PETRA, JORDAN February 22, 2014 – 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 to the movement of the sun as it makes its way across the ancient Jordanian sky.
Centuries of rushing water flowed through the soft rock, penetrating ever downward through the earth’s crust 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 shapes and vast chasms.
The Bible called it Sela. The ancient Nabataean tribe who built the city called it Rekmu or Rekem.
Today, we know it as 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 on foot or by 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 Hollywood’s wildest imagination. So much so that Petra was, indeed, used as a backdrop in the 1989 movie Indiana 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 majestic façade of the edifice known as “the treasury.”
At first you are dazzled; awed by brilliant colors where a massive carving rises from a vertical rock-face into a perfectly proportioned sculpture. Bullet holes serve as a permanent reminder of numerous attempts to release the treasure which local legend claims is still hidden within the recesses of the cave.
Sheltered from the damaging effects of wind and rain that could weather the sandstone, the treasury is the best preserved, and most spectacular monument, within the ancient city.
Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by Anglo-Swiss explorer Johann L. Burckhardt who disguised himself as a Bedouin and talked his way into the site by pretending to make a holy pilgrimage. Until then, the city had been “lost.” It was the stuff of legends, existing only as a fable handed down by Bedouins who lived within the region.
The Nabataeans were one of many nomadic northern Arabian tribes. For 500 years, Petra flourished under their control, becoming rich and powerful by invading the caravan routes which carried trade between Arabia and Egypt.
Typical of Nabataean civilization, Petra was so well protected by its massive canyon entrance that a handful of men could hold off an entire army. Operating from an 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 manipulated the water supply to the city in 106 CE that Nabataean society declined, allowing the Romans to gain control.
Today, Petra is one of the great natural and man-made wonders of the world, yet it remains relatively undiscovered by large numbers of travelers.
Many 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, eternal reminder of life as it was lived more than 2,000 years ago.
In the evening, campfires dot the darkness while breezes whisper through the valley and across the rock, following the same natural path 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.
Today, Petra lives once again in southern Jordan veiled by giant red mountains and weathered stone.
This is the story of a departed race whose legacy yet lingers in the 21st century as a place of inspiration and awe.
Petra is a symbol carved in stone where time stands still and whispering sands tell tales of Arabian nights.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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