Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Amazing Petra - Part 1: Bab el-Siq

Somewhere lost in these mountains, is the Nabataean city of Petra

As I went a long doing this post, I decided to make several parts. There is so much to tell, so many things that I think are interesting. I haven't decided how many parts there will be, let's see. It's also because I don't like when my posts get too long, I get bored, a bit confused and can't remember half the things I have written or pictures I have added. Anyways, I hope that you'll enjoy the read.

Apart for the locals and the Bedouins probably, Petra was completely forgotten and lost to the world until a Swiss traveler, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, rediscovered it in 1812.

No words are strong enough, none can pay tribute to what you see when you exit the Siq, a 1200m long and narrow gorge and arrive at the entrance of the rose-red city of ancient Petra. Petra is unique. Petra is beautiful. But we are not there quite yet. We have to walk for a couple of kilometers first.

The entrance to the site is located at the bottom of the new city of Petra. It opens at 6am in the morning and closes late as it is possible to be on site during the evening as well (camping is not allowed though). It is said that the best pictures are taken in the early morning sun or at sunset, because of the light and the colours, but I would say also because less tourists are there, because it gets busy. For the moment it costs JD33 to get in for one day (you can also buy passes for 2 or more days), this is for tourists. That will change in November 2010 (I think the 1st) where it will cost JD50. As residents, we paid JD1. The site is huge, there are many things to visit - we only made it to The Treasury. It was hot and Bibs thought it was so exciting that she wouldn't sleep in the backpack. One of my friends was there a week before us and she has allowed me to use her pictures so that I can show you most of the things there are to visit.

As you enter the site, you have the possibility to make the first half mile on horse or donkey back or in a carriage. If you want to do it, I would strongly advise to do it on the way back, though. Right now you have plenty of energy and it is going downhill! Count JD6 for the horseback ride (that's more or less, depending on how rich you look...)



Bab el-Siq or the "Gate to the Siq" is so named by Petra's Bedouin inhabitants. The journey down to Petra begins with a modern gravel road. It runs along the Wadi Musa, "Valley of Moses", which is dry most year, but there can be water during flash floods (this used to bring water down to Petra). The Bedouins believe that Ain Musa, the "Spring of Moses", is the spring that gushed forth when Moses smote a rock (Numbers 20:11 - Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock (...) Water gushed out ... ). This path contains several monuments and memorials.  


As you pass the first corner, you get a first glimpse of Nabatean rock-carving, called the Djinn Blocks.

Djinn blocks, also called god blocks

These god-blocks stand 6 to 8 meters high. There is a lot of different information online concerning these blocks: some suggest they were shrines to the gods to protect Petra's water supply, others say that they are tower tombs and they might be symbols of the supreme god Dushara. The Bedouins, however, call them "Djinn blocks", as they believed they contained "Djinn", desert spirits. More than 20 of these blogs were found in and around Petra. 

Obelisk Tomb & Bab as-Siq Triclinium

A few meters away from the Djinn blocks are 2 monuments on the top of each other. The official Petra sign date these between 25-75 AD. However after a bit of research I have found that not everybody agree. I think that is the case with many things in Petra. The upper-half, the Obelisk Tomb, is clearly of Egyptian influence. These pyramids represent "nefesh", the Nabataean signs commemorating the deceased. The bottom half, of Nabataean style,  is called a Triclinium and is a chamber with 3 benches - a funerary dining hall: it was where celebrations took place to honour the dead, ancestors or a god. The niche in between the obelisks is of Greco-Roman influence. 

In between the god blocks and the Obelisk Tomg there is something called the snake tomb. There should be stairs leading to that tomb. I have been looking on my pictures, but cannot located it. Inside there are 12 graves. It is called the snake tomb because there are representation of a snake on the floor attacking an animal. 


All the way down to the Siq you have tombs appearing here and there

Eventually you will arrive at a dam and the entrance to the Siq. The dam was built across the entrance to avoid water for rushing down and destroying the city of Petra. The Nabataeans made a tunnel through the rock in order to divert the water into another valley. However the old dam collapsed at some point after Petra was deserted and floods have rushed through the Siq during centuries and have done much much damage to the center of Petra. The dam was reconstructed in 1963 and also in 1991. 

