It had to be the late 1980s. I was young, and the band “Petra” was killing it on the Christian music charts as they changed the face of Christian rock with their 80’s hair band style.
I had no idea what the word “petra” meant. In fact, it was not until I was thinking about this blog and did research that I found out petra is the Greek word for “rock.”
Back in those days, I pulled out the ol’ dictionary book – you remember those things called books, right? They have hard covers and paper “pages” that you turn to continue on with the story? Well, the dictionary referenced an ancient city in Jordan. I thought, “Ancient city? That sounds cool. I want to know more!” So, I pulled out the encyclopedia book. For those of you who do not know what an encyclopedia is, it is basically Wikipedia but in book form. The books were alphabetized from A to Z. I pulled out the “P” volume and looked for “Petra.” One look at that poor-quality photo in the encyclopedia, and I knew I wanted to see it one day. I did not believe I would actually get the chance.
Dreams become reality
I am led to say this: NEVER underestimate or scoff at the interests, dreams, or longings you have had, even at the earliest of ages. You never know what awaits you in the future. Things you thought were silly, or are just childhood desires, can actually come to pass. They are not to be taken lightly.
When I was five years old, I told my mom I wanted to be a ballerina or a forklift driver. I wound up driving a forklift for nearly 8 years when I was in my twenties (by that point, it was far less of a dream than when I was five). Childhood dreams and the spoken word are very powerful! What things did you dream about as a child? Have you had the opportunity for them to happen yet? If not, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunity. Let the five-year-old dreamer in you come alive!
Since Petra is so close to Israel (located in the bordering country of Jordan), I decided to look into the cost and procedure of visiting. Boy, talk about a can of worms. I heard everything from needing a visa before leaving the United States to waltzing across the border with no problem. I heard a variety of costs ranging from $50 if you go at it alone to $800 for a private guide. I heard my safety would be at risk and that it is completely safe. I heard all sorts of contradicting things. But in the end I had to ask myself a couple of questions:
1. Is it something I have dreamed of for a long time? Yes.
2. Is the money worth spending? Yes.
3. If I have to cut my trip short in order to make this dream happen, is it worth it? Yes.
4. If this is the only opportunity I ever get to visit Petra, will I regret not going? Yes.
There was nothing more to discuss. I was going to Petra.
The day tour was fantastic. The border crossing was almost smooth. The site was beautiful. If you are not familiar with Petra, you may have seen it showcased in a variety of movies. The location has shown up in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Mummy Returns, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and more.
Petra is over two thousand years old. Although it is unknown when Petra was actually built, the city prospered as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the first century BC through the spice trade, specifically focused on frankincense and myrrh. Later, the Roman Empire acquired Petra until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed the city, leading to its downfall.
By the seventh century, only local Bedouin’s inhabited the area. It was considered the “lost city” until 1812 when Swiss explorer, Johannes Burckhardt, dressed as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to lead him there. After his visit, Petra became well known in the West and began attracting visitors. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been labeled one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
As you walk toward the canyon-walled pathway that guides you to Petra, you are met with rock formations on either side of the road. The doorways lead to tombs. Hundreds and hundreds of rock tombs line the path to Petra. Some of them are dated all the way back to the first century AD.
Nearly 700 horses, donkeys, and camels work in the park, providing transportation for tourists and an income for owners. All three have been part of Arab life for thousands of years.
The “Siq,” or narrow gorge, is the winding pathway leading to Petra’s entrance. The Siq was the result of an earthquake which split the mountain apart, leaving the gorge. It is just over one kilometer long and extremely vivid in color. Some secrets can be found in the rock walls as you make your way toward the city.
When you arrive in Petra, you are immediately staring at “Al Khazna,” or The Treasury. This is Petra’s most famous landmark, and rightfully so. Standing over 125 feet high, The Treasury is beautifully carved and decorated in Corinthian design. It is said Pharaoh’s treasure is still concealed here. Chances of spotting camels here are good. They will even take you for a ride if you are willing to pay.
As you walk the “Street of Facades,” you will see a number of carved entrances to more tombs. Eventually, you will make your way to “The Theatre,” which can accommodate 4,000 spectators! The columns in the front are an addition by the Romans during their time of occupation, later in Petra’s history.
Down around the corner from The Theatre stands “The Royal Tombs.” Each of the four buildings has its own given name but combined, they make up a most impressive and beautiful façade to view. Visitors can climb the five stories for the experience to walk inside and gaze at the marble ceilings. While it is obvious that some of the stairs have been reconstructed, others are still authentic, so watch your step!
If you were to continue the path past the Royal Tombs, you would reach other areas of ruins of Petra. Unfortunately, the city itself was eventually destroyed and never rebuilt. The majority of what remains is tombs. But nonetheless, it is one of the most incredible places I have ever visited. If you get the opportunity, go for it. You will not be disappointed.
And so, this brings us to end of my time in Petra and in Israel.
Now that I think we can agree that we all love Petra, I encourage you to chase God’s dream for your life. He guarantees to take you to a place greater than you imagined. Choose to take a step beyond belief to the next plateau.
By: Tara Smith