Petra Part One: Legend, Myth, Apocalypse

View of the Treasury from the Siq
View of the Treasury from the Siq

One of Seven Ancient Wonders

Petra, named one of the seven ancient wonders of the world in 2007, lies in a remote valley basin south of Amman and north of Aqaba in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  Wreathed in mystery and sheltered from view by soaring, impenetrable rock cliffs, Petra’s story is the stuff of legends, movies, myths, and adventure, not to mention the apocalypse. Petra’s only entrance, the Siq, winds its way almost one mile into the fortress and when you finally come to its end, Petra’s most elaborate ruin, the Treasury rises before you. The Rose-Red City remained shielded from the outside world until 1812 when Swiss explorer, Jean Louis Burckhardt, disguised himself as a local Bedouin and walked down the now famous Siq, bringing Petra to the attention of the world once again.

Petra Water Channel in Siq
Petra Water Channel in Siq

Tombs and Water Channels

Ancient architects and engineers, the Nabataeans, carved the stunning mausoleums and tombs out of the towering red hued sandstone cliffs that enclose the city. In addition, indicating a high degree of skill and ingenuity in solving complicated hydraulic problems, they engineered Petra’s complex water systems which provided a stable water supply to the city.  The walls of the Siq bear out this expertise as they are lined with channels and pipes designed to collect and bring water directly to the city center from the area’s abundant springs and legendary floods that crashed through neighboring wadis.  Archaeologists estimate that this engineering feat carried about 12 million gallons of fresh water into the city each day, enough for 100,000 people even though the population, at Petra’s height, was only about 30,000.

Colors of Sandstone in Petra
Colors of Sandstone in Petra

Wind and Rain Does Its Work

Today, two thousand years of wind and rain have put the ancient scene into soft focus, blurring the jagged edges of its elaborate classical facades and rubbing away at the soft sandstone to expose rainbow bands of color beneath.  It’s almost as if time has literally drawn a veil over the once-great city, which grew wealthy enough on ancient caravan trade to challenge the might of Rome and withstand the onslaughts of earlier empires. Although the rose colored city has been the scene of archaeological excavations since the early 1900s, the city has yet to give up all of its secrets. Indeed, what you see today is barely 15 percent of ancient Petra.

Eroded Carvings of Petra
Eroded Carvings of Petra

Thirsty Israelites

The Bible references the ancient city of Petra in several passages, including 2nd Kings, Chapter  14, which relates the account of Israel’s King Amaziah defeating 10,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt and capturing Sela in battle.  Sela means rock and for many is synonymous with Petra.  Among other  references to Petra is the one found in Numbers Chapter 20, where we find Moses trying to appease the wandering, thirsty Israelites by striking a rock while calling for water. Biblical and historical scholars place that spot in the Wadi Musa (Arabic for Moses), located just outside the city of Petra.

Bob and Dylan at the End of the Siq
Bob and Dylan at the End of the Siq

Remnant Refuge

In addition, due to its remote location and difficult accessibility, Petra is often speculated to be the city of refuge mentioned in Revelation Chapter 11, where God will protect the Jewish remnant from the forces of the Antichrist during the end times.  Regardless of speculation or Biblical connections, Petra remains a spectacular glimpse into the ancient world.  That first view of Petra’s impressive Treasury structure, spied through a towering crack in the Siq walls, leaves you marveling as you emerge from its shadows into a city suspended in time.

Eilat To Petra

View this astonishing city yourself….walk down the famous Siq….see this ancient wonder that God used and will use again.   Petra is within hours of Eilat, the beautiful Israeli resort city on the Gulf of Aqaba.  Crossing into Jordan from Eilat and driving north on the King’s Highway through the Shara Mountains is one of the easiest ways to visit the Rose-Red City.  A visit to Petra with a stay in Eilat puts a spectacular exclamation point on an incredible Holy Land tour!

2 thoughts on “Petra Part One: Legend, Myth, Apocalypse

  1. Hi Cheryl,
    Thanks for sharing this post. Recently I have planned to go Petra & already booked my trip through Mantis Tourism & Attraction. Your post is really informative which give more excitement to go there & also help me to travel properly & will definitely enjoy a lot .Your clicks are really superb.
    Thank you

    1. Thanks Sophia, I am excited for you…Petra is the most fascinating place to visit. I will be posting “part 2” in a few weeks, I have a lot of information on Petra and it was too long for a post. Have a great trip! Cheryl

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