• The Arts Society Penang
  • The Arts Society Penang

The Rose Red City - Petra and the Nabataeans

Petra and the Nabataeans
Thursday 14 March 2019. The Ming Fine Art Gallery, Straits Quay from 6:30pm.

Discover the Nabataeans and their amazing desert city of Petra, and learn how they made the transition from tent-dwelling nomads to sophisticated urbanites.

In 1812 a Swiss adventurer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt was travelling through Syria and the Bible Lands disguised as a devout Moslem scholar, Ibrahim Ibn Abdulla. While in Karnak he heard rumors of ruins near Wadi Musa, the Valley of Moses 100 miles to the south. Convincing the local Bedouins that he wished to make a sacrifice at the nearby Tomb of the Prophet Aaron, the brother of Moses, he travelled with a reluctant guide through a long, narrow gorge. What he saw as they came to the end took his breath away. A magnificent not quite classical building appeared carved out of the living red rock. As they moved further into the site other carved structures appeared. Burckhardt knew he had rediscovered the fable city of Petra, the first Westerner to see the city for nearly 700 years.

Petra began as a gathering place for a nomadic people, the Nabataeans, who had the good fortune to control the main caravan routes, a fact that brought them great wealth and influence. They forsook their nomadic lifestyle and instead built a grand city overcoming the arid desert climate with an advanced system of irrigation. They buried their dead in tombs with elaborate facades of mixed eastern and western architecture that looked down from the surrounding cliffs onto a grand city with temples, markets, shops and houses.

In this lecture we’ll explore this fascinating site and learn how the Nabataeans managed to create a remarkable and unique capital in such an unpromising location – and we’ll meet some of these enigmatic people and their gods. 


MIKE CLEGG'S RAF career involved twenty years flying duties worldwide as an anti-submarine warfare specialist followed by staff appointments, including nine years in a NATO post in Italy as a political adviser on Greek–Turkish issues. He was a founder member of the International Archaeological Society in Naples, lecturing, leading tours of Graeco–Roman sites and participating in excavations. He has lectured extensively on the Classical World and currently plans and leads cultural tours to Italy, Greece and Cyprus.