SOLDIER’S TOMB & SNAKE MONUMENT, Petra, Jordan
Passing through the Siq once again, we entered Petra at around 08:30. Before reaching the theatre, we made our way to a stepped path towards the High Place of Sacrifice. For an hour we hiked up the hill behind the Royal Tombs with occasional views of the ruined city and surrounding landscape. We finally reached the high alter where ancient Nabateans made sacrifices to their gods, an open area with a raised platform for ceremonies. From High Place of Sacrifice we walked west toward Wadi Farasa and the Snake Monument. At Wadi Farasa, we arrived at the Tomb of Soldiers. Due to the sculpted armour on the statues, many believe the tomb were belonged to some Roman officers in the 2nd Century. Though some historians disagreed, arguing that many architectural elements on the tomb facade actually predated the Roman Conquest of Petra, and the tomb was probably constructed in the 1st Century.
At around 14:30 we made it to the Snake Monument, a destination that requires one of the longer tourist hikes. It took us a while to actually locate the snake monument. In fact, we saw the monument only after a local Bedouin pointed it out for us. At the Snake Monument, we encountered a Bedouin family who still lives in Petra. There were two kids in the black Bedouin tent (probably made with goat hair according to traditions). We played football with them for about 15 minutes before heading back. Before Petra was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985, there were about 150 Bdoul Bedouin families living in the caves of Petra. After Petra was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list, most families were relocated to the new village of Um Sayhoun nearby. Today, about 10 families who refused to move out still remain inside the archaeological park, living off mainly from the tourist industry.
Back at the Royal Tombs, we decided to hike up the hill opposite to the famous Treasury for the famous birdeye view. The steps were steep, and the hike took approximately 45 minutes. The view was quite impressive despite the Treasury was in shade. On our way down, we got ourselves a can of refreshing pop. Without it, we would probably take us two times longer to reach the exit of Petra.
The Cult Chamber is an interesting and mysterious small building in a valley in Wadi Farasa East. Its original purpose was unknown.
The boulders and stones surrounding the Cult Chamber are resulted from occasional flash floods.
Known as the Renaissance Tomb, Tomb BD 229 contained features that resemble the style of Italian Renaissance.
The interior of Renaissance Tomb was excavated in 2003. Containing 14 pit graves, all had been looted in the Middle Age.
Near Wadi Farasa, the Soldier Tomb complex once housed a tomb and banquet hall accessed via the central courtyard surrounded by columns.
At the area of the Snake Monument, we arrived at an open valley with tombs and small structures along the rock cliffs.
It is hard to believe such rugged landscape was once hosted a majestic capital city.
We were distracted by a group of goats appeared near the Snake Monument.
The goats belonged to a Bedouin family living in the area.
Since 1985, most Bedouins living in Petra were relocated in a modern settlement nearby.
We met the two Bedouin kids who invited us to play football with them.
We had some brief fun with the Bedouin kids despite the afternoon heat.
Back at Palace Tomb, we decided to head for the lookout of Jabal al-Khubtha.
The 40 minute hike to Jabal al-Khubtha proved more than worthwhile.
Jabal al-Khubtha offered one of the best view of the Treasury.
Unless arriving at Jabal al-Khubtha in the morning, one would likely find the Treasury in shade.
FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE TREASURY, Petra, Jordan
At the ancient crossroad where Silk Road caravans crossed the trade routes of the Jordanian Rift Valley, the Rose City once thrived as a major trading hub between the Asia (China, India and Arabia) and the Mediterranean world, and the capital of Nabataean kingdom. From 4th century BC to the 4th century AD, Petra flourished for seven centuries until the shifting of trade routes and the Galilee Earthquake of 363 AD, which led the city into a irreversible decline. Petra was enlisted to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1985 and has become one of the most iconic attraction in the Middle East, thanks to After a peace treaty was signed in 1994 between Jordan and Israel, tourism has thrived in Jordan ever since. From 138,577 in 1994 to 918,136 in 2010, tourist numbers have skyrocketed until the Syrian Civil War broke out and greatly affected international tourism throughout the region. Back in 2006, our two full days at Petra was definitely the biggest highlight of our experience in Jordan.
After a long day on the King’s Highway, we had some good rest at Petra Moon Hotel. After an early breakfast at 6am, we quickly headed down the road for a 5-minute walk to Petra’s ticket office. After obtaining our tickets, we walked over to the entrance of the Siq, a narrow gorge serving as the natural entry path into the lost city. At several occasions, the Siq became so narrow and dark that made us felt like walking in a tunnel no wider than a car. A water channel, at about 1m above ground, was carved on the cliff surface along the Siq, reminding us the marvelous engineering in the ancient times that brought water from flash floods into Petra for storage and daily use.
At the end of the Siq, about 1.5km from the gorge entrance, we arrived at the spot where every visitor would stop for the iconic photo of the rock-cut Treasury (Al Khazneh). No matter how many times the Treasury has appeared on travel photos and TV travel shows, nothing could prepare us emotionally for our first encounter with the stunning view. Groups after groups of tourists gathered in front of the iconic Treasury building to take photos. Taking the iconic photo of framing the Treasury between the narrow Siq passage without any tourist required good patience. Unlike how Steven Spielberg depicts in his movie, fans of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would be disappointed to find no deadly traps, fancy sculptures or glittering treasure behind the famous rock facade. The interior of the Treasury is actually just an empty cave carved out from the cliff. Legends have it that robbers and pirates might have used the building to store their looted objects. Probably this explains the reason why the building is called the “Treasury”. Though most archaeologists would agree that the Treasury was likely used as a temple and a royal tomb of the Nabataeans.
