Petra as a World Wonder

 

The winning list included: the great wall of china, the Taj Mahal in India, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome, Chichen Itza in Mexico, and the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil. The seventh wonder selected was the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Petra was a forgotten site until it was discovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer. Later in 1989, the red rose city was featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, placing it on the map as a touristic hotspot.

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Petra Rediscovered

Petra prospered under Roman administration until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 363 C.E. For over 600 years, no strangers were allowed to enter. Only the local Bedouin tribes were aware of its existence until Swiss adventurer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt overheard locals discussing it in Cairo. In 1812, he pretended to be an Arab scholar and persuaded a guide to accompany him to the Tomb of Haroun (Aaron, the biblical prophet's Arab name), which he knew was in the valley. The guide, as expected, escorted him through Petra. In his travel chronicles, he documented the ruins of the once-great city.

Petra was the capital of the Nabatean Empire, an ancient Arab state that prospered due to its control of the Spice Road, a key caravan trade route that brought spices, incense, and textiles from Arabia, Africa, and India to the West. The sculpted rock faces of Petra were a testament to the civilization's wealth and splendor, which has persisted to this day.

The Bdoul Bedouin tribe lived in caverns inside Petra until 1985 when it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to a tour guide, the Jordanian government reached an agreement with the Bdoul that gave them exclusive rights to tourist enterprises in Petra if they relocated to a settlement a few kilometers away.

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Petra City

The city was built on an edifice cut from east to west near the Wadi Ms (Moses Valley), one of the locations where, according to mythology, Moses struck a rock, and water gushed forth. Due to the valley's sandstone cliffs colored with tones of scarlet and purple ranging and pale yellow, 19th-century English biblical scholar John William Burgon named Petra a "rose-red city half as ancient as time."

The settlement appears to have halted when the city was devastated by an earthquake in 551. The Islamic invasion happened in the 7th century, and there was a Crusader garrison there in the 12th century. The city remained unknown to the Western world after the Crusades until it was rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss adventurer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

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On Your Trip

When the Nabatean Empire became a commercial center about 100 B.C.E., the site began to thrive. The "Bab Al Siq," or entrance road, is bordered by tombs as you go into the city's center.

Three gigantic "Djinn" stones, which are square monuments cut out of solid sandstone, line the Bab Al Siq. The reason for their existence is unknown.

The Obelisk Tomb is the next building along the way. Above the tomb are four pyramids and sculptures representing the five persons buried there. It is said that the family of the deceased held a feast yearly on the bottom floor of the tomb, to honor the dead and clean the tomb.

As you reach the bottom of a sloping path you will find a 300-foot tunnel cut into a rock. The Tunnel was built by  Nabataeans to redirect floodwaters to two massive reservoirs that provide the city with water.

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Arriving at Petra

Petra’s name is originally a Greek word meaning “rock” in Arabic pronounced as “al Batraa”. They also call it the rose-colored city which sounds poetic you will know why once you see it, the site is much more magical to be expressed by words. 

The rock valley road is where Petra begins, you are now standing in the Siq the entrance of petra that is made of a split rock. decorated with sculptures of animals and gods. The carvings you will see there documents Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Mesopotamian cultures that traded in Petra. The Nabataeans had to keep the Siq a narrow entrance to avoid the invading enemies making the Siq in some areas wide enough to fit only two camels. The Nabataeans built Petra so that the sun would shine like celestial beams on their sacred sites.

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The Treasury

The Treasury is a magnificent structure. The frame around the sculpture, which is missing in some of the earlier monuments, indicates that it was created later in Petra, according to archaeologists.

The Roman Empire, which invaded the Nabataean Empire in 63 B.C.E., is said to have introduced the frame. Until the end of the first century C.E., the Nabateans were an autonomous client state of Rome.

Visiting Petra for one day might not be enough, to see the whole city some visitors stay around four to five days. Some natives said that they spent around a month sleeping in caves and exploring the city and they still haven’t grasped it all. 

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