fig. 37 - Photorealistic rendering of the Pool-Complex with a red pavilion, by C. Kanellopoulos. The colonnade surrounding the pool on three sides is based on Herodian parallels (future excavations will tell us if such a colonnade existed in the Petra Pool-Complex).
The Greek geographer Strabo described Petra as "having springs in abundance, both for domestic purposes and for watering gardens" (Geography VII:16.4.21). Two perennial springs, 'Ain Musa and 'Ain Braq, located in the hills to the east of the city, and two additional springs within the city limits, in Wadi Siagha and Wadi Abu 'Ollegha, were the main sources of water for the city. However, as the population grew, it became more and more necessary to devise ways to collect and distribute water. The Nabataeans are known for their ingenious engineering skills with which they developed a complex system of dams, runnels, diversion channels, reservoirs and cisterns to collect virtually every drop of water runoff in order to fulfill their domestic needs and to irrigate their fields (cf. Hammond 1967). The Lion Fountain (fig. 38, right) is just one example of how the Nabataeans found ways to create an aesthetic appearance for an  otherwise functional installation. Other examples of this would be the camel caravan carved in relief along the Siq's water channel (discovered in recent excavations by the Petra National Trust), and a waterfall that distributed water from the al-Khubta aqueduct to pools and terraced fields below (Laureano 1994:76-77).
The Role of a Garden in Petra

During the Nabataean and Roman periods, the pool-complex and garden at Petra would have offered a refreshing retreat from the inevitable hustle and bustle of the city's center. Visitors could relax by the pool or stroll through the garden enjoying the sweet smell of flowers or possibly escape the blazing sun under a grove of shade trees. The combination of water and greenery would have created a pleasant microenvironment within the hot and arid climate of this desert metropolis.

In addition, the sound of water running through the various pipes and irrigation channels would have created a pleasant musical effect. The island-pavilion offered a private retreat away from prying eyes and ears. If part of a royal complex, the island would most certainly have been a favorite sanctuary for the king and other high officials, the site of private meetings and banquets.
The Greek geographer Strabo described Petra as "having springs in abundance, both for domestic purposes and for watering gardens" (Geography VII:16.4.21). Two perennial springs, 'Ain Musa and 'Ain Braq, located in the hills to the east of the city, and two additional springs within the city limits, in Wadi Siagha and Wadi Abu 'Ollegha, were the main sources of water for the city. However, as the population grew, it became more and more necessary to devise ways to collect and distribute water. The Nabataeans are known for their ingenious engineering skills with which they developed a complex system of dams, runnels, diversion channels, reservoirs and cisterns to collect virtually every drop of water runoff in order to fulfill their domestic needs and to irrigate their fields (cf. Hammond 1967). The Lion Fountain (fig. 38, right) is just one example of how the Nabataeans found ways to create an aesthetic appearance for an  otherwise functional installation. Other examples of this would be the camel caravan carved in relief along the Siq's water channel (discovered in recent excavations by the Petra National Trust), and a waterfall that distributed water from the al-Khubta aqueduct to pools and terraced fields below (Laureano 1994:76-77).
Despite their noted accomplishments, however, few would have imagined that the Nabataeans had excess water, enough to fulfill the demands of a grandiose garden and monumental pool. In addition to their practical needs, the Nabataeans also wished to establish Petra--their political, religious and cultural center--as a prosperous and thriving metropolis within the larger Hellenized world. The presence of a large formal garden, a virtual oasis, in Petra would have made a powerful statement to merchants and foreign delegates passing through city after a long journey through the harsh desert environment. Citizens and visitors alike would have been impressed by the gratuitous display of conspicuous consumption, a symbol of the flourishing status of Petra during its classical era.
fig. 38 - The lion fountain. Water was channeled down the rock-mountain, passing through the open mouth of  the lion (now badly eroded).
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Unless otherwise indicated, all photos, illustrations and text on this site
by Leigh-Ann Bedal ©1999. All rights reserved
Last updated: February 2000
The Pool-Complex at Petra
fig. 37 - Photorealistic rendering of the Pool-Complex with a red pavilion, by C. Kanellopoulos. The colonnade surrounding the pool on three sides is based on Herodian parallels (future excavations will tell us if such a colonnade existed in the Petra Pool-Complex).
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