Riding a camel is easier than walking on soft sand!
I have been dreaming for a long time of visiting Petra and I finally made it this year. While volunteering in the Institute’s archives, I was tasked with cleaning glass lantern slides – one box being photographs of Petra and its surroundings by the archaeologist, Kennedy – this made me want to go even more.
In November this year, I finally made it – a holiday in Jordan which included walking in Wadi Rum and Petra. With paper copies of several of Kennedy’s photographs, I was on a mission!
The walk from Wadi Mousa to the Siq was an eye opener, while walking through the Siq was just amazing and overwhelming but it never prepared me for the sights in the valley. Unfortunately the archway over the entrance to the Siq has collapsed, but many carvings are still visible in the walls – sculptures of their deities and depictions of life as it was during that time. It is difficult to imagine how a town of the living became so mixed up with the town of the dead, especially since very little, if anything, remains of the original town, while the remains of the burial tombs are still so prominent.
El Siq looking towards El Khazneh (‘The Treasury’). Alexander Kennedy’s 1923 image is on the left. Superficially, it doesnt’ seem that much has changed here in the last 90 years…
The area covered by the settlement and necropolis is vast – too much to cover in a day and half – it would be very easy to spend a whole week there. The different types of tombs and their decoration are beyond modern day comprehension – why build a tomb like the Khazneh? It must have been a really important person whom they wished to remember by creating something which is still recognisable as a beautiful building some 2000 years later.
The area around Petra has been populated for a long time. On the way into Petra (via the back road in order to avoid the 900 steps to reach the Monastery!), we passed a Bronze Age settlement at Umm Saysaban. During the tea/coffee break, prepared on a small wood fire by a local Bedouin, we were shown several Nabataean and Roman coins, which were found locally.
The rock-cut obelisks, which the Nabataeans created by excavating at least 3,200 square metres of stone. Comparing Kennedy’s photo to mine, it looks like some of the ground around the obelisks has been cleared since 1923.
But it is not just the man-made buildings that are overwhelming, it is nature itself – the formation of the rocks and the erosion carved into it by wind and water; the colours created by the different minerals are beyond belief.
Thanks to our group leader Saleh and the “Camp Cook” Ibrahim, the setting of several of the Institute’s old photos were found. To see all these monuments to the death still as beautiful as they were that long ago made the visit to Petra an unforgettable experience.