BACK > ATTRACTIONS
THE LEGENDARY ROCK CARVED CITY
The legendary city of Petra is Jordan’s most famous attraction and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, carved by the Nabatean Arabs more than 2,000 years ago, entirely out of solid sandstone rock. It was initially inhabited, around 1000 BC by the Edomites at their capital Sela (Biblical name of Petra), but it was not till the 4th century BC, that the city was carved out of rock by the nomadic Nabateans, who arrived from the Arabian Peninsula in the 6th century BC & built their remarkable empire, around 167 BC stretching from northern Arabia in the south to Bosra (nowadays in Syria) in the north.
The Nabateans had rock-carved remarkable sepulchral monuments, temples and tombs out of solid sandstone rock and having been greatly influenced by the Hellenistic culture, named their magnificent capital city Petra; derived from the Greek word meaning “rock”. They built their kingdom in the arid desert canyons and mountains which obliged them to excel in water conservation, building dams and rock-carving canals, cisterns and reservoirs. The Nabateans often referred to as “the Lords of the desert”, excelled in trading and controlled the area’s major trade routes. Their caravans, heavily-laden with valuable incense and expensive spices brought from the Far East and southern Arabia, traversed the vast deserts towards the Mediterranean Sea ports, where rich consumers enjoyed Hellenistic lifestyles and hence their civilization flourished and became very wealthy and powerful through trading, sheltering caravans and levying taxes for passage through their lands. The Nabatean kingdom was eventually captured by the Romans in 106 AD. It was a beautiful and large thriving city at the time but following the devastating AD 363 earthquake and the trade route diversions towards Bosra (in present-day Syria) and the sea, its decline was inevitable. The city remained inhabited during the Byzantine period but gradually dwindled in importance and for over 1000 years, mysteriously lost to the world but not to the local Bedouins. In AD 1812, a young Swiss explorer named John Louis Burckhardt, disguised as a Muslim Indian, ventured into the long lost city and rediscovered the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra.
The breathtaking ancient city is accessed by foot through the magnificent 1.2 km narrow Siq (gorge), which leads to Petra’s most famous 1st century BC monument, the spectacularly carved Treasury which appears dramatically as you enter the hidden city at the end of the Siq. The numerous stunning ruins of tombs, known as the Street of Facades, lead your way into the remarkable 3,000 seat rock carved Theatre, and the impressive collection of Royal Tombs. The once bustling colonnaded market street, leads to the Great Temple, the beautiful 5th century AD Byzantine Church and to the mighty Qasr el-Bint Faroun.
A flight of about 900 steps cut into the colorful rock, takes you up to the gigantic 1st century AD monument of the Monastery, with its stunning views over Wadi Araba.
Petra has many sacred sites chosen for devotion and sacrifice most significant is the High Place of Sacrifice where animal offerings were made at the rock carved sacrificial alters.