Petra in Jordan was possibly established as early as 312 BCE and is known as the Rose City due to the color of the stone it is carved from. The city is an archaeological and historical city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the southern Jordan Valley famous for its architecture cut in rock and the water conduit system.
The site was introduced to the western world in 1812. This was the capital city for the Nabataeans and their Caravan Trade. The city is enclosed by towering rocks and has perennial water stream, this gave the city the advantage of a fortress and also controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it.
Most visitors today approach the city from the east through a dark narrow gorge naturally formed in the sandstone rocks (a Siq) that leads into the city. The Nabataeans were able to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis, and controlled the flash floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These systems allowed them to store water for long periods during any droughts and the city prospered from the sale of the water.
At the end of the narrow gorge is the most elaborate ruin named Al Khazneh (known as the Treasury) The ruin is carved right into the sandstone cliff and remains in a well preserved condition. The face of the structure has hundreds of bullet holes where the Bedouin Tribes thought they would find hidden treasures once rumored to be hidden within.
Just farther down the road from the Treasury is a large amphitheatre, positioned to view the largest number of tombs. The theatre was cut into the hillside and several of the tombs – rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible.
A sanctuary has existed in Petra since very ancient times. The city declined rapidly under Roman rule, mainly because of the change in the sea-based trade routes. An earthquake in 363 destroyed many of the buildings, and ruined the water management system. More inhabitants abandoned the city after a another major earthquake in 551 and finally when Arabs conquered the region in 663.
Many treasures were stolen from the tombs when the structures were weakened with age making many of the tombs vulnerable to thieves.
The Monastery, Petra’s largest monument, dates from the 1st century BCE.
Two Crusader-period castles are in and around Petra, Valle Moise situated north of Wadi Musa, the second is on the summit of el-Habis in the heart of Petra itself. The Wadi Musa or “Wadi of Moses” is the Arab name for the narrow valley at the head of which Petra is situated.
According to Arab legend Petra is the spot where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth, and where Aaron, Moses’ brother is buried.
Petra suffers from a host of threats including erosion, weathering, restoration problems, and unsustainable tourism. Tourism has increased substantially, especially since the site received widespread media coverage in 2007.
There are a several ways to enter the site via the Siq, by horse and carriage, walking, and on horseback.
The site offers guided tours and a candlelight tour at night. Petra is about a 6 hour drive from Amman, Jordan’s capital city and about a 4 hour drive from Aqaba on the Red Sea. There are flights into Petra. Definitely a site worth seeing.