Petra Jordan,

Rose Red ancient Nabataean Capital

Hidden amongst the towering jagged red sandstone peaks between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in Jordan is Petra, a distinctive ancient capital city, skilfully built and carved into the rock face by the ancient Nabataeans (Nabataens).

The Nabataeans were a dynamic North Arabian nomadic people who settled at Petra over 2200 thousand years ago (possibly as early as the 6th century BC). During their time, Petra prospered as an important caravan trade crossroad that linked the near East, Africa, India, with the Mediterranean.

Despite being set in one of the world’s harshest environment Petra, which means ‘stone’ in Greek, endured as a liveable city. Its longevity was mainly because of the brilliance of the ancient Nabataeans who were able to engineer advanced complex hydraulic water systems that would harness and conserve precious water from the seasonal flash floods.

Feature image of the post is of the legendary Monastery, which is the most awe-inspiring monument of Petra. Dating from the third century BC, the Monastery is hidden above the hills and at least 60 minutes’ climb from the ancient city’s centre. Carved into the side of a mountain, the Monastery’s timeless Hellenistic facade is similar in design to that of the Treasury, although far larger at 45 meters high and 50 meters wide.

Rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer John Lewis Burckhardt after being lost to the World for hundreds of years, Petra is one of the world’s most famous, richest and largest archaeological sites.

The splendours of Petra’s architecture are a fusion of Greek, Syrian, Arabian and Roman elements and a walk through the city will reveal of hundreds of rock carved tombs, elegant Hellenistic temple facades, funerary halls and rock reliefs and even a classical style theatre.

It is a UNESCO world heritage listed site and UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”.

Click to view the complete Petra images gallery

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas

The Collared Sparrowhawk

Delicate yet lethal.

A frantic exodus of birds can only mean one thing, a predator, a feared Collared Sparrowhawk.

Looking out from my kitchen window, I witness and hear a chaotic scramble of birds taking flight away from the serenity of my backyard. These feathered friends, which include Sparrows, Spotted Doves, Crested pigeons and Miners, startle easily, but on this occasion, my sense was they feared for their life.

As stepped outside, it confirmed my feeling as sitting quietly, almost nonchalantly on a branch of my apple tree was a Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus), a striking deadly raptor and bird of prey.

Sparrows and various other small birds that frequent my and my neighbours’ backyards in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia have particularly attracted predators that are skilled in hunting small birds.

Confident and relaxed, this modern feathered dinosaur (a Velociraptor to be exact) was not all unsettled by my schoolboy type enthusiasm to set up my camera to capture images. Occasionally, it gave me the death stare with those wide, piercing yellow eyes, perhaps warning me to keep my distance.

Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird? – Sir David Attenborough

A Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus), a striking deadly raptor and bird of prey.

Collared Sparrowhawk. Melbourne. Australia.
View of a Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus), a striking deadly raptor and bird of prey. I took the image in my backyard. Melbourne. Australia.

Found in woodlands and forests across Australia, Collared Sparrowhawks are handsomely marked, with slate-grey wings and head, chestnut rear neck collar and reddish-brown and cream banded chest and front.

Living an average of only 4 years, males and female Collared Sparrowhawks are similar in appearance; However, females are larger than males.

Birds of Prey or raptors females are between 20-100 percent larger than the males. This is the opposite of most other birds, where males are larger than females.

A distinguishing feature of the Collared Sparrowhawk is that it has long thin wiry yellow legs and a long middle toe, which it uses to clutch its unfortunate victim. This is one feature that differs from the Brown Goshawk, for which it is mistaken for.

My charismatic visitor eventually tired of my antics and flew off, perhaps to enchant another mere mortal or more likely, to find a meal.

Click to view the complete Collard Sparrowhawk image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.