The fifth day of our trip was dedicated to the ancient rupestrian city of Petra. The tour began early in the morning and ended late in the evening. Despite the persistent tour guides who pursued us insisting on taking us a ride on a camel or donkey, we managed to escape and found our own way to the site! We walked through the imposing gorges and with the guidance of Micaela and Ogla we were able to identify buildings and learn a lot about Nabataean culture and architecture. We admired the ancient theatre, the so-called Treasury (Al Khazneh), the royal tombs, the “Renaissance” (or Brunelleschian) tomb and the “Garden Hall,” the latter possibly bearing traces of Crusader activity.
Walking through the gorges in Petra
Gil(iana) Jones and the Last SOAS/Getty Crusade!
Doris’ triumphal advent in Petra!
Micaela is explaining the multi-layered history of the so-called the “Renaissance Tomb”
Looking for the Crusader traces at the “Garden Hall”
Scott is taking a rest at the top
We subsequently climbed up rocky hills and reached the archaeological remains on the mountain top citadel of al-Habīs, where once again, we were given an excellent tour by Micaela. There lie the enigmatic ruins of a small Crusader fort, built around the 1140s. The castle dominates the field around it and offers stunning views of Petra and its surrounding mountains. The bravest of us -no names mentioned!- have climbed the summit while the others stayed downstairs taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. After lunch, we had free time to wander around the site. Some of us chose to visit the so-called monastery (El Deir), while others walked up to the Petra basilica with its early Christian floor mosaics representing the four seasons and various animals. This is the church in which the famous papyri were discovered (the ones we had a chance to observe on our first night with Dr. Porter of ACOR) in a room located to the left of the nave. Another group chose to continue with the royal tombs (among them the Urn Tomb), then visit the museum of Petra.
Late in the evening the team gathered at the hotel’s meeting room, this time to hear Dana’s and Anthi’s presentations. The session started with a talk by Anthi who probed the complicated nexus of relations among the southern Italy, Cyprus and the Holy Land and proposed alternative methodological approaches in the way we discuss similar imagery from diverse regions. Anthi’s presentation was followed by Dana’s, which probed Crusader identities in Medieval Sicily by focusing on an exciting manuscript by Peter of Eboli (c. 1196-1220) in combination with hybrid buildings of Byzantine, Islamic and Western visual cultures such as the Cappella Palatina. Both talks triggered a productive discussion vis-à-vis the cultural exchanges between southern Italy and the Levant in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The day closed with a lovely dinner at a traditional restaurant in Petra.
Text and Photos by Anthi Andronikou & Suna Cagaptay