“The Rose Red City, Half As Old As Time” -- By: Archibald Wilson Webster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 087:347 (Jul 1930)
Article: “The Rose Red City, Half As Old As Time”
Author: Archibald Wilson Webster


“The Rose Red City, Half As Old As Time”

Archibald Wilson Webster

Ever since Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab sheik, penetrated the rock defile of the Sikh and gazed upon the rock tombs and temples of the forgotten city of Petra, it has held a fascination for travelers. “The Rose Red city, half as old as time” with its curious architecture, varicolored sandstone, weird wadies, shaggy peaks, and general impression of a departed greatness well repays the effort required to penetrate to that fortess of ancient Edom. After I had read the story of Petra and had seen the pictures of the rock-hewn tombs, I longed to explore it, and in the summer of 1926 the opportunity presented itself. Mr. James R. Lee and I were student members of the archaeological expedition of Dr. M. G. Kyle and Dr. W. F. Albright which uncovered the City of Kirjath-Sepher in southern Palestine. As the work on the tell drew to a close for that season, Dr. Albright proposed to organize a party for Petra. As he is one of the foremost of Palestinian archaeologists and adept at handling the Arabs, we eagerly seized the opportunity. Monday, June 14th, was set as the time to start.

But difficulties presented themselves. Saturday, Dr. Albright brought word that we were not allowed to depart for Petra, that it was absolutely forbidden by the authorities, and therefore the party was called off. The following day, however, we heard an American missionary, Mr. Turnbull, tell of his recent automobile trip across the Arabian desert to El Jof; and he, together with another American missionary, Mr. Braden, who had made the trip to El Jof, said that it was perfectly feasible to go to Petra at that time. Lee and I decided to make the attempt, and we were strengthened in that resolve by the arrival of Kellogg who had come down from the excavations at Megiddo to join Dr. Albright’s party, and was determined to go on to Petra, if it was at all possible.

The first thing to be secured was an automobile for the trip. After much persuasion and bargaining a capable driver, Khallil, was engaged; but in the evening he re-

turned to say that he would not be able to make the trip, as he had no tires sufficiently strong to stand the journey. The American Colony reported that they had no tires in stock, but when the head of the American Colony, Mr. Vestor, was seen by Kellogg, tires were promised for the trip. The next morning Khallil backed out entirely. He decided that the trip was too dangerous; but he secured for us another driver, Ali, with a seven passenger Chandler. Ali, however, could not speak English, so brought with him a young fellow named Afifi, whose name we immediately shortened to “Fifi.”

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