40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 10!

10. Discover the ancient city of Petra.

It seems entirely fitting that Petra in Jordan is the subject of one of the most evocative poems ever written. When John Burgon penned the immortal line “A rose-red city half as old as time”, he summarised this astonishing place perfectly.

This wondrous ancient city lies in a hidden valley in south Jordan, and is estimated to be over 3200 years old. Capital of the ancient Nabataean civilisation, it remained unknown to the Western world until it was introduced to Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt in 1812.

How his jaw must have dropped when he first set eyes on it.

Hewn in to the red rock canyon walls are dozens of buildings, the most important of which display remarkable architecture and immaculate beauty. Columns, pediments, sculptures and decorations adorn the fronts of the the Monastery (Al Dier) and particularly the famous Treasury (Al Khazneh).

While such classical structures are impressive when seen in stone, or even the white marble of Ancient Greece, to see them carved from sheer red sandstone walls is something else entirely.

Anyone who has seen the classic film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade will have a sense of what to expect. In the movie, Petra (specifically the Treasury) serves as the resting place of the Holy Grail.

Director Steven Spielberg picked an ideal location – an ancient site steeped in history, both beautiful and mysterious.

There’s a reason why Petra has made just about every travel list ever compiled – including this one! And if you needed any more motivation to visit, then just think; the sooner you journey to Petra, the longer you get to remember it for!

But while we at Topdeck dearly love Petra, no words of ours could compete with John Burgon’s prize-winning 1845 verse, so we’ll just let him do the talking from here:

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that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;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.

Topdeck Top Tip: Petra is much bigger than most people think! It’ll involve a fair bit of walking, so wear comfy shoes and take plenty of water due to the heat and sun.

See a gallery of Petra photos here: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/jordan/petra-pictures/index.htm

25 mins of awesome HD Petra footage (skip to 3.40 for the Treasury): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0Z6XkKryD4

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