National Geographic : 1935 Feb
PETRA, ANCIENT CARAVAN STRONGHOLD Photograph by Byron D. MacDonald THE FIRST PARTY OF EXCURSIONISTS TO TRAVEL BY AIR TO THE ROSE-RED CITY This big plane carried 24 passengers of "The Odyssey Cruise" from Damascus to Ma'an (see page 130), which is a great air base for the British forces in Trans-Jordan, a British protectorate. In the group are Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society, and daughters, Carol and Gloria, left of center. Capt. F. V. M . Foy, Commander of R. M . A . "Hanno," third from left. The western range north of Es Siyagh is called Jebel ed Der (Mountain of the Mon astery). It was a classic monument that in later times became a place of Christian wor ship (see page 157). AN IMPREGNABLE STRONGHOLD South of Es Siyagh the most imposing mountain of all, Umm el Biyara (probably Mother of Cisterns), rears its flat top (see pages 149 and 163). It was a Nabatean stronghold, inaccessible except by the aid of a sort of staircase in a couloir that was closed by a gate (see pages 130-1). In cisterns hollowed from the rock, its defenders stored water for use in case of prolonged siege. The Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus, writing just before the Christian era, re lates that the Nabateans had no built homes, but raised sheep and camels, using the latter instead of horses; trafficked in frank incense, myrrh, and costly spices, and loved liberty. He describes their cistern-equipped rock fastness with only one way up and gives vivid accounts of two expeditions sent fruitlessly against them by Antigonus. By using tactics like those attributed to the Nabateans, Col. T. E. Lawrence (T. E. Shaw), with a small band of desert-bred Arabs, harassed a whole Turkish army corps during the World War. He would place explosives on the Mecca Railway and retreat to just such an eyrie. It is probable that the Edomites, before the Nabateans, had defenses on Umm el Biyara when they refused to let Israel through their borders. The story is told in Numbers 20 : 14-18: "And Moses sent mes sengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, 'Thus saith thy brother Israel, . . . Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy coun try: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.' "And Edom said unto him, 'Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.'"