Petra really should be designated the Eighth Wonder of the World! The ancient city in Jordan was carved out of red rock in 7,000 B.C. The Nabateans lived there for centuries, their unique position overlooking Wadi Rum and surrounding valleys ideal for keeping intruders at bay.
From 400 B.C. to 106 A.D., Petra thrived and prospered as the Nabataean capital. The Nabataeans developed an enterprising system of pipes and channels that not only carried drinking water into the city, but reduced the chance of flash floods. In 106 A.D. the Romans annexed Petra and its reputation as a trading center began to fade. Then the Byzantines occupied Petra, until earthquakes and economic woes contributed to instability. By 700 A.D., the Byzantine Empire, Petra's hydraulic system and the once magnificent buildings had eroded. Petra disappeared from many maps and was known chiefly through folklore. (Zohrab photo of Treasury, above).
It wasn't until the 19th century that Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt, disguised as a Muslim trader, stumbled upon Petra and announced its presence to the world. The Bedouin tribal families who once lived in caves in Petra and in areas surrounding the city have been relocated to Jordanian government-sponsored housing. Preservation efforts to safeguard Petra and its ancient artifacts continue, as extensive archeological excavations uncover more of the long-lost city. Petra remains a popular tourist destination; if you have the opportunity, it's a must-see!
This week's Poetry Thursday suggestion was to take a field trip and write or find poetry related to that trip. While that wasn't possible this week, I have taken a few field trips to Petra. Along with some wonderful memories, English cleric Dean Burgon's poem Petra has stayed with me:
"It seems no work of man’s creative hand
By labor 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 nights 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That first beheld them were not yet withdrawn.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 a marvel, save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city half as old as Time."