The Many Mysteries Of Petra In Jordan
The City That Was Lost For Centuries
Petra is a city that was lost in the cleff of the rock, and hidden for years. Even today, without a guide, the way in is a mystery, and easy to defend. Her greatness is not questioned, but what is her destiny? Does she have a role to play in the end of time? Will she hide the remnant of Israel? Why has she been so well preserved? While much of the city is still being discovered, that which has been dug out to date is beautiful beyond belief. Welcome to the lost city, where history, ancient stories, and archaeology come together!
Petra is a jewel of Jordan, and all the Middle East. When you look at it, you can not help but wonder how it was built. The carving is magnificent. The city planning is perfect. There is a water and sewer system, and everything a city needs. There are caves that are hidden, and others that are more open. It is literally built into the rock, all hand carved. It was built to last, and it is not in a state of decay, despite weather, time, earthquakes, and nature. It has been hidden for years, so few beyond the Bedouins have seen it over the years. Only in the last century or so, has it become a well-known destination for travelers. So come along with us, as we explore Petra, the city that was lost for centuries.
The Long Narrow Spectacular Siq
The Siq, also known as the Siqit, is a long narrow and winding gorge that has little light shinning into int0. It winds for almost one mile, and will take about 45 minutes or longer to walk into the city, if you take time to enjoy the walk and see the unique and wonderful entrance. To the left you will see where water was brought into the city from a spring that was several miles away. On the right, the water channel has been washed away at the beginning, but you can see it later on in your walk into Petra proper. Also, close to the beginning you will see the remains of a type of arch that went across the entrance of the Siq.
Along the way, you will see niches for the gods of the Nabataean people, cisterns, and look outs. This is one of only two ways in and out of the city, and was considered the main entrance. There are places that are not more than 10 feet wide. In fact, you can almost touch both sides as you walk into this spectacular and elaborate ruin. The Siq ends when you come to a clearing in front of the Treasury or Khazneh. No one is certain what it was used for, though many think it was a library of some kind. Whatever it was, it makes a dramatic statement after the narrow dim walk into the city.
As you enter the plaza entrance to the Siq, you will have many offers of transportation through the Siq. The carts move slow enough for you not to miss anything and the drivers will stop for you to take pictures. Pointing to your camera will usually be all the communication necessary for your driver to understand you want to stop for a picture. The cart and buggy rides are usually drawn by donkeys or small horses, and are quite inexpensive. This small amount goes a long way toward helping the Bedouins make a livable wage in this harsh and remote desert land.
The Treasury Or Khazneh
As you come into this ancient Nabataean city of Petra, this elaborate Treasury is the first monument you will lay your eyes on. As you step out of the Siq and look up, the enormity and magnificence of this spectacular monument begins to sink in. It is several stories tall, all hand carved, and beautifully restored. The Treasury leaves you with a sense of awe, as you behold her beauty. As you step inside this monument, you are overwhelmed with the quality of this ancient workmanship. It is almost impossible to convey the the wonder and awe that you feel as you stand in front of this magnificent monument.
Exploring Passage Ways And Caves
After leaving the Treasury, we come to the Street of Facades. This is an area that is full of both simple and gigantic tombs with large impressive facades. These false fronts are very tall and intriguing, making an impressive facade for the more important members of this society. As you move along the street, you will see many simpler and smaller caves for the more humble residents. Even the smaller tombs had much detail. This is an area that has not been restored, and many of the tombs are still filled with sand from numerous floods through the centuries. As you continue down this Street of Facades, you will come to the heart of Petra.
If you have allowed enough time to explore the caves, it is a marvelous opportunity for adventure. You will be able to discover the many works of nature, God’s creation, and the unique abilities of the Nabataeans. These ancient caves are just one part of the mystery surrounding Petra.
Living In The Mountains Of Edom
Cut into the side of the Edom Mountains lived an ancient people known as the Edomites. The Edomites were an ancient civilization that descended from Esau. We can read about the generations of Esau in Genesis chapter 36. What an amazing experience it must have been for Esau, the brother of Jacob, to have lived in these amazing mountains. Though, there still is a great mystery as to what happened to the Horites, who were conquered by the Edomites, and latter the Edomites who were conquered by the Nabataeans around the year 400 BC. What happened to their land, and their capital city, Petra? Who began to build in these amazing sandstone mountains? Today, we give all the credit to the Nabataaeans for this spectacular city, but with most of Petra still buried, much is waiting to be discovered. The mystery of Petra will continue for many generations to come.
We do know, that there was a large earthquake in 363 AD that destroyed around half of Petra and the surrounding cities built into the rock of the mountains. Historians, Biblical scholars, and archaeologists have searched the ruins, and ancient manuscripts, that have been discovered to date, for a clue, but the only clue seems to be written in Ezekiel 35 of the Bible. Ezekiel 35:15 gives a very strong statement about this ancient land, and the Edomites disappearance. But even it is silent about the Nabataeans. So for now, we are left to wonder! Together, these many scholars from different fields seek to uncover what happened to the Nabataeans, a civilization of people so advanced to have built a capital city so elaborate. To this day, this great mystery continues.
