By Udita Shukla
Petra, also known as Raqmu, is a historical city, that was unearthed in 1812 AD, in the southern region of the Arab nation of Jordan. It is situated about two hundred and fifty kilometres to the south of the capital city, Amman. In 2007, Petra bagged the second position in the international competition of the seven “new” wonders of the world.
Something about the city
The city is carved out in stones and is adorned with exquisite rock-cut architectural marvels. The site also speaks volumes about the knowledge in city planning, given the numerous water conduit systems it hosts. The Newdigate Prize-winning poem by John William Burgon describes Petra as “a rose-red city half as old as time”. Truly, the stones bear the tint of pink that seems to paint the air afresh with their radiance and beauty.
One of the major attractions in Petra is Siq – the canyon of many colours that most faithfully and valiantly guards the entrance to the city. Additionally, there is a Treasury that was built by the artisans of old, for a reason that is yet unknown to historians. It is also one of the most recognised monuments, having been cast in one of the Indiana Jones movies. Known as the Rose city, it has several trade routes that the Arabs are known to have exploited (in the past) to carry out trade and commercial activities with regional and external players.
Evolution through the ages
The city of Petra is a befitting example of how human civilisation and culture evolves: a barren, stony desert metamorphosis into a budding, well-planned centre, throbbing with the cacophony of hawkers and vendors. This is one of the many threads that weave the fabric of our civilisation to form an incredible tapestry of the inventiveness and ingenuity of the human mind.
It is worth mentioning that the so-called Rose City hosted and nurtured the Arab nomads for a long time. The Nabataeans (builders of the city) are known to have practised limited agriculture amidst the scare weather and (land) fertility resources. The many oases proffered a natural land area for farming. The Arabs steadily increased their wealth by cultivating gardens and growing fruits. Nevertheless, their empire was known to be one of the greatest civilisations in the world.
The hidden symbolism
Petra is symbolic of Jordan as well as a tourist attraction. The echoes from the past still welcome one with open arms to tell their story that lies hidden behind the imposing facades, and beneath the sandy ground.
A historical, archaeological city teaches us many things, among which the chief is resilience and persistence. The urge to survive can lead humankind to build bridges on the most inhabitable places and run channels of water in a scorching, charred desert. Resilience to not bow down to the vagaries of nature, and working through the sand that seems to gulp down as much water as comes in contact with it.
The calm within the storm
Recent wars and geopolitical friction have muffled the calm, quaint atmosphere the regions entails. Apart from Israel, the Middle East is hardly found in the travel itineraries of tourists. One of the key resources in which Jordan is lacking is the presence of oil, unlike most of its Middle Eastern neighbours. Although this part of the region has remained relatively insulated from political disruption, the grave consequences of incessant territorial tussles have shadowed the tourism industry. In the words of a Jerusalem-born Jordanian, Yacob Mickel, “Tourism in Jordan will never die, but it is very sick at the moment. We are all the sons of Abraham. Why do we fight?” Perhaps no one can answer that question but the people themselves!
History might be a bygone era but it is very much relevant to our present, and perhaps to a greater extent, also to the future. After all, past is the mother that begot the present. What usually hides away, is the lesson of peace through labour, and not encroachment of another’s territory – lessons that remain buried deep, and eventually, long-forgotten!
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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