When planning your visit to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, starting your exploration from this location is highly recommended. It serves as an excellent prelude to your Petra visit, offering valuable insights into every aspect of what awaits you at the main Petra site. Accessible and manageable, it’s an ideal starting point for travelers who have more than a day to explore. Not advisable for those who are on a day trip to Petra.
Little Petra (Siq al-Barid)
Nestled within a rugged desert landscape, approximately 9 kilometers north of the iconic Petra, lies an archaeological site known as ‘Siq al-Barid (سيق البريد),’ often dubbed ‘Little Petra (البتراء الصغيرة)’ due to its striking resemblance to its grand counterpart. This lesser-known gem holds the charm of an ancient suburb of Petra, boasting a treasure trove of historical marvels, including tombs, temples, water channels, and cisterns masterfully carved into the rock, along with remnants of faded frescoes adorning plastered walls.
Siq al-Barid derives its poetic Arabic name, meaning ‘the cold shaft/canyon,’ from its unique topography – a high-walled, narrow canyon that barely permits sunlight to penetrate its depths. Stretching a mere 450 meters, the site offers a meandering path through alternating sections of varying width. It’s an integral part of the Petra Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, accessible separately and free of charge.
Historians and archaeologists believe that the inception of Little Petra traces back to the 1st century AD, during the zenith of the Nabataean culture. This enclave likely served as a bustling hub for Nabataean merchants, who were flourishing in the region during that era, offering shelter and entertainment for their visiting counterparts. Its proximity to the ancient settlement of Al Beidha, which dates back to the Neolithic period, adds another layer of historical significance to Little Petra.
However, as the Nabataean civilization waned, Siq al-Barid fell into abandonment. It became a silent witness to the passing centuries under the occasional watch of Bedouin nomads.
Explore an ancient Nabataean suburb
Much like Petra, Siq al-Barid features rock-cut tombs, temples, dining halls, caves, and water reservoirs.
Archaeologists believe the site served as a vital waystation for trading caravans traversing the Silk Road en route to Petra.
What truly mesmerizes visitors are the intricate sandstone carvings that adorn the dwellings within Siq al-Barid. Every column and facade bears the unmistakable mark of craftsmanship, so precise and exquisite that it’s difficult to fathom they were painstakingly created by hand some 2,000 years ago. These facades, far from appearing as rudimentary cave-like structures, stand as enduring testaments to the advanced skills of the artisans of their time.
The most fascinating aspect of these dwellings is the carvings into sandstone rocks.
Stepping into Siq al-Barid is akin to embarking on a journey through history. The cool, shaded canyon walls seem to whisper the secrets of an era long past, making it an absolute must-visit for history enthusiasts and adventurers alike.
Rock cut tomb at Little Petra
The term “triclinium” originated in ancient Rome and refers to a dining table surrounded by seating along three of its sides.
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