Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “The Treasury at Petra”

Another Look at Petra, Jordan

My last post focused on the Treasury at Petra, Jordan, a masterpiece of architecture carved into red sandstone rock. Petra became a World Heritage Site in 1985 and the New Seven Wonders of the World list included Petra in 2007.

Petra is located in Jordan, a small Middle Eastern mostly desert country with 6.5 million people. Jordan is in the midst of Israel and the West Bank in the west, Syria in the north, and Iraq and Saudi Arabia to the east. This Middle Eastern area is not a quiet area politically, to say the least, although Jordan itself is a peace-loving country. The capital city of Jordan, Amman, in the northern part of Jordan. Petra is a three-hour drive to the south.

Map credit: Lonely Planet

Map credit: Lonely Planet

Although settled since prehistoric times and once a thriving trading metropolis, Petra is now primarily a popular tourist site. The most famous site is the Treasury, situated directly at the end of the Wadi Musa ravine.

But there are other places of interest in Petra, and the area deserves a good walk-around. Even before you reach the Siq, the route to interior Petra, you see historical buildings and tombs carved into the red sandstone. You can walk in, ride a horse in, or take a horse cart the short distance through the ravine. We chose to ride the horse carts. These are generally available for the handicapped and elderly, but since the tourist load was light on the day we visited, the cart drivers were eager to carry us through the ravine to the Treasury.

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Our first glimpse of interior Petra was the Treasury building, the best-known and most photographed site in Petra.

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After the Treasury, the ravine widens to a wide stony plain. Here we saw numerous tombs carved into the craggy sandstone hills. Some of these tombs had open fronts, but others had more elaborate carved fronts.

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The Roman-designed amphitheatre, capable of seating up to 7000 people, was carved into the mountainside by the Nabataeans during their heyday in 1st century AD. The Royal Tombs can be seen behind the Theatre.

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On this windy winter day, cold pierced our multilayers of clothing, and an accommodating gift shop/tea shop owner invited us to warm up by his brazier and drink tea. Happy to get out of the cold wind, we agreed. Of course, this gave us a chance to admire his wares and the beautiful colors of the streaked sandstone of the interior cave walls.

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The hot brazier at our feet warmed our hands as we drank our hot tea.

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After the hot tea, we needed a restroom and found this surprisingly modern facility (electric lights, running water, flush toilets, toilet paper) in a cave just a few steps from the tea house (in middle of picture below).

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This rest stop gave us the opportunity to see the spectacular beauty of the cave walls in this restroom.

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Of  course, the ubiquitous vendors, hopeful for eager buyers hawked their wares: sand art in bottles, jewelry, and even cold drinks.

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Age didn’t seem to matter when it came to selling souvenirs to tourists. This enterprising youngster latched onto one member of our group and followed her along until she bought several hand-made necklaces.

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Although we could have spent many more hours here exploring and climbing rocks for better views, we reluctantly headed back to our waiting horse cart for a speedy ride back to modern Wadi Musa town, and then on to Amman in our minibus.

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Photo credit: Simone Matteo Giusepped Manzone/Dreamstime.com

Photo credit: Simone Matteo Giuseppe Manzone      Dreamstime.com

The Last Meow

Yes, I am one of the most photographed cats in Petra. I come from a long line of Royal Cats. Of course, my ancestors have been here longer than that funny building in back of me that some people photograph. What can I say? Some people like ancient buildings, and some people like cats. More power to the cat lovers. They’ve got it right!

Meow for now. =<^;^>=

Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece at Petra

Masterpiece.  A place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.

Out of seemingly inhospitable and hostile desert land, lined with sheer red sandstone cliffs, in a country now known as Jordan, the Nabataeans carved out a civilization that hosted thirsty camels and trade caravans for several hundred of years (312 BC to  106 AD). In its heyday, the Nabataean population ranged between 20 and 30,000 people.

A photos this post, except otherwise noted, by Janice Heck, December 2012

All photos in this post by Janice Heck, December 2012

The Nabataeans tamed the flash floods that taunted the area and captured water in cisterns, dams, and water conduits carved in the rock (you can still see these conduits today). The biblical Spring of Moses also provided water for the Petra Basin.

Settled since prehistoric times, Petra grew to be a major trading center between the 3rd century BC and 1st century AD. To the north from Petra, traders linked to Silk Road at Damascus heading to India and China. To the west at Gaza on the Mediterranean and Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, traders carried their valuable cargo and connected with sea routes to Greece and Rome. To the south,  traders came and went to Arabia and Egypt. To the east, traders headed across the Sinai desert to the Persian Gulf and on to India.

Trade routes to and from Petra Photo credit: pennmuseum.com

Trade routes to and from Petra
Photo credit: pennmuseum.com

After the fourth century, the city declined due to earthquakes (363 AD) that damaged the water system. In addition, the Romans changed the trade routes and relied more on the Red Sea ports close to Egypt to transport goods. These changes ended Petra’s dominance in the area.

The city was essentially forgotten for hundreds of years until Joseph Ludwig Burckhardt, an explorer on his way to Egypt, investigated rumors of a lost city and rediscovered Petra in 1812. Now Petra is a tourist area with between 50,000 and a half a million people visiting it each year, depending on the political climate. I visited Petra in December of 2012, and President Obama visited in March of 2013.

We reached Petra, 160 miles from Amman, the capital of Jordan, via the Desert Highway (Route 15) traveling in a mini-bus with our small group of seven travelers, one guide, and the bus driver. We returned to Amman via the slower route via King’s Highway (Route 49), stopping at the Dead Sea and Mt. Nebo along the way back to Amman.

Small crowds at Petra that day meant that we could ride in the horse-drawn carts through the half-mile hard-packed dirt trail to the major site. Donkeys are available for transport purposes, too.

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Enter Petra through The Siq, a narrow split in the red sandstone mountains.

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Two of us held on, yes, for dear life, to the flimsy canopy braces in the weathered and beaten horse cart with its wizened driver and its smelly, impatient-to-get-going horse.

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We rocked and jolted along the uneven dirt path, holding our breaths as much as possible, taking shallow breaths when critical, down a path just wide enough for two carts to pass each other.

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In places where the ravine narrowed, one cart had to give in to another, more aggressive driver, playing chicken as it were, to go through the narrowest area (about a meter wide).

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Through the break in the ravine walls ahead, we caught a teasing, un-focused glimpse of what was to come.

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And here is the masterpiece: The Treasury, carved in the rock in the 1st Century BC. Designed by Hellinistic architects, the Treasury stands majestically as the major feature of this wide gorge at the end of the Siq.

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And of course, here is the obligatory tourist photo taken on that cold, windy day.

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Later, on March 23, 2013 President Obama visited this same site on his trip to speak with King Hussein of Jordan.

Of all the places I have visited, Petra is number one on my list as the most spectacular, the most unusual, the most magnificent, and the most fascinating historical place of all.  And I must admit, the horse cart ride was a once-in-a-lifetime, hilarious event. The Treasury building is just at the beginning of this trek, but there is so much more to see here, Perhaps I will do another post on Petra in the near future.

The Last Meow

Well, yes (yawn), Petra is interesting. But I rather like the ruins in Ephesus. Don’t you think this picture of me is grand?

Photo credit: the labyringuide

Photo credit: the labyringuide

Meow for now. =<^;^>=

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