The Incense Road Header

Documentary Film based on Gibson's book: Qur'anic Geography


The Sacred City from Glasshouse Media on Vimeo.

   Stops on the
Incense Road
Wadi Fiqreh
Wadi Arabah
Rekem, (Petra)
Wadi Rumm
Al Uyaynah
Northern Desert Trek
Meda'in Saleh
Southern Desert Trek
Marib (Saba)
Timna (Qatraban)
Further Information
The Incense Sea Route
For a complete tour of Petra visit our special PETRA SITE

 Rekem (Petra)

Petra is the best known of all of the Nabataean cities. Today thousands of tourists visit this site and stare in awe at the huge funerary monuments. While there are over 1000 monuments in Petra, there is no record of who made most of them. In the Nabataean city of Egra however, there are many monuments made for upper class family, and many are signed by the artists. They called themselves 'Amana,' in the detailed inscriptions on the facades of almost half of the monuments. It is interesting to notice that the builders of the monuments were most probably Nabataeans, not imported laborers.

 Some people believe that at its height, Petra would have had a population of 20,000 - 30,000 people. Others believe that Petra was mostly a city of the dead and religious ceremonies. Certainly, it was a huge religious center, with several temples, as well as a festival theater, a nymphaeum, a bathhouse, a sacred way, a monumental gate, pools, and several other pubic buildings. These temples and other public buildings occupied the central valley, where the Royal Tombs were situated. Later a number of churches were built in Petra. Three of these have been excavated and are close together on the north slope above the colonnaded street.

The citizens of Petra lived in crowded conditions, in houses bunched on the north and south slopes above the colonnade street. Many of these people would have been grave diggers, monument sculptors, temple attendants, and others involved in service trades. Initially the city also contained the Royal family and members of the ruling class, at least until the capital was moved to Bostra in the north.


Photo by Silvija Seres, 2002. Used with Permission. Please visit her travel site (


Some historians believe that at least once a year, and most probably twice a year, Petra held a huge festival. During this time, Petra needed to accommodate the many thousands of Nabataean pilgrims that made their way to their city. While no one knows how many people came at any one time, we can deduce the names of many of the pilgrims who wrote their names on rocks and canyon walls during their pilgrimage.

During the festival some historians feel that the pilgrims visited the graves of their ancestors and ate or drank something in remembrance of the dead. You can read more about the Nabataean people through the links below.