Wanna Buy A Piece of History?

The Colonnade was empty except for the lone toddler selling Petra rocks by the side of the road.  He was actually even dustier than we felt.  I snapped his photo and gave him a JD.  Leaving his plate of rocks, he jumped up and ran towards the bushes behind him, waving his bill, while shouting, “Mama!  Mama!”

Half past noon, we were all hot and needed a break.  But the thought of walking to the end of the Colonnade where the tourist groups filled the tables at the all you can eat buffet restaurants did not sound appealing either.

As we stood next to a pistachio tree, a donkey started braying his lungs out.  His initial call trumpeted his displeasure then became a mournful crescendo about some personal tragedy.

“Either that donkey needs help or he is calling us to go this way.” I suggested to my friends, “Please, let’s go up this trail.  I want to take pictures of Aphrodite’s temple at the top of the hill.”

The place Jordan occupies in both political and spiritual history astounds me.

Blue Church with royal tombs in background petra jordan by eva the dragon 2013 v2

It is thrilling to be able to literally see how our religions evolved and built upon the past.  Only ten-percent of Petra has been excavated; yet marvelous pieces of our collective history present a unique opportunity to learn something about humanity.

  • The Nabataean tombs were constructed during Egypt’s 18th dynasty.  The 18th dynasty included Hatsheput (1479-1458BCE), the longest-reigning, queen/pharaoh, and Akhenaten (1353-1336BCE) who was called the heretic Pharaoh.   Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti abandoned Egypt’s pantheon of Gods.  Within seventeen years he convinced the entire country that there was only one God.  In ancient Egypt, God was called Aten or Ra.  In modern times, the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb made the dynasty “Born of Thoth” (Thut-mosis) famous.
  • The town surrounding Petra is Wadi Moussa, literally translated as Moses’ valley.  Moses, the Bronze-Age, Jewish patriarch of the mono-theistic religions was estimated to have lived sometime between 1600-1200BCE, during Egypt’s 18th dynasty.  His brother, Aaron, was buried on Mount Hor in Petra.
  • The Nabataeans’ temple dedicated to the God Dushara and Goddess Al-Uzza was built around 30BC.  After the Romans conquered Petra, the temple’s name was changed to Qasr al-Bint al-Pharaun or the Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter.
  • Built about 27AD, during the Roman times, the Temple of the Winged Lions (aka Aphrodite’s temple) is dedicated to the Syrian Goddess, Atargatis.  Referred to as the Fish-Goddes, Atargatis gave birth to a demi-goddess then abandoned her.  Desert doves raised the baby until she was found by a royal shepherd.  She became Queen Semirami leading her people to great military victories, founded Babylon and its hanging gardens, created her own religion and made her son king.
  • The Petra Church, aka the Byzantine Church, was built on a Nabataean temple foundation about 530AD.  After being buried in earthquakes, only twenty-years ago, archeologists began excavating the church.  The mosaics depict the ancient symbols incorporated into the new Roman religion, Christianity.  The ancient goddesses of fertility and harvest, spring, summer, fall, doves, fish, and my favorites – rabbits and roosters – paved the path towards the baptismal fountain where the water of life and resurrection was contained.

And under a desert sun, water is life itself.

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