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city-of-petraThe 2,000 year-old Rose Red City of Petra was the religious center of an ancient Arab tribe named Nabataeans.  They didn’t build huge temples such as this – they carved them out of cliffs of rose-red sandstone in their hidden mountain sanctuary east of the Dead Sea in present-day Jordan.

The most famous carved temple is called The Treasury (Al-Khazneh in Arabic), 128 feet high, hand-carved into the vertical rock face.  You’ve seen it in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades and other movies.

One interesting feature of Nabataean culture was the prominence of women. The two principal deities worshipped by them was the male god Dushara, god of the sun and sky whom the ancient Greeks associated with Zeus, and Al-Uzza, the goddess of fertility whom the Greeks associated with Aphrodite.

Al-Uzza was accompanied by Al-lat, the goddess of wisdom, and Manat, the goddess of destiny, as a triad devoutly worshipped by the Nabataeans and throughout all pre-Islamic Arabia.  Together, they are the “forbidden goddesses” of Koranic Islam.  Which is why their images, along with that of Dushara have been defaced and etched out of their carvings in the upper niches of The Treasury.

Experiencing Petra is on most people’s travel bucket list.  Being here, it’s easy to see why.  (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #292, photo ©Jack Wheeler)