Sunday, July 15, 2012

Where the world begins and ends: Petra

I have left Jordan (in Israel now), but in my last weekend I went on a whirlwind tour of all the amazing sights of Jordan by bus with Saif! 

One of the most breathtaking moments of my life: rounding a bend in our rattling bus and finding myself at the edge of the world. The landscape around Petra... I cannot describe it. An eternity of sand and stone which stretches out forever like the cradle of the world.

Truly I can see how the old testiment was born in this land. A desert scattered with rocks and sudden cliffs, and the jutting red mountains of stone so weathered they look like bones of some giant beast. This landscape must surely have had a hand to create it. But this hand, this god, is as vengeful and untamed as it is magnificent. Beautiful, terrifying, and very very near. In every step. In the land of Abraham the stones speak the tongue of this ancient god. I begin to understand how modern faith came from this place. Where every blade of grass and drop of water is a gift, is it little wonder faith here is strong.

And Petra... where do I begin? Walking into Petra is like walking into the heart of the earth. The dusty road is swallowed by curving red cliffs which undulate like living things. The walk to the ancient city is long and dusty – interrupted by the occasional carriage or donkey – but I cannot stop smiling because the rocks are the most beautiful I have ever seen.

When at last I catch sight of Petra it explodes in golden sunlight through the cliffs. As always, that first moment as you stare at something as famous as Petra is one of disbelief, and the reality of it slow filters in along with utter amazement that such a thing can truly exist beyond postcards.

But Petra is so much more than a single ruin... it is a lost world. Beyond the treasury is a labyrinth of caves and temples and even a vast red roman theater. As we clambered over cliffs and stared out at this ancient city I felt we were wandering through a beautiful skeleton. I would have given anything to see it alive, the city as it must have been when the people who carved homes from mountains still lived in it.

Petra battles Ankor Wat for the most incredible place I have ever been. I am so sad we only had a few hours to explore before we got back on the bus to go to someplace maybe even more amazing... Wadi Rum: the most beautiful desert in the world! Will post about this tomorrow.


  1. Wow! Amazing. Thanks, as always, for giving us a taste of your adventure. Beautiful pictures, evocative words!

  2. Thank you ( written with envey)