Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, hidden in the dramatic rock formations of Wadi Musa, alongside the edges of the mountainous desert of Wadi Araba, and surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges, lies the ancient, forgotten, city of Petra, Jordan.
A wadi is a valley, gulley or streambed that is dry except in the rainy season. Wadi Musa is the Arab name for the narrow valley that leads into Petra. According to Arab tradition, Petra is the spot where Moses (Musa) struck a rock with his staff and water came forth. It is also, where his brother, Aaron (Harun) is buried at Mount Hor, known today as Mount Aaron. There is, somewhere, a mountaintop shrine to Moses’ sister, Miriam; its location has yet to be found.
The Nabataean Arabs, nomadic desert traders, first established Petra sometime around the 6th century BC. It is speculated they chose this place to settle down because of its natural fortress of rock cliffs and its available water supply. The Nabataeans pretty much controlled Petra until the Romans took over in 100 AD.
Petra became the centralized hub for the trading of spice, silk, textiles, pearls, gemstones, ivory, and incense because it established itself as the crossroads for the camel caravan trading routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.
I don’t remember the first time I saw a picture of Khazneh – the “Treasury” in Petra; but, I do remember seeing it in the third Indiana Jones film, “The Last Crusade”. It was an astonishing sight for me and I felt so drawn to it. I really wanted to see it in person, but, never did I think that would happen. I tucked it away in my heart.
Then on my first visit to New York City I was so happy to find that the American Museum of Natural History had a whole presentation and display of “Petra: Lost City of Stone” I was transported while watching the little movie they showed about Petra. I was enchanted by the delicate ceramic vases on display. I had to have one of those vases and I bought a beautiful little pink one:
Now, I am soooo ready to be going into Petra and seeing it firsthand!
After paying our park fee we begin the walk that will bring us to the Siq, a narrow cleft in the walls of the rocks and the main road into Petra.
When the Nabataean traders were still nomadic they controlled the water in certain places on the trading routes and in creating Petra they demonstrated their engineering abilities for harnessing natural springs and flash floods to create water conservation via systems of conduits, cisterns, dams and reservoirs. They used strategically placed rock cut gutters lined with plaster and combined with terra cotta pipelines to follow the natural landscape, dumping the water into the cisterns and reservoirs. This enabled them to sustain fertile crops, lush gardens, and pools. By controlling the water supply they were able to create an artificial oasis that at its height may have had as many as 20,000 residents. I don’t have a great picture to demonstrate this, but, see where the left rock wall has been cut inward? Alexei showed me how there is an obvious smoothed out kind of culvert where water would be collected and diverted to some other place.
If you are not into walking the Siq, you could take a little buggy ride:
However, if you are walking, don’t worry about stepping in droppings. See how clean that roadway is? It is because of this guy:
He’s got a big job keeping the road clean!
The Nabataens half built, half carved their city of homes, tombs and awesome facades right into the beautiful red, yellow and white rock. I am not sure why they built the facades. Perhaps it was to impress visitors. It definitely worked on me! Khazneh – The Treasury:
I loved the striations and colors of the natural rock:
Petra became a rich city not only financially, but also, due to the free exchange of culture and ideas. This is expressed in their art and the mix of Nabataean, Hellenistic, and Roman architecture.
Yikes! I thought the Romans were gone!
Don’t ask; I have no clue!
It is our intention to climb the mountain path to El-Deir – the Monastery. Alexei says it will be a bit of a climb. It will take two or more hours. I want to go; I figure it is good practice for Mount Sinai.
Yeah, it was pretty darn good practice. These pictures do not even do it justice.
Along the path was the occasional Bedouin wanting to sell souvenirs. These women would get your name on the way up and then on the way down holler, “I see you coming Noelle. Remember you promised to buy from me.” They had great memories. Some of them had accents that told me they had travelled internationally; for example, the woman who had spent many years in New Jersey. Now that was crazy…a Bedouin with a “joisy” accent!
Finally, the weary duo i.e. me and Noelle, along with the very spry Alexei made it to El-Deir. It was worth it!
