Petra, Mini Petra, and Beidha Neolithic Village – 02 November

Today was the day that we finally get to see the facade of Petra, the building that lent its image to the stunning visuals of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.

I was up far too late last night catching up on my blogging, so when the 6:30 AM wake up call arrived at 6 AM, it was a bit annoying.  But hey I went back to sleep easily enough, then tried to catch up by rushing – always a good plan, or maybe not…

I managed to get enough together that we could make breakfast then the bus, but I’d have to brush my teeth down at the restaurant.  No problem, except, as I found out much later, I apparently left my toothbrush & toothpaste behind.  So now I need a toothbrush, oh well.  Foolish moves.

First stop was Petra itself – see .  What a long walk!  About 2 km from the vistor’s centre to the entrance to the city, then another say 2 km in the Siq (narrow jagged entry passage between the walls of rock).  It then opens up to show the Treasury, the facade that the Indiana Jones movie (among others) made famous.  Very impressive, very amazing!

Not sure what the motion picture industry thinks of the use of their trademark, but this shop sells all kinds of stuff, including hats that look nothing like Indiana Jones hats

But… did you know that all this was just a tomb for a beloved ruler?  Yikes, not the hiding place for the Holy Grail after all (ha ha).  Well, so much for the accuracy of the Indiana Jones movies!  Great entertainment but not quite factual, I can live with that.

In fact, there are several tombs along the siq (entry passage) in, much smaller and less elaborate of course, but some are still quite large and impressive.

Also, when you get to the Treasury, you haven’t seen one tenth of the site yet.  Turn to your right and then to your left and continue, and the city opens up into more tombs, some of which are quite magnificent, an amphitheatre, then hundreds of living quarters, and it goes on and on.  Apparently, during its heyday something like 30,000 inhabitants lived here, wow.

The Treasury

The city was built at the crossing of three ancient overland major trade routes, providing safe haven and resting point for travellers and their animals, and a trading venue for their wares.  For hundreds of years, it prospered.

We of course had limited time and could not see everything, but we did wander down through the ruins and then climbed the stairs up to a large tomb cut up high in the rock.  We got some magnificent pictures from there.

We stand about 100 feet up in the entrance to a tomb up high on the rock face, a picture overlooking the north end of the ancient Petra City

So the entry passage is wider than you think it would be.  It’s something like 8 to 14 ft wide most of the way, with one short passage that’s only about 6 ft wide (where workers have erected scaffolding and a screen to prevent a rock collapse).  It’s not all that difficult to navigate.  However, there is a lot of two way traffic in this passage!  There are “chariots”, well 3 person horse drawn carriages (2 persons plus driver) racing up and down, plus folks being taken in and out on horseback.  The floor of the passage was originally sandstone, as is the other rock that makes the walls etc., and it was quite soft, only suitable for pedestrian traffic.  When the Roman Empire took over, they re-paved the passage in limestone, which allowed carriages and the like to make it through.  But when the walled city fell into disrepair after a devastating earthquake, the man-made defences for flash flooding eventually failed, and the resultant water runs cut the walls to collapse, and damaged the floor of the passage.  Recent restorative work has replaced some of the limestone, cleaned other bits, and put more modern materials in other places.  Much of the floor is sand coloured, but there is still a lot of rough hewn “cobbled stone” limestone in place.  This stone is bone jarring for those riding in the carriages!  We saw people in agony as the carriage raced across the stones.  Some of our tour group rode in carriages and confirmed that it was a very rough ride.

Rev. George Davidson and Sandra Madder share a carriage from the visitor centre to Petra

Petra had an amazing water distribution system hidden in the rock.  When the erosion and damage occurred, it uncovered the secret.  There was a clay lined trough hidden in the left side wall of the passage (clay lined to prevent seepage into the surrounding relatively porous rock), carefully covered with fitted rock pieces to make it look inconspicuous.  This water supply was extended right back to a deep well a short distance away.  Enemies didn’t know the source, couldn’t interrupt or poison it, so the city could live for a long time, even under siege.

Petra water distribution along side of passageway – lined with clay and topped by cap stones.  They would just make a hole into the water passage, and water would seem to mysteriously come out of the rock!
Another view of the water distribution channel, showing a piece of the clay lining

With the tall rock around and the assured water supply, the narrow entry passageway was easy to defend for long periods.  Enemies could be attacked from above; the passageway could be closed, and the city live happily for months.

The Romans finally got the city to succumb by building a bypass trade route, and cutting off Petra’s source of income, a brilliant and devastating strategy.

After spending a few hours at Petra, we went for lunch at a wonderful restaurant, then off to Al Beidha, or Little Petra.  Now, the actual caravans and their animals could not fit into Petra itself, unless very few at a time, so the animals were actually put up in Little Petra.  Here there are water passages like in Petra itself, but they feed large cisterns carved into the rock, which also function as water troughs for the animals.  Also magnificent!

Feature at the entrance to Little Petra.  Is it a tax collection booth?

One of many cisterns in the rock at Little Petra
A feature cut in the rock at Little Petra, purpose unknown (at least to me!)

Lastly, we walked from Little Petra to the Beidha Neolithic Village, about 2 km away.  Here an archeological dig has unearthed an entire village about 9,000 years old, amazing!  There is also a reconstructed Neolithic home in this ancient style.

Exhausted and thirsty, we made our way back to the resort.  I figured I’d take a dip in the pool before supper, do some laps and work off a bit of that good  food I’ve been eating.  I went down to the pool, and it’s a good size, probably 20 to 25 metre lengths, wonderful, but to my surprise the water is warmer than a hot bath!  The whole pool!  Well I tried to do my 1500 metres but it was me against the warm water and the warm water won – I was only able to pound out about 750 metres before I had to give up.  Oh well.

Then of course off to another great supper, a few glasses of wine, and… oops, have to do this blog.  THEN off to bed.  It’s another early morning, and tomorrow we are on the move, up to Amman, with several stops along the way.  Until next time…

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