Friday, 6 November 2009

البتراء

These were taken at the Treasury in Petra, the pink city. It is a city which was literally carved out of the stone (no free-standing buildings) by the Nabateans in around the 6th century BC. The city was only rediscovered in 1812, and only about 5% (?) has been excavated. It's an other-worldy experience to be there, imagining it as the bustling centre of trade (it was on the silk and spice trade route linking China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome). A bit of its history: The Nabateans controlled Petra until around 100AD, when the Romans took over. It was still occupied but declined in importance a bit during the Byzantine period, when the Romans moved their focus to Constantinople. In the 12th century, the Crusaders constructed a fort there, but largely withdrew soon after, and left it to the local people until it was rediscovered by the west in 1812.
The scene around the front of the Treasury is what you'd expect - chaotic - with donkey-rides, camels, hundreds of tourists, bedouin children selling postcards, but the Treasury itself is not at all what I expected. It's actually only 1 room deep. So that fabulous facade, which is 40 metres high, was built to frame one room.

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