Poems for Petra – An Ode to the Rose Red City

Part of the reason Petra gained notoriety after its rediscovery in 1812 was because of the written work of one man – John Burgon. Though he never visited, his award-winning poem from 1845 describes Petra so perfectly, it certainly seemed like he had! In addition to Indiana Jones and the Left Behind books, it was Burgon’s poem that helped to form my idea of the Rose Red City before I ever stepped a foot in its blushing sand.

The rocky route up to the Monastery

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that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;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 Burgon, 1845

Having read my posts and seen my pictures, don’t you think Burgon hits the nail on the head?

Goats wander near the Monastery


Inspired by Burgon’s poem as I wandered the ruins, I decided to pen my own sonnet to honor both his memory and my own bumbling, opposite-of-poetic adventure in Petra.

(Now I can’t even tell you the last time I tried to write a poem, so don’t be too hard on me. I did my best!)

A Cleft in the Rock, or Petra by Mule

by Angie Orth

My Bedouin guide promised to show me the way,

So I entered the Siq at the first light of day.

I sought traces of intrigue and spies and great mystery,

Finding none I pondered tales of ancient history.

Handsome Indiana Jones was nowhere to be found,

Across uneven miles of rust red, rocky ground.

Empty tombs and carved vaults and dark graves I searched,

Like a Nabatean queen atop a noble steed, I lurched.

Hushed, enormous, ruddy and eerie,

Petra might be like Mars; at least, that’s my theory.

Obligatory Monastery jumping shot

Hollywood promised adventures and escapades,

But in the real world, Petra by mule equals Medicaid.

Limitless and vast, not enough time on the clock,

I can’t wait to go back to this cleft in the rock.


My Petra adventure was sponsored in part by Visit Jordan. All opinions and hideous attempts at poetry are my own.

About The Author

7 thoughts on “Poems for Petra – An Ode to the Rose Red City”

  1. Great post! I am starting work on mine, and find that Petra defies description. Enjoyed your poems too, and the John Burgon poem with the rose-red city description. Petra was an endless time enchantress for me, and I was 28 weeks pregnant when I made the trip and so it was extra special!

    1. Wow – you are a trooper! I can’t imagine doing all that walking at 28 weeks! If I do ever find myself in the family way, I plan to lie around eating candy for about 9 months =)

  2. One day soon I will write a sonnet about Petra too.Love yours, a little kookie perhaps but very modern.I have written a lot of poems for Facebook consumption, a kind of stress buster hobby from my work.

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