that reach higher and higher the further you penetrate into the heart of the mountain.  It is a ravine that does Indiana Jones proud; a living monument to rival anything from Hollywood’s wildest imagination.  So much so, in fact, that Petra was used as a backdrop for Indy in the 1989 movie Indian Jones and the Last Crusade.

Petra’s entrance alone is a journey to the center of the earth.  A fantasy ride into reality.  A magical, mystical experience of time travel on horseback where twists and turns lead to the rock-cut façade of the edifice known as “the treasury.”

At first your mind is dazzled by the sight, awed by the brilliance of the colors where a massive carving rises from a vertical rock-face into a perfectly proportioned sculpture.  Bullet holes serve as a reminder of the many attempts to release the treasure which local legend claims to still be hidden within the recesses of the cave.

Sheltered from the damaging effects of wind and rain that could easily weather the soft sandstone, the treasury is the best preserved, and most spectacular monument, within the ancient city.

Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by the Anglo-Swiss explorer Johann L. Burckhardt who disguised himself as a Bedouin and talked his way into the site by claiming that he needed to make a holy pilgrimage.  Until then, the city had been lost to the western world, existing only as a fable handed down by Bedouins who lived within the region.

The Nabataeans grew out of one of the many nomadic northern Arabian tribes.  For 500 years, Petra flourished under their control, becoming rich and powerful by invading the caravan routes that carried trade in two directions between Arabia and Egypt.

Typical of the Nabataean civilization, Petra was so well protected by the massive canyon entrance that a handful of men could literally hold off an entire army.  Operating from their impregnable base and utilizing adept control of camels as their means of transportation, the Nabataeans dominated a vast area of the region that caused great concern for the Roman Empire.

It was not until the Roman Emperor Trajan was able to manipulate the water supply to the city in 106 CE that the Nabataeans declined, allowing the Romans to take over.

Today, Petra exists as one of the great natural and man-made wonders of the world, yet it remains relatively undiscovered by large numbers of travelers.  So expansive is the area of this archeological winder that it should be explored in no less than two days.

Many of the tombs are still occupied, though a significant number have raided by vandals and treasure seekers throughout the centuries.  Even now, the cliffs echo with the sound of goats and sheep that live within, a perpetual and eternal reminder of life as it was lived more than 2,000 years ago.

In the evening, fires dot the darkness, and songs can be heard as the sound makes its way through the valley and across the rock, following the same natural path that has been carved by water, wind and the sands of time.

The glory of Petra is now but a memory of a fabled and mighty hidden city that was lost and almost forgotten; a place of wonderment and awe.

Petra is truly one of the great achievements of mankind, rivaling the likes of Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and the pyramids.

Petra is worth a visit in and of itself, and the glory days live again in the southern Jordan veiled by giant red mountains and weathered stone.

This is the story of a departed race; an advanced civilization whose legacy yet lingers in the 21st century as a place of inspiration and awe. 

Petra is a symbol carved into the stone where time stands still and whispering sands tell tales of  Arabian nights.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC, founder of The Magellan Travel Club which creates and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Clubbook, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.

 

 


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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