Yes, I was tired; but, when Alexei said he was going up the hill to what was billed as “The Highest Point”, I said I’d go too. When we got there we could see the Red Sea on one side; while, on the other side, we looked down onto the Monastery and into the valley of Petra where we would soon be returning.
By the time we got back down the mountain and back into the Roman area, my feet were killing me. I was wearing my steel toed work boots that I used when I swinging a chain saw around. Dude, my dogs were barking at me to stop. So, when Noelle and Alexei went one way to see more ruins, I continued toward the center area where there were refreshments and bathrooms, etc. I walked passed all of that and sat on a boulder. I wanted to meditate, but, there were many children climbing, yelling and playing on the ruins across from me. There were Bedouins trying to sell camel rides and other items. There were tourist walking up and down the road, chattering and laughing. I was annoyed and trying to tune them all out when it occurred to me that this was how it could have been back when Petra flourished. People LIVED here. These kids, the merchants, the people… it brought Petra to life for me and I basked in the joy of being here.
Petra met its decline when, in 330 AD, the Roman Empire moved its focus to Constantinople and the sea based trade routes were revised. Then, in 363 AD, an earthquake destroyed half of the city. Except for the locals, the world just kind of forgot about Petra until it was “rediscovered” by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
In 1917, as part of a general effort to divert the Turkish military away from the British invasion of North Africa, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) led a small force of Syrians and Arabians in defending Petra against a much larger force of Turks and Germans. The local Bedouin women, under the leadership of the wife of Sheik Khallil were recruited to fight in the defense of the city. The defenders completely decimated the attackers.
Petra has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985 and in 2007 was voted to be one of the New 7 wonders of the World. I can agree with that! Although there has been a lot of archeological work done in uncovering Petra, less than one-twentieth has been unearthed. It makes me wonder what will be there in a few more years. I would love to go back to Petra, but, this time I would stay for at least a week to explore all it has to offer. I would also love to visit more of Jordan. I liked the way it felt.
Our trip into Petra was at an end, but surprise, our day was not finished. We had to reach Dahab, Egypt by that night!
Holey Moley, I really could use that Turkish bath and my Cutey Pie right now!
Instead, it is time to say goodbye to Wadi Musa, Petra and Jordan.
Noelle took advantage of the trip, but, I love to watch the scenery.
The nighttime journey was quite the adventure that I won’t go into very much. Just know that we had to cross three border checkpoints in about 20 or 30 minutes because they close down at night. Unfortunately, in our hurry to beat the busload of tourists that were disembarking, we missed doing necessary things like paying Jordan’s exit tax that had to be paid in Dinars that we didn’t have anymore because we had just given all of them to our taxi driver. I don’t even remember all the stuff that tripped us up. Each time, we had to back track and didn’t that just cheer up my Buds! Now the tourist group was ahead of us.
One thing I did find amusing occurred at the Israeli passport checkpoint. The very reserved, professionally behaving female guard’s whole manner changed when she saw Alexei’s last name was Romanov. Her face lit up, she gave him a huge smile and began speaking to him in Russian. Alexei responded in kind. I don’t know what they said, but, it gave me an opportunity to interface with the nicer woman in the next cubicle.
The line going through security was super long due to all of the tourists ahead of us. I mentioned before that Israeli security can be intense and, once again, they tore apart Noelle’s and Alexei’s stuff.
Alexei said, “How come they never go through your stuff?”
Hmm, he’s right. They never check me. I don’t know why.
Finally, we were in Egypt, at night, in our mini bus for a several hour drive to Dahab – just us three and the driver. Dad, am I supposed to be worried about driving on the roads at night in Egypt?
Nah! It was a beautiful peaceful drive for me as I watched the clear night sky filled with so many stars.
We arrived at our beachside hotel around 11pm. Our hotel manager was there to greet us. He gave us a little tour and said, “We’re pretty chill around here, so, get some rest tonight. You’re gonna love being here.”
Did he say “Chill”?
Dude, I think I’m gonna like it here!