A sandy path led us towards the entrance of the Siq.
One of the first monuments we encountered was the Obelisk Tomb. The four obelisks on the tomb facade are actually nefeshes, pointed pillars to embody the people buried in the inner chamber.
The rugged desert canyons at Petra is largely made of sandstone.
We followed a few local visitors to enter the Siq, the winding and narrow canyon leading into the lost city.
The 1.2km Siq passage provides the most dramatic approach to the lost city.
The Siq is formed by a geological fault split apart by tectonic forces. The height of the cliffs range from 91 to 182m in height.
From aerial photos one can clearly see how narrow the Siq is – a split in the rose-red sandstone plateau no wider than 3m at some points.
Under the early morning sun, the rock cliffs along the Siq glowed in a golden colour.
Certain parts of the Siq are in shade for almost the entire day.
The 1.2km long water conduits along the Siq are still visible.
The water conduits and the pavement were built in the last decades of the 1st century BC.
At last, the majestic view of the Treasury of Petra emerged between the cliffs.
The famous rock facade of the Treasury was a prominent filming spot for Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The Treasury, or Al-Khazneh, was carved out of the sandstone rock cliff as the mausoleum of Nabatean King Aretas IV in the 1st century AD.
In the 19th century, nomadic bedouins in the region believed the iconic structure contained treasures left by bandits or pirates.
Humidity from tourist crowds and years of touching and rubbing have caused damages to the sandstone building.
A MEDIEVAL ADAPTIVE REUSE PROJECT, Bosra, Syria
Near Damascus, Bosra is probably one of the most popular destinations for tourist excursion. As a unique UNESCO World Heritage site, Bosra preserves one of the best example of a Medieval adaptive reuse project, which converted an ancient Roman theatre into a defensive citadel. In the 2nd century BC, Borsa emerged as a Nabatean city. After the Nabatean Kingdom was annexed by the Romans under Emperor Trajan in 106 AD, Borsa became the prosperous capital of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. By the 5th century, Bosra was turned into a Metropolitan archbishop’s seat for the Christian Byzantine. The Islam Rashidun Caliphate captured Bosra from the Byzantine Christians in 634. From then on, the city served as an outpost of Damascus, and a vital stop of hajj pilgrimage between Damascus and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. After the Seljuks came in 1076, the thousand-year old city underwent a series of dramatic transformations, particularly the Roman theatre was converted into a fortress. Then mosques and Muslim shrines were built to add some religious touches to the complex. In the 13th century, the Ayyubid constructed eight towers at the Roman theatre to consolidate the city’s defense. The various transformations of Bosra have given a unique character to the city, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Just like many other archaeological sites in the country, Bosra’s Roman Theatre was partially damaged in the civil war.
From Baramke Station in Damascus, we hopped on a minibus for Bosra. After arriving in Bosra’s Agora, we were approached by a local who claimed to be an assistant of a French archaeologist. As a temporary guide, he took us for a quick tour of Bosra, and led us to visit his “aunt” at a domestic home. We took a picture with his “aunt” and parted with our temporary guide at the entrance of the Roman Threater. A bridge led us across the moat into a entry hall of the citadel. Walking through the Islamic citadel to enter the theatre was like walking through a labyrinth of defensive tunnels. It was quite possible to get lost in the underground section of the complex. Steep stairs and dark corridors led to the entryways of the theatre. Under the bright sun, dark volcanic basalt, one of the main construction materials of Bosra, was quite obvious. We stayed at the theatre for about half an hour, found our way onto the stage, and hurried out of the labyrinth-like tunnel to exit the complex. We made it on time to the bus station for the 14:00 bus back to Damascus.
Less than 20,000 residents were still living in Bosra back in 2006.
Dark basalt rocks were used to construct the city of Bosra.
The construction of Bosra was simple and practical.
We walked around the ruins of Bosra before entering the theatre.
There were many examples of incorporating ancient Nabatean and Roman structures into medieval houses.
Ancient Roman materials were either reused or incorporated into new structures.
The fusion came under the Muslim rule when the citadel with eight guard towers was built to defend against the Crusade.
Our temporary guide led us to his aunt’s home, one of the Medieval stone houses.
We said hello to the guide’s aunt before heading to the theatre.
Once a city housing 80,000 in the ancient times, in 2006 Bosra was a small town with less than 20,000 residents living among the ruins.
Crossing the stone bridge on the moat, we finally entered the Citadel Theatre.
The Citadel Theatre is the best preserved remains in Bosra, and a one-of-a-kind adaptive reuse construction. Efforts were made from 1946 onward to clear the 3 storey defensive structures in the theatre area, thus the Roman theatre reappeared once again.
The theatre construction began in Trajan’s time when a 9000-15000 seat theatre was built.
In the Medieval times, the theatre was transformed into a citadel. A maze of covered passageways were constructed to connect the inner theatre with the outer section of the citadel.
The three storey stage backdrop was once filled with marble details and statues. These doors were used for actors to enter the stage.