Petra: The Rose-Colored City

28 Mar

….

Petra!!!! Without a doubt, Petra is the most famous site in Jordan. “What is Petra?” you may ask (Rachel asked!). I’m going to give the short answer, since the long answer could fill a book. Petra is the site of the remains of the ancient capital city of the Nabateans. The Nabateans were an Arab tribe who established a vast network of trade from southern Arabia northward into the area of Damascus. They are mentioned briefly in the Bible (King Aretas – II Cor 11:32), but their influence had been established centuries before, somewhere between the 6th and 4th centuries. Petra, however, wasn’t constructed until much later, sometime in the First Century AD. It become larger, and more populated as the influence and power of the Nabateans grew. That power peaked in the early 2nd Century AD, a power that prompted the Romans to subdue the city, which they finally did in 106AD. The city, however, flourished for another century. It was gradually abandoned, mostly due to the growing influence of cities like Palmyra (north, in Syria). The city was rocked by several natural disasters, including an earthquake in the 4th century. Eventually, it was lost to the West, only to be rediscovered in 1812.

 

 

The layout of Petra is interesting, and lends itself quite well to the visitor experience. When you first arrive, you have to walk about 300 meters or so in order to reach the entrance to the “Siq,” which is a long, naturally occuring canyon. What’s unique, and beautiful, about the Siq is that it is long (over a mile), narrow (sometimes only a few meters wide), and high (between 150-220ft). You can just feel the magnitude of the site as you make your way through. Then, when you think you might keep walking forever, you see it. Any one who has see the 3rd Indiana Jones (and the Last Crusade), will recognize the face of “The Treasury.” In the movie, they all go inside, Indiana faces 3 trials, and finally find the Holy Grail. In reality, it was a tomb cut for one of its kings. It is called the Treasury because those who rediscovered it though it so grand that it must contain treasures. Boy, were they disappointed. There isn’t much inside, it’s actually rather shallow. The architecture, though, is amazing.

The most striking part of the architecture of Petra is the fact that almost everything is carved straight out of the rock face of the mountains. The Treasury is the most famous, but not necessarily the biggest, example. Petra is a Greek word, meaning “Rock,” or “Stone,” and this is not only because of the aforementioned fact that everything is carved from the rock fact. It also has to do with the color and quality of the stone. All of the surrounding areas in southern Jordan are standard yellow stone, with a layer of volcanic rock in many places. But, in this particular area, the rock is rose-colored. Hence, Petra’s nickname is the Rose-Colored city. Rachel thought that all Petra consisted of was the Treasury. She was quite surprised that, in fact, the site continues for almost 6 miles after you reach the Treasury!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we paused for a few minutes to stand in awe of the Treasury, we spotted a few camels taking a little break. The rear camel of the two, let’s call him nibbles, was a bit hungry.

We marched on, Rachel, our friend, Brittany, and I, until we saw the path to go up to the High Place. I (Phillip) had been up to the High Place before, and knew they would enjoy the view, so I prodded us on. It is a hike, alright! One of the ammenities of Petra is the ability to hire a donkey to take you up the narrow path to the top of the mountain. We weren’t brave enough to ride one up, but there were some who risked it. When we finally reached the top, you can still see the stone slab which served as the “High Place” (actually one of many in the area). High Places were ares for the ancient cult where sacrifices were made to the god(s). Rachel wanted to re-enact (see the picture above). God did not provide a Ram, and only my squeels for mercy averted disaster.

It was kinda cold that day. We quickly ate our pre-packed sandwhiches, and descended. On the way down, you can really see the other structures, once again, all carved from the rock face. It’s a magnificent sight. Most of the structures served as tombs, actually, as the Nabateans lived in camps (tents) in the area. There is another beautiful facade (arguably prettier than the Treasury) called the Monastery.

On the way out, we decide to end our 5-hour hike with a camel ride back to the Siq. We negotiated the price down from 20 JD per person (about $30) to 5 JD per person (around $7 dollars). Let’s just say our bargaining skills are much-improved from 7 months ago. After making our way out of the Siq, we boarded the bus for the 4 hour ride back to Amman. It was a great day at Petra!

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2 Responses to “Petra: The Rose-Colored City”

  1. Kevin Wade March 28, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Wow, wow, wow. Awesome! Love the place, the pictures, the video! I especially love the shot of you guys on camels. Love it!

  2. Sharon Dyar April 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Thank you for the history lesson. I love the pictures, breath taking!

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