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After the ascent - usually walking up the processional way from the ancient city centre (but see also: Petra back trail) - you reach a vast plateau dominated by the monumental façade of Ad Deir, the so called Monastery. It is most beautiful in the mild light of the late afternoon, but one should not arrive too late, because the area has numerous rock-cut halls, cult niches, sacrificial places, and cisterns (altogether over 100 monuments.) And the rocks at the edge of the western cliff offer awesome views of the mountain scenery right down to the 1000 m lower situated Wadi Araba.
The Arabic name "Ad Deir" (the Monastery) was given to the place by native Bedouins because of the crosses inscribed on the interior back wall during its Christian use in Byzantine times. The monument's façade of 47 m width and 48 m height, and the large hall behind it were carved out of the mountain around the mid-1st century AD.
The upper order with the broken (open) pediment, which frames a circular tholos structure with a conic roof crowned by an urn, follows the model of the Khazneh (Treasury). But since there were no tombs inside, Ad Deir could not have been a mausoleum. In the raised niche of the back wall traces of a later removed betyl were found, and on both sides of the rock chamber there are flat wide benches, which suggest that it was a cultic place. It seems possible that a rich brotherhood celebrated symposia (ritual banquets) here in homage to the Nabataean King Obodas II (reigned 30 - 9 B.C.), and was deified after his death - more about: Obodas Theos. This assumption is based on an inscription found near Ad Deir: "Let be remembered ‘Ubaydu son of Waqihel and his associates of the symposium of Obodat the God". (From Taylor, p. 98)
The photo pages provide more information about Ad Deir and other monuments on the plateau.
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Compilation of information, editing, translations, photos: Universes in Universe, unless otherwise indicated
A betyl (Semitic: bait-el = house of God; Greek: baitylos) is an aniconical God symbol, usually in the form of a vertical rectangular plate or stele. It can also be a negative form in a niche. Often there are several betyls in a niche next to each other, on top of each other or grouped together. "The betyl is not a representation of the God, neither an image of the God, nor an idol. As a medium of the presence of the God, however, it can also experience cultic veneration. This in turn means that in the act of worship, one could offer sacrifices and gifts to the betyl." (R. Wenning, 2007. Transl. UiU)
A Nabataean king Obodas, raised to god - but which of the kings named Obodas, is discussed in research. Robert Wenning mentions Obodas II (or III, reigned 30 - 9 B.C.), a.o. because the deification of kings is known only since the time of his successor Aretas IV (9/8 B.C. - 39/40 A.D.), which is why a reference to Obodas I (ca. 96 - 87 B.C.) seems rather unlikely. The existence of a king Obodas II, who is said to have ruled 62/61- 60/59 BC, is doubted.
Wenning has summarized the various theories:
Obodas Theos. Der statuarische Befund eines nabatäischen Gottes. In: Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, 131 (2015), pp. 44 - 58