Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Petra, Masada -- two ancient symbols

They both trace their origins back the a time before the birth of Jesus, they both intersected with the power of Rome, they both are fascinating places blending history, archeology and spectacular sites.

Yet there are profound differences as well.

Petra is in Jordan, Masada is in Israel.

Petra was built by the Nabateans, masters of the trade routes across the Middle East, who had an intricate religious system reflected in their buildings. Masada had its origins among the Jewish leaders in the period just before the beginning of the Christian era.

Petra is down deep in a valley, defended by narrow canyons called siqs that provided absolute control over access to the city. Masada is high on a plateau, overlooking the Negev desert, a place that should have been able to repel an any attack -- until the Roman Army came with 8,000 troops in 74 AD, laid seige to the mountain and eventually battered their way in, only to find that virtually all of the 1,000 Jewish rebels who had taken refuge there after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD had killed themselves the night before the final assault, choosing death over defeat, surrender and slavery.

For Jordan, Petra is a place of national pride and tourist income. It is very had to get to -- a couple of hours ride of Aquaba, three hours from Amman. Once there, you hike down a long trail, through the Siq and then into the ancient city.

For Israel, Masada has become a symbol of defiance over anyone who would attack their nation. Every Israeli soldier as part of his or her training goes to Masada to take an oath that those who died their will not have died in vain, that Masada will never be conquered again. It is a major tourist attraction for isiral, just off the main highway about 45 minutes from Jerusalem, with cable cars that shuttle you up to the top of the plateau in three minutes.

For photos from Petra,
click here.
For photos from Masada, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment