This one is for all you Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia fans!
Do you love the thrill of exploring new places, of sand dunes and camels and hot deserts that yield unexpected treasures?
Well, I love it! And that was what led my dad and me on our latest adventure. We decided to follow the trail of Swiss scholar Johann Burckhardt, who stumbled upon the extraordinary entrance to Petra, the lost city when his Bedouin guide led him there. In Arabic, the magnificent entrance is known as Al Khazneh, the Treasury. There are several tribal stories of treasure that had been stored there by thieves long ago.
References to Petra, the capital of Nabataean Kingdom, can be found in several Greek historical records. And the main reason why this kingdom did so well was because of the biggest power you could have in a desert!
You got it? Water! They had devised ingenious techniques to store and channel water in the desert by using dams, cisterns and water conduits. This in addition to possessing the natural advantages of a fortress due to the geological formations around them, placed them at the center of the commercial trade routes to Gaza, Damascus and other places.
The narrow passage – Siq that leads to Petra.
It lost its significance as the center of the trade route during the Roman rule, with the increase in the use of sea based trade routes. Finally, an earthquake in 363 destroyed many buildings and damaged the critical water management system. After this period, the place fell into gradual ruin and was a secret treasured by the Bedouin till the fateful day it was rediscovered by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. And any visit to this place can only inspire awe at the creativity of Man in converting even the most inhospitable landscape into something that is eternally beautiful and magnificent.
Until next time, please do share your memories of special places you have visited with your family.
As the Bedouin would say “Salaam alay kum/wa alay kum as Salaam” (Peace be with you/ and with you Peace).