by Judy Lynn Malloch
"... match me such a marvel, save in Eastern clime
A rose-red city, half as old as time.”
"Petra" by John William Burgon, 1845
There was nothing that could have prepared me for the sight I was about to see as our bus rounded the last curve at the end of a 2-3 hour trip from Amman, Jordan. Suddenly, the towering, majestic mountains of ancient Petra appeared before us. I was numb and overwhelmed, to say the least.
Petra is literally half as old as time itself. Thirty million years ago, a series of cataclysms occurred when the Arabian geological plate separated from Africa, forming the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Jordan Valley. This created incredible, wild mountains on either side of a vast depression known as the Rift Valley. This valley is often referred to as the Valley of Moses in the Bible.
Petra is an incredibly beautiful city that was carved out of rock by the Nabataean Arabs back in 106 A.D. They were very creative engineers. Not only did they build a magnificent city, but they also engineered channels to carry spring water and rainfall into reservoirs to provide the city with drinking water. There is only one way into Petra, a narrow pass that gave it protection from any invaders.
The story of Petra has been traced back to the earliest Stone Age people but it was built by the Nabataeans, who carved and built the city we have the privilege of seeing today. Petra has seen many civilizations rise and fall, including the Romans and Byzantines. The crusaders added their own touch to this wonderful city. Following the crusaders, Petra disappeared from the western world. In 1812, a Swiss explorer by the name of Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it. Today Bedouins inhabit this spectacular place.
Words do not come close to describing the thrill I experienced as we began the long trek down into Petra. The first part of the journey was on horseback. As we approached the treasury, the narrow roads required us to proceed on foot.
The closer we got, the more we were able to see the treasury peaking through the towering mountains on either side.
The light was hitting the rocks perfectly, revealing the most glorious colors. There were shades of orange and purple, red and blue as well as just about every other shade you find in between.
Just Awesome!! My first thoughts were, “Wow! We are seeing a gorgeous building that was built thousands of years ago!!!
It almost seemed like a dream to see such splendor and majesty. There were many, many other buildings throughout the city but time did not permit us to visit them all. One could really spend a week there and still not see it all. It is most definitely a city that will always be etched in my mind.
If you ever have the chance to visit Petra you will not be disappointed. The beauty of Petra rivals the wonderful monuments of classical Greece and Rome. Petra is the most breathtaking sight that I have ever experienced. It is no wonder that it’s been named one of the Seven Modern Day Wonders of the world.
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