Gene Ort's Blog

Petra

by on Apr.08, 2010, under Egypt

Every great adventure should start with the unexpected discovery of a hidden passage on a long forgotten trail. Action music also helps 🙂 ….. clic this and continue.. ( or not )

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Petra is just like that.  Petra was re-discovered by western civilization in 1812… who lost it remains unknown. Indiana Jones is credited with reintroducing Petra again to movie fans in “The Last Crusade”. The Bedouins think this is all rather entertaining, they always knew where it was..:)  The city is estimated to have been established in the 6th century BC by the Nabataeans. The city is notably listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site.

I offer no apology for the length of this post.

Before you enter the city proper, you are teased by this carving. The actual city is still a good walk away.

IMG_3563 building 1 entrance

Before you can enter the city you must navigate a long narrow canyon called a Siq. It’s entirely fitting, adding drama with every step.

IMG_3573 the Siq

A quote by the BBC referred to Petra as “a city half as old as time”. A few steps into the Siq and you had the sensation of stepping back in time.

IMG_3581 Siq 3The sunlight reflecting through the canyon exposed incredible color, texture and detail.

Psalm 19:1 “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.”

If the Heaven’s declare his handiwork, His valleys, carved by His hands celebrate creation.

IMG_3600 deep red Siq 2

After a mile walk through one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, you catch first sight of the city. Petra: Rock

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IMG_3615 Sig first sight 2

Khazneh: The Treasury

IMG_3634 Treasury Building 1

The number one question I have been asked about the treasury: ” is the room inside just like it looks in the last crusade?” The answer…no. We have all been duped by hollywood again.  The room is a large empty space. There are two very impressive carved buildings in Petra. This one and at the other end of town and up the mountain, The High Temple, also called the Monastery.  I don’t think that is by accident. The two main things people worship, God or gods and money. It’s very clear that ornate banks is not a modern idea and as we saw in Germany, ornate churches have been around for a long time. Maybe people feel safer trusting their money to people in fancy buildings. Maybe some people feel closer to God in a fancy building.  Manufactured validation and security. I think both assumptions are very dangerous.

At one time the cash flowed freely in Petra. This is where they kept it. History documents that Petra was an important stop on a vital trade route. The Nabataean’s had harnessed the power  and storage of water and created a monopoly of sorts. Caravans would stop for water, supplies and various and sundry goods and services. In part, a truck stop oasis with a little Las Vegas style entertainment thrown in.

Not unlike the city square in Mainz, Germany, Petra had a town center.

IMG_3661 town center

Complete with a Roman style amphitheater.

IMG_3667 ampitheater

IMG_3690 City curve

A great earthquake leveled portions of the city in 363 AD damaging the water system and many buildings. Petra’s decline accelerated under Roman rule due in part to increasing sea trade routes.
IMG_3713 old city

Some of the man made structures remain partially standing after the earthquake.

IMG_3717 earth quake

At the far end of town, the trail leads up the mountain to the high Temple.

At this point I had a decision to make. I could hike up the trail or ride a donkey. My pride clearly said hike it. But the memory of the hike up Sinai was alive and well in my calves. Ron V. ( our faithful guide ) was convinced the donkey would throw me to my death and said so.

As I watched my hiking buddies head up the trail, I got on a donkey. I knew instantly I had made a good decision for me. I was having fun immediately.

Mark Beeson took this picture. This may have the first and only time I was in front ! 🙂

Petra 031210 GENE to Temple Heights 1 sized

The High Temple aka The Monastery ( “Ad-Deir” ).

The building was dedicated in the first century to Obodas I  ( a deified former king ) and is believed to have been used as a symposium. Basically a place to hangout, drink to much and talk philosophy. There are hints that pagan idol worship and all types of perversions were also entertained here. There is not a lot of documentation about the people of Petra. They had no written language.

Around the fourth century, Christianity came to Petra. It had a church and a bishop named Aterius.

IMG_3744 high temple

These guys are hiking machines and great traveling companions !

IMG_3805 Highest point

From this vantage point and in this general direction is Mount Hor, the resting place of Moses’s brother Aaron. The Israelites stopped here and mourned Aaron for 30 days. For me, sometimes historical icons like Moses take on a kind of non-humanity. This being Aaron’s burial site stripped away a bit of that for me. Moses was a great man of God, but he was a man, he had a brother a couple wives and a couple kids, Gershom and Eliezer. Aaron was their uncle. To us Moses can become a biblical character, almost like an actor in a movie,  but he was a flawed man just like the rest of us.

One account says he made a serious mistake here at Petra, at least according to Arab tradition. He directly disobeyed God and struck a rock with the rod instead of speaking to the rock as God had instructed him. As a result, neither Moses or Aaron were able to enter the promised land.

Everything has consequences.

IMG_3806 Mt Hor

If you go up the mountain, you must go down.

IMG_3831 down the mountain

At the time when the city was in full swing and enjoying their height of prosperity, you can be sure they thought they were building the greatest city in the world. There was evidence everywhere of a sudden stop to the forward momentum. Stairways climbing to nowhere, half done facades.

IMG_3835 city plans

The crowds roll in. It was a little easier to imagine what the city would have looked like in it’s “hay day” with thousands of tourists wandering around.

IMG_3847 crowds roll in

It would have been great fun to leave Petra on a spirited horse, like Indy.. or a Camel.  Maybe next time… Now.. back to the future..

IMG_3859 exit


2 Comments for this entry

  • Mark Beeson

    I love this Gene!
    Your summary thoughts – and incredible photos – take me back to the adventure of our shared journey. You did a great job with this. Thank you for taking the time to offer everyone a glimpse of our trip. Awesome!

  • Dan Leonhardt

    Gene,
    This takes me way back to 1976 when I visited this city. In my youth I thought it was very cool to see and the overnight stay in the “cave hotel” was unique. But I was too young to comprehend just where I was – so close to where Israel made their journeys. After recently listening to the whole account of the Exodus from Egypt and the 40 years of wandering on the audio NLT Bible, your thoughts, insights, and pictures made the visit to Petra via your blog a joy and enlightening trip.
    Thanks, Dan

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