Room with a View

Part of the Petra exhibition.

Interior architectural frame

Like almost everything in Nabataean life, domestic architecture combined elements of East and West. Hellenistic influence from Greece pervaded the public rooms, which often included an open courtyard with columns, or peristyle, for light and air. Bright paintings animated the walls in these reception areas; stucco moldings provided architectural interest.

In contrast, the private areas where people worked, ate, and slept were simpler and more traditionally Arabic. Often windowless, they opened onto a simple paved courtyard.

Roofs of the one- or two-story houses were flat and untiled. Flagstones covered the floors, except in the homes of the rich, where mosaic tiles were common. Most Nabataeans had minimal furniture, aside from stone benches for reclining at the table; any other pieces they had were probably wooden and have not survived. Food preparation, particularly baking, took place in a separate building because of fire danger; even now, communal ovens remain a feature of life in some Middle Eastern villages.