Habib was an eleven-year old boy. His father Abdul was an incense trader. Incense of Arabia was famous all over the world in olden times. Once in three months, Abdul traveled to the neighboring city of Petra for trade. This time, he thought his son Habib was old enough to travel with him. He wanted Habib to learn the tricks of the trade.
As soon as Habib heard of the travel plan, he jumped with joy. It would be his very first trip to Petra. The city he had heard so much about! The night before, Habib couldn’t sleep out of excitement. He remembered his father had told him that not so long ago Petra was a simple city. Then the trade between Arabia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China expanded. Arabia was famous for incense, China for silk and porcelain and India for spices. The trade route began to be known as the silk route by the traders because of the profitable trade of Chinese silk carried out along its length. Petra fell at the center of the trade route taken by traders while traveling across the continents. Wealth poured in Petra, and it prospered.
“I wonder how Petra looks. I wonder how the traders are.” Random thoughts flashed Habib’s mind. However, the thought of meeting people from different countries made him nervous.
“I must convince father to buy a silk scarf for mama, she loves them,” he smiled and closed his eyes to fall asleep.
Next day, everyone got dressed in the traditional plain white keffiyeh and thawb. Habib’s mama kissed him on the forehead a fed him fistful of sweet raisins for good luck. Their caravan left before the first rays of the sun hit the ground. The journey was pleasant and by evening, the caravan neared Petra, which was located in Wadi(Valley) Musa of the biblical mountain Hor.
The entrance to the city was unexpected. Habib had not seen something like this before. Their caravan passed a narrow gorge of more than 1 km that was surrounded by 90 m tall cliffs. This narrow passage was called Siq. The first peek of Petra came while they neared the end of the Siq.
“The first thing, which you see from here, is the view of the Al Khazneh – the Treasury, which holds hidden treasures,” said Abdul pointing his finger outwards. Habib imagined Al Khazneh being stuffed with sacks of gold coins. He smirked at the idea.
On reaching the traveler’s house, Abdul and his father unloaded their luggage. The house was brimming with people. After all, traders from all over halted here to rest and to buy and sell. In fact this trading activity was the reason for Petra’s growing wealth. After a while of resting, Abdul thought of showing his son around the city. While walking down the Petra passageways, they came across more than 800 structures like temples, churches, public buildings. They saw a 3,000-seater amphitheater and Ad-Deir monastery with 800 steps. The affluent lived in houses containing columns and multiple rooms. Everything was carved out of the rose-red colored sandstone hills.
“Maybe they should call it the red rose city and not Petra,” chuckled Habib.
Habib also noticed well-constructed dams, and networked cisterns that were used to conserve water from the seasonal rains.
“The water conserving and management system needed in an arid region like this is ingenious. No wonder Petra is flourishing so well.” Habib thought to himself.
“Did you know that Petra is built and inhabited by the an Arab tribe named Nabataeans and that they are nomads?”,Abdul asked his son. Habib shook his head.
“I have never thought of nomads as industrious people, and that too industrious enough to build a spectacular city like Petra.” Habib said surprisingly. Abdul put his hands around his son’s shoulder. They strolled back to the rest home to catch up on a good night sleep so that they can get geared up for the hullabaloo the next morning.
Do you know Habib and Abdul lived 2000 years ago? Though there is no Habib or Abdul today, the city of Petra still stands in Jordan. Petra is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful archaeological site because of its red sandstone landscape. It tells us how middle east was thousands of years ago.
Today, it is one of the seven wonders of the modern world!