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  • Writer's pictureIan Miller

Petra

Petra is one of the most fascinating and mysterious ancient cities in the world. Located in southwest Jordan, Petra was once the capital of the Nabataean kingdom, a powerful Arab state that flourished between the 4th century BC and the 1st century AD. Petra is famous for its rock-cut architecture, which blends Greek, Roman, and local elements. Petra is also known as the "Rose City" because of the reddish colour of the sandstone cliffs that surround it.

The history of Petra goes back to prehistoric times, when it was inhabited by nomadic tribes. The Nabataeans settled in Petra around the 4th century BC and transformed it into a prosperous trading hub, connecting Arabia, Egypt, and Syria. The Nabataeans were skilled engineers who developed a complex water management system, including dams, canals, and cisterns, to cope with the arid climate. They also carved elaborate tombs, temples, and monuments into the rock faces, creating a unique and impressive cityscape.

One of the most iconic structures in Petra is the Al-Khazneh, or the Treasury, which is believed to be the mausoleum of King Aretas IV, who ruled from 9 BC to 40 AD. The Treasury is reached through a narrow gorge called the Siq, which is about 1.2 kilometres long and up to 200 meters high. The Treasury's facade is decorated with Corinthian columns, statues, and friezes, and features a central urn that was rumored to contain hidden treasure. However, no treasure was ever found inside the Treasury, which was actually an empty chamber.

Another remarkable monument in Petra is the Ad Deir, or the Monastery, which is located on a hilltop overlooking the city. The Monastery is similar to the Treasury in design but larger and more simple. It was probably built in the 1st century AD as a temple dedicated to the Nabataean god Obodas I, who was later deified by the Romans as Dushara. The Monastery can be reached by climbing over 800 steps carved into the rock.


Petra's decline began in the 2nd century AD when the Roman Empire annexed Nabataea and renamed it Arabia Petraea. Petra lost its importance as a trade centre as new sea routes emerged. It also suffered from several earthquakes that damaged its buildings and water system. By the 7th century AD, Petra was largely abandoned and forgotten by the outside world.


Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who disguised himself as an Arab traveller and persuaded a local guide to take him to the site. Since then, Petra has attracted many archaeologists, historians, and tourists who marvel at its beauty and mystery. Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 and was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

Petra is not only a historical site but also a cultural one. It has inspired many artists, writers, and filmmakers who have used it as a backdrop for their works. For example, Petra was featured in the 1989 movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where it was portrayed as the location of the Holy Grail. Petra is also central to Netflix's first Arabic original series Jinn, which is a supernatural drama about the djinn (genies) in the ancient city.


If you are interested in visiting Petra, you can find more information on its official website: www.visitpetra.jo

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