Rose Coloured Petra

Rose Coloured Petra

Today in the news, President Barack Obama of the USA was given a private tour of the ancient city of Petra, in Jordan.

What is so famous about Petra?

Well, its sheer magnificence has been shown in several films over the years, famously in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Petra comes from a Greek word meaning stone.  A variation of Peter which means rock/stone.

Anyway Petra is an archeological city in Ma’an which is under Jordanian governorate.  It is famous for the rose-coloured sculptured architecture and a water conduit system.

Despite its historical heritage, Petra was virtually unknown to Europeans until 1812, when a Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt introduced this man-made wonder of the world to the west/Europe.

Such is  its wondrous beauty that it is high up in the UNESCO world heritage ranking and the Smithsonian counts it as 1 of the 28 places to visit before one kicks the bucket.



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A young John William Burgon was so intrigued that he composed a poem about Petra, a place which was a Xanadu to him; he has neither seen nor been to Petra at the time he wrote his poem while a student in the University of Oxford.  His effort won him the Newdigate Prize in 1845, awarded to Oxford undergraduates for Best Composition in English verse.


It seems no work of Man’s creative hand,

by labour 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that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;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.


John William Burgon (21 August 1813 – 4 August 1888)

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