Petra

23-24 May 2006

 

 

 

 

 

In the 7th century BCE the Edomites settled in the area around Petra. In the 3rd century BCE, Edom became the nucleus of an Arab state, the Nabatean Kingdom, with Petra as the capital.

 

It’s a vast, rugged, and beautiful area and one wouldn’t expect -looking at the picture on the left - that Petra is hidden in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a fair walk to get into Petra from the parking area and already on the way in you see examples of buildings carved into the rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a while you walk through a Siq, a very narrow and deep canyon (what we call a slot canyon, see our biking pictures) and…

 

(This siq is .8 mile long, itself worth a trip. When the city was active this siq was paved)

 

 

 

 

 

…you get a first glimpse of the most famous building in Petra, the Treasury. It was built in the 1st century BCE and was either a tomb or a shrine.

 

The Nabateans developed an interesting blend of middle-eastern, Egyptian, and Hellenistic architecture and deities.

 

On the Treasury are Castor and Pollux and Isis. These three were a popular group in the Hellenistic Orient in some way linked with the individual and his salvation.

 

 

 

The Treasury derives its name from the huge urn surmounting the central tholos. According to tradition, a treasure was hidden in the urn. For many years, the Bedouin fired their rifles at the much battered vessel hoping it would break open and spill all the gold and jewels. Between the columns of the tholos that carries the urn is an image of Isis who is also badly battered by poorly aimed shots. (Most scholars doubt that Dick Cheney did it). The back-ground for this website is an image of Isis that is now in the museum.

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the buildings in Petra are carved into the rock which is often very colorful. This is the interior of the Treasury.

 

 Equally colorful and handsome are the Bedouin desert police who guard the treasury and pose with handsome tourists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another example of Petra’s beautiful rocks with Yvonne peeking through a natural opening.

 

 

Camels, camels everywhere…

 

In the background the amphitheater dating from the 1st century CE is almost entirely carved from solid rock.

 

We decided to come down from the “High Place” following minor paths. We wound up scrambling over rocks and finally wound up coming down from above the theater on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theater had 45 rows and held some 7000 people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tunnels leading to the theater’s stage.

 

 

If one continues to walk (one can hire a donkey or a camel) along the Wadi Moussa (Moses Valley), one passes many tombs carved in the rock.

 

After the Romans took over the Nabatean kingdom, Petra started to decline. It was a bishopric in the Byzantine period but was abandoned under Islam. Petra was lost to the western world until it was rediscovered by a Swiss traveler in 1812. 

 

 

 

In Petra’s “city center” this one of the largest and most impressive buildings. It was built at the end of the 1st century BCE and its purpose isn’t clear.

 

 It could have been a temple, palace, reception hall or other civic building.

 

 

After another walk uphill with 800 carved steps one comes to another spectacular building called the Deir or Monastery (it wasn’t, its name derives from crosses scratched inside). It’s huge, twice the width of the west front of Westminster Abbey in London. The pictures below show Yvonne standing at the entrance door. In antiquity it may have been a sacred hall, perhaps connected with the cult of one of the Nabatean Kings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our second visit to Petra, we climbed to the so-called High Place. On the way we were lucky to see a blue Sinai lizard. The fellow actually posed and very patiently waited until Juergen got all his camera adjustments right (he looked like he wanted to say: why don’t you read the manual beforehand!).

 

 

 

 

 

Here we are on top of the High Place with the palace tombs on the east side of Wadi Moussa in the background.

 

The High Place was the venue for important Nabatean ceremonies (worship of gods, animal sacrifices and funeral rites).

 

 

 

 

 

Three of us (Yvonne first, Rasha second and Jamie third) decided to take the long way back from the High Place. We didn’t see any other tourists and experienced a fascinating area of Petra which most tourists don’t visit. Here we’re descending into the Wadi Farasa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carved in the rock is the famous lion fountain. Water flowed down the carved channel on the right and probably passed through a pipe and out of the lion’s mouth. The lion’s head is gone now and was perhaps made out of metal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorful rock formations in the Wadi Farasa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This striking place is called the Garden Temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A look from inside the Garden Temple into the Wadi Farasa with the colorful rocks through which we passed descending from the High Place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful natural colors inside a tomb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many tombs in Petra, that most don’t even have names. This one is tomb 229 which has an unusual segmented arch above the doorway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tomb of the broken pediment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another example of the colors of Petra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Petra we turned around and had a final glance at Isis on the façade of the Treasury.