Have you ever wanted to go to a city carved out of rock, buried in a valley surrounded by mountains, and filled with intriguing tombs and temples? If so, you should absolutely include Petra on your bucket list. Petra is a Jordanian historical city that was formerly the capital of the Nabataean empire, a prominent Arab civilization that thrived in the first centuries BC and AD. Petra is also one of the world's new seven wonders, as determined by a vote of 100 million people in 2007.
Petra's history begins in the 4th century BC, when the Nabataeans came in the area and established it as their capital. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who got wealthy by trading incense, spices, and other items along the trade routes linking Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Rome. They were also adept at engineering, agriculture, and the arts. They constructed a sophisticated water system that collected and stored rainwater, and they sculpted wonderful structures into Petra's sandstone cliffs.
Petra's prosperity and importance peaked in the first century AD, when it had a population of roughly 20,000 people. It was also a cultural and religious centre, where many gods and goddesses were revered. The Al-Khazneh, or Treasury, is Petra's most famous monument and is thought to be the mausoleum of Nabataean king Aretas IV. The Treasury, with its magnificent front ornamented with columns, statues, and reliefs, is a stunning example of Petra's rock-cut architecture.
Petra's glory, however, did not last long. The Roman Empire seized the Nabataean kingdom and renamed it Arabia Petraea in 106 AD. As new water connections evolved and superseded the land ones, Petra gradually lost its importance as a trading hub. Petra was also hit by multiple earthquakes, which devastated many of its structures. By the 7th century AD, the outside world had mostly abandoned and forgotten Petra.
Petra's Rediscovery and Recognition
Petra remained unknown to the Western world until 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it. He disguised himself as an Arab and persuaded a local guide to take him there, claiming to be a pilgrim seeking to visit the tomb of Aaron, Moses' brother. Burckhardt was astounded by what he saw and produced a detailed account of his visit, sparking the curiosity of other tourists and scholars.
Since then, countless visitors have come to admire Petra's beauty and mystery. Petra has also appeared in numerous literature, films, and documentaries, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which was shot in Petra in 1989. Petra has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and one of the world's new seven wonders since 2007. Petra has been designated as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage" by UNESCO.
Why Should You Travel to Petra?
Petra is a one-of-a-kind and interesting place that provides a look into the Nabataeans' ancient world. You may tour the city by wandering through the Siq, a narrow gorge that leads to the Treasury, and then marvelling at the other rock-cut monuments such as the Royal Tombs, Monastery, Theatre, and Great Temple. The Petra Archaeological Museum and the Petra Visitor Centre are other excellent places to learn about Petra's history and culture.
Petra is also a great spot to take in Jordan's natural beauty and diversity. Views of the mountains and valleys are breathtaking, as are the changing colours of the sandstone, which range from pink to red to orange. You can also enjoy the friendliness and traditions of the local Bedouins, who live in and around Petra and can provide you with a camel ride, a cup of tea, or a souvenir.
Petra is a world wonder that you should not miss. It is a destination where you can experience an old civilization's achievements and legacy, as well as immerse yourself in a magical and unique adventure. Petra is a place that, as poet John William Burgon put it, is "a rose-red city half as old as time."