Friday, December 4, 2009


Jordan is totally steeped in history. It seems that wherever you look, there is a meeting of cultures, religion and trade. Our next stop took us to Petra historically in the center of it all.
We had a wonderful tour guide, Ahkmid, who was a fountain of knowledge - unbelievable what he knew and how he tied it all in together. He also knew the best places to take fabulous pictures, as well as how to get to the tops of rocks for the best views. We had a small group, only us and Yvonne and Claire, two women who work in Dubai. Absolutely a wonderful group to spend a day with.
Guess I'll start with the history lesson, courtesy of Ahkmid. This is, of course, the short version, skipping all sorts of stuff I'm sure Ahkmid said that I've sadly forgotten. Petra, located in the southern portion of Jordan, was originally settled by the Nabataeans, an ancient Arab tribe that settled in the area of Petra, a strategic location where trade routes that connected China and India to the Mediterranean met. They quickly took over the trade routes, levying tolls, protecting caravans and generally performing many services for the traders. This brought great riches to the area and allowed them to develop an amazing kingdom with influence from Greek, Romans, Christians and Muslims. Monuments they built showed classical Egyptian, Mesopotamian and local styles all fused into one piece - and we're talking at a grand scale. The magnificent Al-Khazneh, the treasury building, is 43m high!!

Not only did they build amazing buildings, they had an unbelievable plumbing system. The Wadi Musa (a wadi is a dry river bed and Musa refers to Moses - though there are disagreements as to which Moses it was named after) is subject to flash floods - to this very day. They built a dam to route the water around the long entrance to Petra itself, having it arrive in a controlled path where they could divert it as needed. (The original dam and created river course was discovered when they decided to build a dam to divert flood waters after a flash flood killed a group of people in Petra.)They used a dike system to bring water into the city and to the many buildings, complete with periodic sumps where the sand and heavier materials could settle out before the clean water continued into the city. The city itself is built into the many mountain cliffs and, not wanting to have to haul water up themselves, they built a siphon system, using terracotta pipes that were progressively smaller, allowing the water to travel uphill, thus furnishing homes and businesses with water!
The entry was through the As-Siq, a long, narrow gorge that extends about 1200 meters. It is on a geologic fault, so the sandstone cliffs on both sides have slipped past each other leaving gorgeously colorful rocks exposed, stiking terraces, odd placed trees and many carvings by the Nabataeans.It is amazing to be walking through the towering gorge with cliffs 80 meters high.

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