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Tips: for Petra & Great Temple see Jordan sites

        for Mada'in Saleh & Mada'in Saleh Revisited see Saudi Arabian Sites 

Nabataean Kings & History  

Today only 12 Nabataean kings are known to us with names such as: Aretas, Obodas, Malichus and Rabbel. Their main objective was to stay independent, dominate all trade in the region, expand trading interests and maximize income and Nabataean were very good at that. For this they were prepared to fight fiercely and at on stage gathered an army of 50,000 to ride against thier arch enemies the Hasmonians. Interestingly their kingdom really had no clearly defined borders, nor were they the only power in their territory, and in addition did not represent the majority population in the area. As clever Arabian traders they always tried to use diplomacy and money to resolve conflicts by paying off their attackers with huge amounts of silver.

Incense & Spice Trade  

Nabataeans had true Arab origin and were expert caravan leaders and smart traders. Therefore they controlled 25% of Roman trade by establishing trading companies in Rome and controlling a vast fleet of trading ships in the Red Sea and the Mediterranian. Thwie main trading goods were incense, myrrh, perfume, spices from Yemeni kingdoms of Saba, Ma'in, Qataban and Himyar. It took a camel caravan up to two month from "Arabia Felix" to petra and each camel load made a $4,000 profit in today's monetary terms. Nabataeans were excellent sailors dominating the Red Sea and went as far as China and an army of 10,000 warriors defended fiercly all Nabataean trading interests.

Nabataean Gods  

Nabataeans were pagans worshipping idols symbolizing various deities. They believed that deities had special forces and therefore carved symbols into stone and their tombs. The main Nabataean divine trinity included Dushara, the god of kings, responsible for seasonal cycles and rainfall, plus the two key goddesses al-Uzza and Allat. Nabataean deities were not given any human form, because they were of spiritual nature and were symbolized by stone steles, a betyle or a nefesh. The cults changed over time and gods took on human forms and were also symbolized by animals. The eagles shown on many tombs in Madain Saleh represented main god Dushara and Petra's main goddess al-Uzza was decicted as lion protecting the city. Goddess Allat was also mentioned in the Qur'an and part of the pre-Islamic worshipping in Makkah.

Nabataean Niches  

There are hundreds of votive niches across the Nabataean Kingdom, mostly in Madain Saleh and Petra. These niches feature one or multiple betyles representing gods and many votive inscriptions from ancient warshippers. Some niches have small cavities for so-called mobile betyles carried around during caravan trip similar to protective amulets.

Nabataean Culture  

Petra's wealthy inhabitants lived in luxury houses with two floors, interior court yards and wide staircases leading to the upper floors with surrounding balconies. Walls were extensively stuccoed and colorfully painted in Hellenistic style. All homes had running water with sophisticated lead plumbing. The large court yards had landscaped gardens and water fountains to cool the air during hot summer days. Petra residents were frequent theatre visitors enjoying Greek comedies with actors wearing costumes and masks and being accompanied by musicians and singers.

Nabataean Script   

This is really a success story written by the least expected suspects in history, our little known Nabataeans. They were Arab nomads from the Saudi Arabian Nafud desert and are the true creators of our modern Arabic alphabet. They also were the first to write letters together, which is common standard today in most parts of the world, except in certain countries in Asia. 2,200 years ago the first Nabataean script was carved into rock faces. To date over 4,000 Nabataean texts carved into rock were found across the Arabian Peninsula, on some Mediterranean islands and even in Rome capital of the Roman Empire.

Nabataean Pottery  

Very little has been written about Nabataean pottery, despite the fact that it is remarkably thin and mass produced. Pottery was used for various purposes, such as religious ceremonies and well off Nabataean households were well equipped with over hundred pottery items. The first true Nabataean ceramic pieces were produced around 75 BC during the rule of King Aretas III. Quickly Nabataeans developed their own very distinctive and independent pottery style. This is remarkable, as they adopted many Hellenistic styles and items in their architecture, as seen from their famous tomb facades.

Nabataean Figurines  

The existence and wide spread usage of votive figurines by Nabataean citizens are evidence of the wide cultural connections of this important empire with Greek, Egyptians, Parthians and southern Arabian cultures, who all used figurines for the same purpose dedicated to deities with similar roles and attributes. But what is different and intriguing is, that Nabataean figurines were created in unique styles and forms and were rather personal items and genuine in character. The link between betyles including votive niches and figurines has really never been researched.

Rural Towns in Nabataea    

From this description of secondary Nabataean settlements next to the three most important Petra, Bosra and Mada’in Saleh a better understanding of Nabataean culture and sophistication can be derived. The Negev area had little agriculture and focused on horse breeding and architectural training. The sites in the north of Petra were used as important mountain sanctuaries for worship and pilgrimages. The satellite towns close to Petra were fully under the capital’s influence and played a vital supportive role. Today the Nabataean archaeological sites spread over five modern states and it is rather difficult to visit only the most important of them.

Roman Expedition to "Arabia Felix" & Syllaeus     

This article will shed some light onto a person you might never heard of, or read about. This might even be so, if you have a good basic knowledge about Petra and the Nabataean history, and could name even a few kings and their achievements. During my research on the Near and Middle East history in the last few years I came across some interesting details. Great personalities even in antiquity always produce the basis for interesting stories and even some fascinating myths. And this historic character is no different, as the Arabian Peninsula is full of mysteries and many remarkable and very telling stories.