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K-man's visit To Petra

Part of the fun of traveling to distant places to perform, is getting to see and experience many different cultures and visit firsthand, well known tourist attractions. We were able to do this once again while touring through the Mid-east in February this year. I had previously read about this certain ancient city in the Jordanian desert in a popular novel and was
curious about it's history and significance to the area.. It was given notoriety again a while ago in a movie, the Indiana Jones sequel.."The Last Crusade.." Towards the end of the film the action ends up at the entrance to city of Petra while in search of the Holy Grail. The rest is film lore, but seeing the city larger than life on screen, is compelling. So when I heard that we were to perform in Amman, Jordan, I was excited at the chance of seeing this awesome place. The problem was that it was the last show of that segment of the tour.And we hadn't allowed much time in our busy schedule, to take the time to drive south a few hours beforehand. I figured it would be worth it to stay an extra day to drive the few hours southeast to the valley where the city is located. So I polled the members of the band and everyone seemed remotely interested at first, but most had plans to leave for home straight away the following day, plus I had gotten a cold while in Sri Lanka the previous week..Oh well,.. maybe I should just head home and forget about it and see it some other time.But as if by some miracle, Bryan approached me on the flight in from Dubai that afternoon and mentioned he had arranged for a royal Jordanian chopper to meet us at the Amman airport and whisk us off to Petra before our show that evening..And would I be interested in going? You can imagine the enormous grin on my face! Of course I heartily agreed,.. "Yes, Yes, Yes" !!! Anyway, a little background for you all..thanks to a Jordanian tourism web site.

Petra was first established sometime around the 6th century BC, by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria. Despite successive attempts by the Seleucid king Antigonus, the Roman emperor Pompey and Herod the Great to bring Petra under the control of their respective empires, Petra remained largely in Nabataean hands until around 100AD, when the Romans took over. It was still inhabited during the Byzantine period, when the former Roman empire moved its focus east to Constantinople, but declined in importance thereafter. The Crusaders constructed a fort there in the 12th century, but soon withdrew, leaving Petra to the local people until the early 19th century, when it was visited by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Petra lies about 3-5 hours south of modern Amman, about 2 hours north of Aqaba, on the edges of the mountainous desert of the Wadi Araba. The city is surrounded by towering hills of rust-coloured sandstone which gave the city some natural protection against invaders. The site is semi-arid, the friable sandstone which allowed the Nabataeans to carve their temples and tombs into the rock crumbling easily to sand. The color of the rock ranges from pale yellow or white through rich reds to the darker brown of more resistant rocks. The contorted strata of different-colored rock form whorls and waves of color in the rock face, which the Nabataeans exploited in their architecture.

The Siq From the official entrance to the site, a dusty trail leads gently downwards along the Wadi Musa (The Valley of Moses). Situated in small rock outcrops to the left and right of the path are some small Nabataean tombs, carved into the dry rock. Beyond these, walls of sandstone rise steeply on the left, and a narrow cleft reveals the entrance to the Siq, the principal route into Petra itself.The Nabataeans were expert hydraulic engineers. The walls of the Siq are lined with channels (originally fitted with chamfered clay pipes of efficient design) to carry drinking water to the city, while a dam to the right of the entrance diverted an adjoining stream through a tunnel to prevent it flooding the Siq. Once inside, the Siq narrows to little more than five metros in width, while the walls tower up hundreds of metros on either side. The floor, originally paved, is now largely covered with soft sand, although evidence of Nabataean construction can still be seen in some places.
The Siq twists and turns, the high walls all but shutting out the early
morning sunlight, until abruptly, through a cleft in the rock , the first
glimpse of the city of Petra can be seen. Carved out of pale reddish
sandstone, ornate pillars supporting a portico surmounted by a central urn
and two flanking blocks, jut out from the cliff face ahead. This is The Khazneh ...

The Khazneh

The best-known of the monuments at Petra, the Khazneh is also the first to
greet the visitor arriving via the Siq. The facade, carved out from the
sandstone cliff wall, is 40m high, and is remarkably well-preserved,
probably because the confined space in which it was built has protected it
somewhat from the effects of erosion. The name Khazneh, which means
'treasury' comes from the legend that it was used as a hiding place for
treasure. In practice, it seems to have been something between a temple and
a tomb, possibly both at once.
Behind the impressive facade, a large square room has been carved out of the
rock of the cliff. The corners and walls have been squared off meticulously,
but no attempt has been made to extend the excavations further or to
reproduce the kind of ornate carving of the exterior. This is typical of the
tombs in Petra; the interiors are as plain as the exteriors are intricate.
From inside, you can look out through the doorway towards the Siq.

The Khazneh faces onto a large open space, floored with soft sand and
surrounded by high walls. It is possible, without too much difficulty, to
scramble up to a point on the facing wall about fifty meters or so above the
ground, and look down on the facade from above .

