Tag Archives: Jordan

The Song of Petra

The informant is one of my family members that has been brought up listening to these songs in her household. It is seen as one of the ballads that she most remembers growing up.


The narrative is about the kingdom of Petra in Jordon and discusses “the king’s journey to fight against the Romans that tried to invade the kingdom and left the queen Shekeilah” to rule the kingdom. He also “left his seven-year-old daughter, Petra.” Roman soldiers come to the kingdom with troops and want to “hide the gold that they have in Petra’s safe, which was widely known to be a safe place. They kidnap the princess and keep her for ransom.” Everyone searched for the princess and could not find her. The informant states that the ballad continues with “the Romans ordering the queen to stop the king from attacking Rome’s occupying kingdoms.” If the queen did not, they would kill Petra. The ballad resumes with the Jordanian king conquering the Romans and returning home but “the queen halts the celebrations because she lets him know that they had to sacrifice their daughter for the victory of their kingdom”


The informant describes this as a “very popular song that was played for many years and all ages, telling the dreadful story of how ‘with victory, comes sacrifice’ in the death of a woman named Petra.” After a few years, the most widely known classical singer, Fairouz had taken the song and incorporated it into a musical that framed the entire story, placing this song as the finale, to highlight the importance of the ballad in the musical. The musical “opened for everyone to see and gain an authentic understanding of what the song truly meant and the importance of the princess in the story of victory” It was recorded and premiered across the Arab world in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and others, showing the beauty of Arabic ballads on stage.


This ballad is meant to portray the significance of the princess in the narrative as she is not only a member of the royal family of Jordan but a symbol of change in the kingdom of Petra, even through her death. Being made into a musical does not diminish the gruesome element of her death but instead portrays it through other art on a stage, making it more accessible to wider audiences. This allows them to gain an understanding of how powerful the Arab world may be, but it must come with a sacrifice. Children are able to watch the musical and learn the consequences of their actions, through the ballad and the lyrics that explain her death, and the royal’s reaction to her sacrifice. This also plays a role in the history of the Arab world as it has gone through many invasions from other countries and emphasises the strength that they have, however, also a piece of themselves that had been taken long ago.

Shooting guns to welcome visitors

My friend Amal is of Jordanian and Lebanese descent. She told me the following story about a tradition in the town of Fuheis, Jordan, and a chaotic culture clash resulting from it:

“My grandfather was from a wild west of Jordan, otherwise known as Fuheis. And like, so in Jordan like, at weddings- not weddings but like parties the night before the wedding; I don’t know if there’s even an equivalent in America ’cause it’s not like a bridesmaid’s, it’s not like a shower. So at the party the night before the wedding you like shoot guns in the air. And then also like, sometimes to like, welcome someone who’s coming to your town you like, or if there’s a party, you just shoot a gun in the air. And so there was this um, famous Arabic singer who was coming to do a concert in Fuheis, um, I forget his name…But um, famous Arabic singer, like really big concert, blah blah blah. And uh, he’s like introducing himself and his set and my grandfather yells and like runs up on stage and is like, ‘welcome! We’re so happy to have you in Fuheis!’ and whips out a gun. And shoots the gun in the air. And this guy has uh, has never been to Fuheis, he doesn’t know this tradition, and he is terrified and security drags my grandfather away. And uh, that’s my fun story about our traditions.”

This personal account of a tradition in practice demonstrates the ways in which local folklore can create unpleasant or funny results when placed in a context with outsiders who aren’t familiar with it. These kinds of recontextualizations result from an increasingly interconnected and officialized world in which non-institutionalized local traditions often remain.