Petra – A Red Rose City Half as Old as Time
John William Burgon never visit Petra but he once wrote this poem about this magnificence city.
It seems no work of man’s creative hand
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first behelf them were not yet withdrawn;
the hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which man deemed old two thousand years ago,
match me such marbel save in Eastern clime,
a red rose city half as old as time.
John William Burgot described this ancient city vividly in his poem without witnessing this site first hand, so you have no idea how grand and such a wonder Petra was for me to visit. The ancient city of Petra is in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, two millenniums ago it was thriving city of the Nabataeans people.
There is one main entrance into the city and you have to walk through this narrow street between sandstone cliffs. You can imagine that during the ancient world, this is one of the best natural defence any city could have.
Another thing to remember is that we think Petra as a cultural wonder but we also have to think of it as a Natural wonder. Just look at this sandstone, one side you think that it looks like a fish but when you look at it from the front, it actually looks like an elephant.
Once you are about to finish your journey through the narrow passage way, you will see Petra’s most iconic and most photographed structure known as the Treasury.
The Treasury was actually a temple to hold funerals for the Nabataeans people but people thought that it was a treasury because of the symbolism behind the structure. This structure was craved from a sandstone cliff and it was estimated to take 20 years to complete. The tiny holes on the left and right were used to hold up scaffolds for craving into the cliff.
It is also a very multicultural building. The centre idol is Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, between Isis in the backs are Athena, the Greek goddess of Victory with giant urns. While the idols on the two sides in the front are amazons, an influence from the Phoenicians. When the western world started to re-excavate Petra during the 19th century, they thought that the urns were filled with gold so they used rifle to shoot the urn, hoping that treasure would pour down.
The Treasury is also the most well-preserved building in the city of Petra for it is enclosed by cliffs on all side, making it resistant toward erosion.
But that is not just it to Petra. It was once a major city after all. The structures behind me were tombs of the wealthy Nabataeans people. You can really see how grand it is. From the front of tomb, you can see actually how many people were buried here and what kind of people they were. At the top, you can see stairs for the Nabataeans people were similar to the Egyptians who believed in the afterlife and these stairs would lead them there.
For the lesser fortunate people, the tombs might look like this.
The city is so huge. You should actually ride horses, donkeys or camels to make your trip not as exhausting.
I only had a day to walk around but I really want to go back again and spend like a week here.
The reason to come up this far is to see the monastery. The monastery is actually grander in scale than the treasury but the condition of it is no longer perfect. Not protected against the wind, rain and sand like the Treasury, most of its intricate detail had eroded away.
When I was in Jerusalem I felt the essence of faith but in Petra I felt the essence of time. Time waits for no one and hopefully I can visit this red rose city again in my lifetime.