Masterpiece. A place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.
Out of seemingly inhospitable and hostile desert land, lined with sheer red sandstone cliffs, in a country now known as Jordan, the Nabataeans carved out a civilization that hosted thirsty camels and trade caravans for several hundred of years (312 BC to 106 AD). In its heyday, the Nabataean population ranged between 20 and 30,000 people.
The Nabataeans tamed the flash floods that taunted the area and captured water in cisterns, dams, and water conduits carved in the rock (you can still see these conduits today). The biblical Spring of Moses also provided water for the Petra Basin.
Settled since prehistoric times, Petra grew to be a major trading center between the 3rd century BC and 1st century AD. To the north from Petra, traders linked to Silk Road at Damascus heading to India and China. To the west at Gaza on the Mediterranean and Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, traders carried their valuable cargo and connected with sea routes to Greece and Rome. To the south, traders came and went to Arabia and Egypt. To the east, traders headed across the Sinai desert to the Persian Gulf and on to India.
After the fourth century, the city declined due to earthquakes (363 AD) that damaged the water system. In addition, the Romans changed the trade routes and relied more on the Red Sea ports close to Egypt to transport goods. These changes ended Petra’s dominance in the area.
The city was essentially forgotten for hundreds of years until Joseph Ludwig Burckhardt, an explorer on his way to Egypt, investigated rumors of a lost city and rediscovered Petra in 1812. Now Petra is a tourist area with between 50,000 and a half a million people visiting it each year, depending on the political climate. I visited Petra in December of 2012, and President Obama visited in March of 2013.
We reached Petra, 160 miles from Amman, the capital of Jordan, via the Desert Highway (Route 15) traveling in a mini-bus with our small group of seven travelers, one guide, and the bus driver. We returned to Amman via the slower route via King’s Highway (Route 49), stopping at the Dead Sea and Mt. Nebo along the way back to Amman.
Small crowds at Petra that day meant that we could ride in the horse-drawn carts through the half-mile hard-packed dirt trail to the major site. Donkeys are available for transport purposes, too.
Enter Petra through The Siq, a narrow split in the red sandstone mountains.
Two of us held on, yes, for dear life, to the flimsy canopy braces in the weathered and beaten horse cart with its wizened driver and its smelly, impatient-to-get-going horse.
We rocked and jolted along the uneven dirt path, holding our breaths as much as possible, taking shallow breaths when critical, down a path just wide enough for two carts to pass each other.
In places where the ravine narrowed, one cart had to give in to another, more aggressive driver, playing chicken as it were, to go through the narrowest area (about a meter wide).
Through the break in the ravine walls ahead, we caught a teasing, un-focused glimpse of what was to come.
And here is the masterpiece: The Treasury, carved in the rock in the 1st Century BC. Designed by Hellinistic architects, the Treasury stands majestically as the major feature of this wide gorge at the end of the Siq.
And of course, here is the obligatory tourist photo taken on that cold, windy day.
Later, on March 23, 2013 President Obama visited this same site on his trip to speak with King Hussein of Jordan.
Of all the places I have visited, Petra is number one on my list as the most spectacular, the most unusual, the most magnificent, and the most fascinating historical place of all. And I must admit, the horse cart ride was a once-in-a-lifetime, hilarious event. The Treasury building is just at the beginning of this trek, but there is so much more to see here, Perhaps I will do another post on Petra in the near future.
The Last Meow
Well, yes (yawn), Petra is interesting. But I rather like the ruins in Ephesus. Don’t you think this picture of me is grand?
Meow for now. =<^;^>=