Stunning Waves Of Color In The Sandstone Of Petra
The colors of Petra are breathtaking with bright colors that swirl in the sandstone, intermingling with soft shades that sparkle in the sunlight. As unique and spectacular as the architecture is, sometimes the colors fill your heart with an amazing sense of anticipation. As the sun shines and causes the colors to spiral in the light, the sandstone becomes spectacular and and almost seems to dance. Jordan is a safe county, with magnificent deserts, amazing historical sites, extremely friendly people, and adventure for everyone. Surrounding Petra is one of the world’s most amazing deserts, the Wadi Rum.
Pillars Of The Great Temple
As you begin your Temple discovery, be sure to take plenty of water, sun screen, and protection from the harsh sunlight. The walk up the stairs can seem almost endless. For those who prefer not to climb stairs, there are camels that will carry you to the top for a small fee. The camels are sure footed and will take you safely to the top on a very steep canyon path. At times you travel what seems a little close to the edge, where the path narrows, but the camels know where to put their feet. As you climb up the path, signs of the Great Temple emerge. This is a major climb, no matter how you choose to ascend the Temple area, and it is filled with adventure.
Camel Driver Waiting With His Camels
The Bedouins wait to see who needs to have a ride to the top. They are extremely friendly, the camels are well cared for and the fees are reasonable. Some people opt to walk and climb to the top and experience the descent on the back of a camel. Both methods are unique and will be filled with fun memories.
The Temenos Gate And The Nabatean Life Of The Bedouins In Petra
The architectural wonders of the Temenos Gate, a very large three arched monumental doorway, are beyond your expectations. With beautiful decorations on the inside and out in several different styles of architecture, this door explores some of the best designs of the Hellenistic Roman culture and of course the Nabataean. There are carvings, sculptures, and ornate niches with statues throughout, giving honor and respect to their gods. As you go through the gate, you see the remains of a staircase, a tub, and even some bases of statues. On one there is an inscription to the Nabataean King, Aretas IV. This monumental doorway, or gate, was designed to separate the mundane life of a city from the religious devotion of a devout people, worshiping their gods.
All the business activities, banking, selling and buying, stayed on one side of the gate. When you entered through the gate, all everyday worries were to stay in the business part of the city. You had just entered a devout and quiet area, where you could spend time with the gods. As you continued, your first view was that of a wide open space that was used for different religious ceremonies. This stood in front of the Temple Oasr Al Bint.
The Castle Of The Daughter Of Pharaoh Or Qasr al-Bint al-Faroun In Petra Jordan
The temple’s modern name, “Qasr al-Bint al-Faroun,” means “The Castle of the Daughter of Pharaoh.” If you continue down past the Temenos Gate, you will find this ancient and magnificent temple. Qasr al-Bint al-Faroun is among the few free standing buildings in this ancient city. It was built around 30 BCE to worship Nabataean gods by the Nabateans. It was a temple of major importance and was dedicated to the service of the Nabataean gods.
The name, “The Castle Of The Daughter Of Pharaoh,” ties in closely with a local legend. The legend has it that the Pharaoh of Egypt, at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, pursued the Hebrews until he got tired. Then he and his court eventually settled down in Petra. Though it is one of many fun local stories told by the Bedouins, it is not historically correct. These stories remain with us till this day, and are an entertaining part of the folklore surrounding Petra.
Some of the features of Qasr al-Bint al-Faroun are mind-blowing. There is a spectacular marble staircase, many columns, and a platform for worship. Many examples of the ornate features of the temple can be seen at the Petra Visitors Center. In the center was the adyton, or the Holy of Holies where the first thing that is seen is the sacrificial altar. Throughout the temple main room are images of the Nabataean deities or gods. This is thought to be the main area where the people worshiped and made their sacrifices. It’s location in the center of the worship district, and it being on the ground floor, means it was considered especially sacred.
Beyond The City Are Steep And Rugged Canyons
Beyond the rugged desert canyons and sandstone cliffs is the ancient treasure of Petra. Notice how rugged the surrounding area is. All this can be seen on the edge of a harsh but beautiful desert. These canyons have helped keep Petra hidden and surrounded with mystery for centuries. The entire region is very hot and harsh. While walking in the desert and around the mountain canyons is a desirable treat, make sure you have plenty of water and wear sun protection.
Don’t be surprised if you see a goat haired tent in the desert. These are the homes of the nomadic Bedouins and most likely you will be invited for tea. You also might run across tea in Petra itself. It is an experience that you will not want to miss out on.
Time For Tea In The Desert
Traditional sweet and spicy Bedouin Tea, also known as Marmaraya, in Petra is a delight. It is a black tea mixed with local spices including marmaraya and habuck. It is served with tons of sugar, so it is quite sweet. One of the herbs in the tea is related to the sage plant, which regulates body temperature. Most would agree you feel cooler after a cup of this special tea.
One thought on a Petra adventure is to have plenty of time. There is so much to see and explore, that even one whole day will not let you see and experience everything. Most people take one or even two days just for Petra. Jordan is a safe and pleasant land for tourists to visit and explore. If you are happy, they are happy. What more can you ask for?
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