-- 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.
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.
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