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Silver still buys a good dinner in ancient Petra

By: Peter Cooper

-- Posted 11 November, 2008 | | Discuss This Article - Comments:

The other day I was reading some article which claimed that silver could no longer be considered a currency. Yet silver certainly was a currency in ancient and more modern times, and has retained its value.

Last weekend my wife and I decided to visit Petra, the abandoned hidden city in Jordan with magnificent facades carved out of rose-colored sandstone rocks. Marc Faber had been there recently and found the place inspirational.

Once a capital city of 200,000 souls Petra is accessed through a very narrow pass with sandstone walls up to 100 meters high called The Siq. After a kilometer of narrow pass you reach a monument known as the Treasury, although whether it was ever used as a repository for Nabatean silver money is not certain.

Beyond the Treasury the valley of Petra stretches out over several square kilometers. We took a donkey to the top of another pass to visit the monastery, not a form of transport I would recommend, particularly when your wife’s donkey is in front and has an urgent call of nature. We walked the 1,000 steps to the Place of High Sacrifice the next day.

No silver

All the time in Petra I kept asking local traders if they had any silver. A few hopefully offered me bronze coinage which I refused. But on the climb to the Place of High Sacrifice a bedouin pulled out a shiny piece of original Nabatean silver to sell to me.

That night in the Petra Marriott we sat down to dinner and it occurred to me that 2,000 years ago the same silver coin would have probably bought a good dinner, and was still worth about the same. That is what is precious about precious metals, they keep their shine and their value.

Of course, I am guessing really, who knows what the Petra Marriott would have charged 2,000 years ago for dinner! But the point is that silver still works as a store of value, and if that bedouin had been a time traveller I could have been functioning as an exchange shop.

My wife also bought some silver jewelry. But that was the only silver coin I found in the whole of Petra during my stay. The Nabateans were once the richest tribe in the Middle East but even they seem to have run out of silver coins these days.

About Peter Cooper:
Oxford University educated financial journalist Peter Cooper found himself made redundant by Emap plc in London in the mid-1990s and decided to rebuild his career in Dubai as launch editor of the pioneering magazine Gulf Business. He returned briefly to London in 1999 to complete his first book, a history of the Bovis construction group.

Then in 2000 he went back to Dubai to become an Internet entrepreneur, just as the dot-com market crashed. But he stumbled across the opportunity to become a partner in, which later became the Middle East's leading English language business news website.

Over the course of the next seven years he had a ringside seat as editor-in-chief writing about the remarkable transformation of Dubai into a global business and financial hub city. At the same time prospered and was sold in 2006 to Emap plc for $27 million, completing the career circle back to where it began a decade earlier.

He remains a lively commentator and columnist as a freelance journalist based in Dubai and travels extensively each summer with his wife Svetlana. His financial blog is attracting increasing attention with its focus on investment in gold and silver as a means of prospering during a time of great consumer price inflation and asset price deflation.

Order my book online from this link

-- Posted 11 November, 2008 | | Discuss This Article - Comments:

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