It has been a day! A few years back, Petra was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. If you’ve ever seen it, you know why. It is massive, and it is stunning. And it’s no less so the second time you see it. Two years ago, we visited this place with great friends. At that point in time, the site struck me like THIS. Today was certainly not diminished.
Petra was once the centre of the Nabatean kingdom. The Nabateans were likely natives of Yemen who made their way here five centuries before Christ. Shrewd with water management and professional traders, the Nabateans quickly became wealthy from their prime location on the trade route. Biblically, there is a possibility that Paul may have been here (2 Cor. 11:32). At the very least, it seems that he gained the unwanted attention of Nabatean king Aretes IV. Roman emperor Trajan attempted to take Petra twice unsuccessfully. He finally succeeded by poisoning the spring that provided much of the city’s water. From that point on, Rome controlled the area. As time went on, the trade route shifted, and Petra’s significance took a hit. By the 16th century, the city had all but vanished from the map, only to be rediscovered a Swiss traveler in 1812.
For myself, Petra is one of those sites that impresses. The people here were unbelievably well-adapted to a harsh environment and built a still-glorious community with what we would consider primitive means. The ancient visitor to Petra would have been stunned. The modern visitor fares little better. Petra IS a jaw-dropper.
We arrived at the entrance by 8:45AM. It was already hot. When we got back to the bus for 3:00 PM, the temperature read thirty-six degrees! My pink parts confirm that. My hat covered me decently, but forearms and calves took enough heat to feel it. Some people were downright beat when they returned. A part of me actually enjoyed the challenge of the hike through the main site and then up, up, up for the extra portions. If you know Petra, we went all the way to monastery, and then even up from there to see the views from the very peak. Some of our group cut some miles off by hiring horses, donkeys, or camels for lengths of the journey, but I was happy to stick with “bus #11”. (Our Chinese friends used to use that nickname for their feet.) I’ve got to say though that I was in real need of water by the time I hit the exit gate. I bought a water from a guy, only to crack it open and realize that it was 95% frozen. That made for slow, but very satisfying, sipping. Some of my traveling companions seemed willing to pay me double for it!
So now, I sit in a bus of baked folks. It’s seriously quieter than I can remember it being at any time in the past ten days. A lot of snoozing going on! We enjoyed a late lunch around 3:00 PM, and will drive another hour or so (it’s now 4:40 PM) to Wadi Rum, where we’ll get the desert experience in an area that became very dear to Lawrence of Arabia. We’ll be hosted by a Bedouin group for supper and sleeping—I think we’re lined up to sleep in tents. After a day like this, most of the group is ready to crash just about anywhere they get sent!
Tomorrow will see us pass through Aqaba, where we’ll cross the border into Israel. There, we’ll enjoy a free day before driving on to Jerusalem, where we’ll check into our residence at Tantur Ecumenical Institute.