Whatever the original purpose of this valley, it was inhabited by a number of people.
The big tombs are down the bottom, but tiny dwelling caves can be seen all over the walls, and narrow staircases are everywhere.
"Little Petra" in Baida has its Siq as an entrance, just as its big sister has. It is much shorter of course, and very narrow.
It is called the "Siq Barid" or "Cold Siq" from the wind that always blows through it.
The tiny valley often called "Little Petra" is about 5 miles from the main site. It is a narrow and green valley, very shady and with richly carved tombs.
There are several theories about the original purpose of this settlement. One is that it was some kind of religious settlement, another that it was a caravanserai for those caravans who wished to camp close to Petra but who didn't want to pay the tolls (which are supposed to have been horrendous!)
But whatever the truth, it is now a cool valley, sheltered from wind, sun and cold alike. The Bedouin took full advantage of this, before and after leaving Petra, and it is only in the last ten years that they are ceasing to occupy the grottoes and tombs during the winter. Indeed, many of these grottoes have a ready made "cistern" alongside them to collect water from any rain.
Baida is a most wonderful place for hiking! But there are no maps, no signposts, no "authorized tracks".
In other words, you would be most unwise to come here without a guide - and an experienced trekking guide at that! Get yourselves together and six or ten of you hire a guide for a day's trekking, it will be a day to remember.
Baida is a semi desert area to the north of Petra. it stretches from the hills of Shobuk down to Wadi Araba.
It is a beautiful area, and many of the local people like to come here to rest, to walk around or to picnic with their families. Often the guides bring tourists here to an evening cookout.
The word "Baida" means "white" in Arabic, and the rocks and sand in Baida are in fact mostly white. In this the area is unlike Petra, and also unlike Wadi Rum.
The area is a rocky one and in many places you can see much the same sort of formation of rocks as at Wadi Rum. It lacks only a little, perhaps the colours of the sand and the rocks, to be as beautiful as Wadi Rum, but also has the attraction of views and roads down to the Rift Valley of Wadi Araba.
Um Sayhoun is the "Bedouin village" of the Bdool tribe, who formerly occupied the caves in Petra. The houses in the village and the land they occupy were given to the Bedouin in perpetuity in exchange for "liberating" Petra. They were also granted the absolute right to pitch their tents in the area known as "Baida" with the exception of the land nearest to the main road, which is owned by the villagers of Wadi Mousa, who use it mainly for growing wheat and barley . Beyond a certain distance from the road, this is "Bedouin territory" and no buildings are allowed anywhere in Baida.
This does not, of course, mean that they do not in fact install their tents just about anywhere they wish in Baida!