Little Petra

After seeing Petra yesterday, Little Petra, also known as Al Beidha, seems whelming (as my sister says, “if it is neither overwhelming nor underwhelming, it’s just whelming”).  Had we seen it first, Little Petra would seem much more dramatic, but after seeing the masterpiece that is Petra, it is hard for much to compare to that.  That all said, Little Petra was an important suburb of Petra and a stop for camel caravans passing through.  Similar to Petra, Little Petra is also full of sandstone buildings.

As we stand in one of the second story homes carved directly into the sandstone, I imagine a bustling civilization below.  I pretend there are people filling up buckets of water from the complicated water collection systems.  I see people coming and going with their camels and their tradable goods.  I imagine that the camels are overly decorated as a way for the traders to display their importance and wealth.  I know that it’s probably inaccurate, but I picture the TV series “Rome” with its costumes, colors, and dialogue and I superimpose that on this ancient ghost town.

What exactly life would have been like if I had been living a couple millennia ago and arrived at Petra, I will never know.  Archeology is all about trying to come up with our best guess of what happened, but I feel that using my imagination is more fun.

Picture Perfect Petra

There is something about Petra that seems simultaneously both ancient and more advanced than today.  This Nabataean settlement’s stunning rock-cut architecture is unimaginable and would be hard to create with today’s technology let alone over two thousand years ago.  As we pass through the narrow Siq, we eventually arrive at the famous Treasury façade leading to soaring temples and elaborate royal tombs, a theater, and more burial chambers.  After a quick lunch, we go to the Monastery, which is located atop 850 steps built into the sandstone.

Although the tourist economy has turned Petra into something more Disneyland-like with its camel and horseback rides, carriage trips, souvenir stands, and snack shops, the magic of this historic place remains untouched.  This day is full of highlights, and these pictures only begin to tell the story.