Surrounding the open space dominated by the Khazneh are other tombs and
halls mostly little more than man-made caves carved out from the rock. To
the right, the path continues between more widely-spaced rock walls studded
with smaller tombs, which are visible as black holes in the rock. A little
further on, on the left is the giant semicircle of the amphitheatre, which
had seats for eight thousand people. Behind it, the rock wall is pitted with
Close to the theatre, a flight of steps marks the start of the climb towards
the High Place of Sacrifice, while continuing towards the right, the wadi
widens out. Ahead lies the centre of the city, while following the cliff
face further to the right takes you to the Royal Tombs.

The heart of Petra lies about the open ground of the Wadi Musa. A broad
track from the Khazneh leads to the main street of Roman Petra, which is
paved with cut stone and lined with columns. Towards the amphitheatre is an
open marketplace and a nymphaeum or public fountain. At the opposite end is
the Temenos Gateway, which marked the entrance to the courtyard of the
Temple of Dushara.

The Temple, popularly known as the Qasr al-Bint Firaun ("The Castle of
Pharaoh's Daughter"), was a large free-standing structure, built of massive
blocks of yellow sandstone. It has been extensively restored. Dushara was
the principal god of the Nabataeans; his partner, the fertility goddess
Atagartis, was worshipped at the Temple of the Winged Lions, which faces the
Temple of Dushara from a low rise to the north-east of the Temenos gateway.
In Roman times, these temples would have been taken over for the worship of
the appropriate Roman gods, possibly Apollo and Artemis respectively. In the
city's Byzantine period, it is likely that they were also adapted for
Christian worship.

Behind the Qasr rises a tall plug of rock, Al-Habis, with Nabataean steps
leading to the summit, on which are the remains of a small fort built by the
Crusaders. To the north-west a pathway leads off towards El-Deir while to
the north is open, sandy ground, covered by dry scrub and the remains of
Byzantine walls and other ruins. The eastern side of this area is bounded by
the King's Wall, a rock escarpment faced with three imposing tombs.

The path that leads towards El-Deir crosses open ground to the north of the
city centre and starts to ascend into the massif. The path climbs smoothly,
sometimes flanked on one side or the other by sandstone outcrops. After a
while, some Nabataean stairs can be seen, carved into the rock face of a
spur that rises to the right of the path, while a little further on, on the
left-hand side, a narrow gully gives access to a small tomb called The Lion

The path continues to climb, turning back and forth between rock spurs that
are the home of lizards of all sizes and colors . At the steeper points,
stone steps reveal the path's Nabataean origins.

The final section of the path climbs more steeply, passes through a narrow
cleft between sheer walls of yellow sandstone, and emerges into an open area
of white sand. On one side is cluster of eroded sandstone outcrops, some of
which have been hollowed out by the combined effects of erosion and human
activity. Facing them is a rock wall from which has been carved out another
massive triclinium, similar to the Khazneh but larger and cruder. This is
known as El-Deir or the Monastery.

El-Deir , the Monastery - so-called because it appears to have been used as
such during the Byzantine Christian period - resembles the Khazneh, but is
larger, cruder and more eroded. The great doorway is around eight metres
tall, and the facade as a whole is approximately fifty metres wide by
forty-five tall. The whole structure, like the Khazneh, has been carved out
of the rock face, and the flanking walls reveal clearly how deep the
builders cut into the cliff to create it.
To the left of the monastery, a gap in the rock gives access to the base of
a rough staircase that climbs steeply up the rock face. Some minor
gymnastics are needed at first, but thereafter the climb becomes easier, and
offers a good view of the facade seen at the height of the second level. The
rest of Petra lies in the distance, hidden from view behind the bulk of the
Monastery and the hills beyond.

The path emerges onto the top of the Monastery itself, just behind the
left-hand element of the triclinium. This affords not only a unique view of
the urn that crowns the central part of the facade, but also of the
surrounding area. Looking down from the circular rim at the base of the urn
it is possible to make out the outline of the Monastery's forecourt.
From El-Deir, the only place you can really go is back down the path you
came by, and back to the historical city centre.

So! Here is a little info on one of the most intriguing places you might
ever experience on the earth..We were lucky also, to see it during the
golden hour, the hour before sunset which brought out the rich palette of
color that is inherent with the massive formations of rock in the
valley..Quite a spectacle..
After a long day of flying and sightseeing, we performed before a very
excited audience in the Amman University, and then returned to our lodging
for the rest of the evening to enjoy a late supper before retiring for a
well deserved sleep..Whew!
Did I say it was work? Nice work if you can get it.!

See you all soon!

Kind regards


PetraBand infront of a chopperKman in Petra