Entrance to the Siq and the dam

It is here that ends the horse back ride and that you will have to walk; unless you have taken a carriage. 

Wadi Al Muhlim

Just before you enter the Siq, and I end my first post about Petra here, on your right you can see Wadi Al Muhlim, which is the valley into which the Nabataeans diverted the water. It is thought that the water flowed through this valley all the way down to the Numphaeum (which would have been arranged to furnish water supply) in the city centre. You can also see another Djinn block.

In my next post I will take you through the Siq and all the way down to the famous Treasury. 

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I really try to be as accurate as possible, but there is a lot of information online and they don't always agree! I also use the official signs at Petra, the official Jordanian sites, the fliers you can get at the tourist center as source. There are numerous interesting websites about Petra, some I have used to find info on, I will post a list them all at the end of my last post as I discover some new ones as I go along.

14 comments:

irene Ma-Poon said...

cnt wait to read la continuation. tres interessant

Patricia Salti said...

Please buy my friend's book on Petra - Jane Taylor. She is a author/photographer who lives in Jordan and is a Petra expert. Her books are so good as they are not touristy but are easy to read. I first saw Petra in the sixties and loved it. Hope you enjoy your stay in wonderful Jordan.

Babs said...

Irene, am working on it! funny to call you Irene haha

Babs said...

Patricia, Will definitely have a look for that book. Thanks. We are very happy to be here and enjoy it a lot!

Elisa, Croatia said...

hmmm, I was checking back on a response for the comment I thought I had left...anyways my question was this; I think I just realized that you got the name for your blog from Petra? Bab meaning gate? yeah? or is this just a coincidence?

Babs said...

I didn't event think about that! Yep I guess that Bab means gate :) Babs in Danish means breast and the Babs came because I am breastfeeding, silly!! I know I am missing a tittle is on the one for Ma'In, but I don't have one that comes to mind lol, so I just left it like that...

Jane Roth said...

babs I enjoyed your post about Petra. I am a lady if years who traveled a good portion of the world with her love of 62 years. Now alone I have booked a trip (by ship) touring the middle east as well as going back to Hong Kong and Singapore. Still on my two feet at 90 years I do need someone to walk along my side. At Petra I understand I can (like Cinderella) arrive by carriage at the Siq but then what? My ship will be there for the day and I would love to see whatever is possible. Thank you for anything you can suggest to add to my castle of dreams. Friends have been amazed that I would go so far and wide by myself but as a world traveler I am not sitting at home in my lounge chair. Thank you for helping to make my Xmas complete and see a new part of the world in 2011. my e-mail jrear99@comcast.net

Babs said...

Dear jane, sorry i am answering this late, probably too late! Yoi can get a carriage til the treasury, but after i don't know as i haven't been further myself. I hope that you are enjoying your trip around the world!

missbehaving said...

Thank you so much for the pictures and the wonderful information. We are planning to go to Petra in March and your post has really got me excited!!

Babs said...

Hey Missbehaving, lovely to see you on my blog, I love yours :) Exciting, you are coming to Jordan! There is so much to see in Petra, make sure you make plenty of time... and then so much more to visit in other places! Hope you'll enjoy your trip... Jordan is a surprising country.

missbehaving said...

Babs, unfortunately we won't have all that much time in Jordan as our 'main' trip is to Beirut, so we'll maybe only manage 3-4 days in Jordan, and then 3 in Cyprus, the rest in Beirut. Still I'll have my eyes peeled to your blog.
Many thanks.

Babs said...

3-4 days is not a lot, but it'll still give you time to visit some nice places :)

myfriend said...

Love your blog. It's beautifully written. Thanks for going public with it so we can all share in your experiences. I think I have a picture taken in January of the "snake tomb" you were looking for if you'd like it. Just tell me how to get it to you.

And Patricia is right, the Jane Taylor book is the definitive book on Petra. "Married to a Bedouin" is also interesting, but on a much lighter vein than Ms. Taylor's book. Thanks again for an entertaining blog. Enjoy your year.

Babs said...

@ My friend! Glad you like my blog! Yes please send me the pic at bas.inamman@yahoo.com - am interested in knowing what it is :)

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