Petra has too be seen, mere words cannot describe its grandeur. If you’ve seen the “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” you may recall Harrison Ford’s character races through a narrow gully (the Siq) which ends in front of a huge, red temple carved out of the side of a mountain. Well that was no movie set folks, that is actually a structure called the Khazneh, or the Treasury, part of a series of buildings carved out of sandstone back in the 6th century B.C. by the Nabataeans. A city of rock, appropriately bearing the Greek name of Petra.
The Treasury was just the beginning. Imagine being on the floor of a red-clay cavern, surrounded by surreal walls that have been chisled into secure homes and ornate tombs. The ornate tombs taking priority over the homes because of the Nabataeans belief and emphasis on the afterlife.
Homes secured by building their structures into the mountains, often in between passes no wider than three meters (9 feet), this strategic gateway to the “Plains of Moab” (Judges 3:12-14) and the “Valley of Moses” (Joshua 3:1) remained unconquered up until the Romans paid a visit in the form of two spies in 106 A.D. These two spies figured out how the water system worked, and the rest was history.
From the Treasury, we climbed, and climbed, and then climbed some more to an ancient high-place of sacrifice. From there, I took several dozen pictures which I’ll get online once we get a larger pipeline. Everyone in Petra is constrianed to dial-up (though Hani just informed me that Aretas is going ADSL soon).
After climbing down the mountain, we ate lunch then took a trip up another mountain, to the Monastary. I had turned my ankle and was pretty tired from the first 1000ft climb. So I opted for a donkey. A fun ride that usually costs 3 Jordanian denari. I was taken for 12. I knew the original price, but was just too exhausted to argue. I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but then I heard the donkey’s guide laughing with another over me being taken. We had a ‘discussion‘ when we got back to the bottom of the hill. I told him to keep the money … it was an honor thing. Hopefully this guide will get the message. For me, the lesson is, no matter how ‘hoofed-out,’ get the price up front, then if possible pay up front.
Unpleasantness aside, atop the mountain was worth any aggrevation. There we were treated to a breathtaking view of an emense stone temple facade, and an even more breathtaking view of the ‘Plains of Arabia.’ There we could see past the jagged surroundng mountans, the outer edge of the wide floor of the Jordan Valley east of the Jordan River. The place where Moses finally brought his people after their epic wilderness journey. Here is where Joshua prepared the people for the crossing of the river into Canaan. The area’s principal water source, Ain Moussa (Spring of Moses).
It is also is thought to be one of the many places where Moses sealed his fate at Mount Nebo when he struck a rock with his staff to bring forth water (Numbers 20:10-12). One other site we could see was Aaron’s final resting that lies atop nearby Mount Hor, now called Jabal Haroon (Mount Aaron). We joked that both Moses and Aaron’s demise might have been brought about by their respective climbs. So bring good shoes, hats, sun screen, pack light, and either be in shape or prepared to ride a donkey.
Along the way, we learn that after Constantine does his bit for Christianity, four Byzantine temples are constructed there in 326 A.D. And though Muhammad defeats the Byzantine armies in 638, the Christians in Petra are given religious freedom in Petra. None-the-less, the city is abandoned in the 7th century A.D. and becomes completely lost when Saladin destroys a series of crusader fortresses in 1187 A.D. It isn’t until 1812 that a young explorer named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt redisocovers Petra.
Once back on the floor of these magnificent caverns, we took a twenty minute camel ride back to the Treasury. I was riding a sweet beast named ‘Zuzu.’ No spitting, no fuss, no muss. Just a nice ride.
Arriving back at the hotel dusty and tired, I opted for a warm bath, as opposed to the ‘Turkish’ alternative that Chuck will blog about later. I was so tired that I fell asleep. Fortunately, I’m big enough that I don’t drown, just re-prove Archimedes.
I have soooo much more to say about Petra, but I am constrained by time. Not due to the reasonable prices at the Aretas Internet Cafe and Restaurant, but because it is going to take about 3 days to describe my 9 hours climbing about Petra.
BTW, I’ll be out of contact tomorrow, as we’re in that famed desert, Wadi Rum.by