We spent an entire day in Petra. The place is huge. We walked in 3 miles, but didn’t make it to “the Monastery” which was a further mile or two (we had to walk out the same way we walked in). Local Bedouins offered donkey, mule, horse, camel, or horse cart rides to save you the walk, but we didn’t partake.
Petra was built by the Nabataeans, who first came to the area around 400 BC. The city flourished from around 150 BC to 200 AD when it was absorbed by the Romans. It’s decline started around 550 AD due to a massage earthquake, and was mostly abandoned around 750 AD when another earthquake struck. At it’s peak, the city population was 25,000 – 30,000.
One of the major challenges for the city was water. There was too little most of the year, and then major flash floods during the rainy season. They carved trenches along both sides of the canyon to bring water from springs several miles away and also to catch any water running down the canyon walls. They also built a series of dams, water basins, and tunnels to handle the flash floods. They managed to irrigate large farms and provide all the water needed. I think there was a Nova program on PBS about the water system.
The walk to the city is through a narrow, beautiful, canyon passageway, about a mile long, until you get to the “Library”, made famous by Indiana Jones. As you walk through, you pass a number of carvings in the walls and beautiful rock formations.
After the Library, the remaining walk to the city passes one incredible, carved, entrance after another. All of these impressive entrances were made to adorn tombs. There are no big rooms inside, just areas for the bodies and small ceremonies. The hillsides are covered with smaller tombs with less impressive carvings, or none at all, for the middle & lower class folks. The people lived in houses built of stone which have all been destroyed by successive earthquakes.
Petra is a wonderful place, partly due to the impressive tomb entrances, but also due to the size and scale of the city and the technology they developed to cope with the water issues.
Tomorrow we visit Jerash, then back home on Friday