Sunday, June 03, 2012

Petra: 'rose red city itself half as old as time'


I am drawn to visit Petra after what I had glimpsed the ‘rose red city half as old as time’ in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade which stars two of my favourite actors, Sean Connery and Harrison Ford. The quote is from a poem from John William Burgon.

    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 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    That first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;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 marvel save in Eastern clime,
    A rose-red city half as old as time.

Petra by John William Burgon (1845)

Visiting Petra does not disappoint. Even though now it is a city of the dead and a tourist attraction, I can sense the rich history rising out of the heat, aridity and dust. After getting a map from the Tourist Police, some of us decided we have to move fast if we want to see most of the attractions of this ancient site as we had only  few hours. We made our way through the Siq to Al-Khazaneh (Treasury) then through the Street of Facades to the Roman ruins around the Temenos Gate. Then we climbed to the Urn Tomb and Palace Tomb before making our way out through the Siq. We did not have time to see Ad-Deir (Monastery) as it is too far away.

Petra which is about 262 km south of Amman lie within the rugged mountains of Edom. Aaron died and was buried on one of these mountain ridges known as Mount Hor (Num. 20: 23-29). Petra was probably the land of the ancient Horites (Gen. 14:6). After Essau migrated to this area, he and his descendents, the Edomites, drove out the Horites (Gen. 36: 20, 21, 29). Petra is also called Sela (Isa. 16:1; Jer.49:49:16-17; Obad.3). King Amaziah of Judah conquered Edom, and presumably Sela as well and renamed it Joktheel (2 Kings 14:7). The Nebateans (Ishmaelites) settled and fortified it around 650 BCE. There is speculation that Petra may be the place where the godly remnants will flee in the Tribulation after the Abomination that causes Desolation is erected in the Jerusalem temple of the AntiChrist (Matt. 24:15-21; Rev. 12:14-17; Isa. 16:1-4).

The Nabateans remain in control as a vassal of Imperial Rome around 63 BCE to 106 CE. We did not know what the Apostle Paul had done to irritate King Aretas IV, king of Petra, but the king wanted to arrest him.

2 Cor. 11:32
32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

Standing in the heat of the desert surrounded by these man-made monuments on natural mountain ridges, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the flow of history around me. Human empires rise and fall. Hopes of men and women, both great and small, either fulfilled or dashed. In the midst of this, human living goes on. Men and women get married, have children and then die. Another generation arises to carry on. Places mentioned in the Bible are real, not some fantasy dreamt of by some kings or politicians. Yet, behind these big and small narratives, I sense the Hand of God. God is involved in shaping all these little narratives into His grand narrative – the History for His beloved creatures. Jehovah Nissi “The Lord is my Banner” which stresses that God is our rallying point and our means of victory; the one who fights for His people (Ex. 17:15).

Djinn Blocks
Obelisk Tomb & Bab as-Siq
entrance to as-Siq

exit to Outer Siq with view of al-Kanazneh

al-Kanazneh (Treasury)
Street of Facades
tombs on the Outer Siq
towards the Colonnaded Street

lower temenos of the Great Temple on the north part of the Colonnaded Street

Temenos Gate

Qasr al-Bint

Corinthian Tomb
stairs to the Urn Tomb

upper fascade of Urn Tomb

entrance the Urn Tomb

inside the Urn Tomb

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Blogger Paul Long said...

If I am not mistaken, I first saw Petra in one of the old "Sinbad" movies

8:32 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Paul, I cannot remember seeing Petra in any of the Sinbad movies. Could have been but then it was a long time ago since I saw the movies.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Paul Long said...

Hahaha made me question my memory

Googled Sinbad movie and Petra and whew, found this

Petra receives thousands of visitors from around the world each year. The popular sight has been featured in several movies such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger as well as Spy Hunter and in the well-read Left Behind series as well as the movie of the same name. Many today believe it will once again be used as a mighty fortress for fleeing Jews in the last days when the Antichrist takes the throne in their rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

Realized though after viewing some you tube clips that I can't recall the plot. But strange that I remembered the Petra scene :-)

11:59 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

good memory, Paul!

12:27 PM  

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