Petra is the most popular attractions in Jordan for tourists and also one of the world’s most famous historical archaeological sites.
Constructed around 312 BC as the capital of the Nabataeans, Petra truly reflects the heritage of Jordan.
Petra got its name from a feminine Greek word “petros” which means “rocks”. Its other name is Al-Batra in Arabic, but Petra is more popular.
Petra is often called ‘Rose city’ because of the rose-red colored sandstone hills. It is well surrounded by the red-tinged mountains, which makes a reddish appearance.
Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss explorer discovered Petra in 1812. As it was an unknown entity for about 5 centuries, it is also called the ‘Lost City’.
This is the biblical site where it is said that King Aretas ordered the arrest of the Apostle Paul. Petra is referred to as Sela in the bible.
In biblical times, the part of the country where Petra lies was assigned to the Horites. Biblical references
refer to Petra as ‘the cleft in the rock‘. It is thought that this was in reference to the entrance.
In order to enter the Petra, one has to pass through a slim canyon of about 1.2 kilometer (0.75 mile). It is bound by tall cliffs of about 80 meters (260 feet) called Al-Siq.
During historical times, the walls of Petra would have provided a safe haven for its inhabitants as the steep cliffs helped to defend them from attackers and the stream provided a source of water.
Petra is an enormous city of tombs, monuments and sacred structures carved into stone cliffs. It has around 800 carved tombs as thus is denoted as “Royal Tombs”.
The city of Petra is not solely famous for its spectacular buildings but also for its water conduit system. This area of Jordan can experience flooding but the waters are controlled by the system and measures have been put in place to effectively store water during long periods of drought.
There was enough water to support the 30,000 people that are believed to have inhabited Petra. There was also enough water in this desert region to have lush gardens.
A white dome crowns the 13th-century Shrine of Aaron atop Jebel Haroun—the highest point in Petra. An Egyptian sultan had the monument built to commemorate the death of Aaron, Moses’ elder brother, who, according to tradition, died on this spot.
In May, 363 A.D. a pair of severe earthquakes destroyed half of the city. Many buildings and their water systems were highly damaged.
Petra was named one of the New seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and was also chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “28 Places to See Before You Die”.
Only 15% of Petra has been explored by archaeologists. The rest remains to be discovered.
Petra was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. UNESCO also described Petra as ‘one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage’.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a famous American adventure film of 1989 was filmed here. The fictional Canyon of the Crescent Moon was filmed on the eastern entrance of the Petra.