Leah Ibraheem joined Smithsonian Journeys in 2006, and manages the Journeys Blog, research, analysis, and a number of other projects for the organization. Leah is a graduate of Syracuse University and has accompanied Smithsonian travelers to Holland, Belgium, the Middle East, and across the U.S. Here, she shares her reflections on a recent visit to Petra with Smithsonian travelers.
I am always curious to know what piques our travelers’ interests, so whenever I staff a tour, I make sure to ask what brings people to a particular tour during our opening reception. During a recent voyage covering Jordan and Egypt, as we stood holding our wineglasses aloft and basking in the lovely breeze off the Dead Sea, I was expecting a variety of answers—after all, this two-week tour promised many unique experiences. This time, however, the answer was simple. One word—“Petra”—was nearly unanimous.
Petra sits along several ancient commercial routes—to Gaza in the west, Damascus in the north, south to Aqaba on the Red Sea, and east across the desert to the Persian Gulf. As we made our way down towards the Siq, we came upon a small shop, stopping to hold frankincense and myrrh in our hands. Our guide Raad helped us to grasp the full significance of these commodities, explaining the true difficulties of transporting them by caravan, resulting in their phenomenal expense.
In Egypt, we later learned about Hatshepsut’s journey to Punt (exact location still disputed), and how archeologists believe she cultivated her own frankincense and myrrh trees after this trading voyage. Back in Petra, we started to make our way down the deep slice in the sandstone called the Siq to discover the first of the caves and aqueducts. (more…)