Archaeological sites in Amaun

Petra

Ratings
9.4/10

Petra (Greek "πέτρα" (petra), meaning rock; Arabic: البتراء, Al-Batrāʾ) is a historic and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that has rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourism attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and a World Heritage Site since 1985. Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of "the 40 places you have to see before you die".

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate Prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage."

Geography

Pliny the Elder and other writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans, Aramaic-speaking Semites, and the centre of their caravan trade. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress, but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf. ("The Treasury")]]

Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought, and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.

Although in ancient times Petra might have been approached from the south via Saudi Arabia on a track leading around Jabal Haroun ("Aaron's Mountain"), across the plain of Petra, or possibly from the high plateau to the north, most modern visitors approach the site from the east. The impressive eastern entrance leads steeply down through a dark, narrow gorge (in places only 3–4 m (9.8–13 ft) wide) called the Siq ("the shaft"), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks and serving as a waterway flowing into Wadi Musa. At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh (popularly known as "the Treasury"), hewn into the sandstone cliff.

A little further from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, so placed as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-colored mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures, and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.

History

Evidence suggests that settlements had begun in and around Petra in the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt (1550-1292 BCE). It is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir. Though the city was founded relatively late, a sanctuary existed there since very ancient times. Stations 19 through 26 of the stations list of Exodus are places associated with Petra. This part of the country was Biblically assigned to the Horites, the predecessors of the Edomites. The habits of the original natives may have influenced the Nabataean custom of burying the dead and offering worship in half-excavated caves. Although Petra is usually identified with Sela which means a rock, the Biblical references refer to it as "the cleft in the rock", referring to its entrance. 2 Kings xiv. 7 seems to be more specific. In the parallel passage, however, Sela is understood to mean simply "the rock" (2 Chr. xxv. 12, see LXX).

On the authority of Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews iv. 7, 1~ 4, 7) Eusebius and Jerome (Onom. sacr. 286, 71. 145, 9; 228, 55. 287, 94) assert that Rekem was the native name and Rekem appears in the Dead Sea scrolls as a prominent Edom site most closely describing Petra and associated with Mount Seir. But in the Aramaic versions Rekem is the name of Kadesh, implying that Josephus may have confused the two places.[] Sometimes the Aramaic versions give the form Rekem-Geya which recalls the name of the village El-ji, southeast of Petra. The capital, however, would hardly be defined by the name of a neighboring village.[] The Semitic name of the city, if not Sela, remains unknown. The passage in Diodorus Siculus (xix. 94–97) which describes the expeditions which Antigonus sent against the Nabataeans in 312 BCE is understood to throw some light upon the history of Petra,[] but the "petra" referred to as a natural fortress and place of refuge cannot be a proper name and the description implies that the town was not yet in existence.[]

The only place in Petra where the name "Rekem" occurs was in the rock wall of the Wadi Musa opposite the entrance to the Siq. About twenty years ago the Jordanians built a bridge over the wadi and this inscription was buried beneath tons of concrete.

More satisfactory evidence of the date of the earliest Nabataean settlement may be obtained from an examination of the tombs. Two types may be distinguished: the Nabataean and the Greco-Roman. The Nabataean type starts from the simple pylon-tomb with a door set in a tower crowned by a parapet ornament, in imitation of the front of a dwelling-house. Then, after passing through various stages, the full Nabataean type is reached, retaining all the native features and at the same time exhibiting characteristics which are partly Egyptian and partly Greek. Of this type there exist close parallels in the tomb-towers at el-I~ejr in north Arabia, which bear long Nabataean inscriptions and supply a date for the corresponding monuments at Petra. Then comes a series of tombfronts which terminate in a semicircular arch, a feature derived from north Syria. Finally come the elaborate façades copied from the front of a Roman temple; however, all traces of native style have vanished. The exact dates of the stages in this development cannot be fixed. Strangely, few inscriptions of any length have been found at Petra, perhaps because they have perished with the stucco or cement which was used upon many of the buildings. The simple pylon-tombs which belong to the pre-Hellenic age serve as evidence for the earliest period. It is not known how far back in this stage the Nabataean settlement goes, but it does not go back farther than the 6th century BCE.

A period follows in which the dominant civilization combines Greek, Egyptian and Syrian elements, clearly pointing to the age of the Ptolemies. Towards the close of the 2nd century BCE, when the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms were equally depressed, the Nabataean kingdom came to the front. Under Aretas III Philhellene, (c.85–60 BCE), the royal coins begin. The theatre was probably excavated at that time, and Petra must have assumed the aspect of a Hellenistic city. In the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, (9 BCE–40 CE), the fine tombs of the el-I~ejr [?] type may be dated, and perhaps also the great High-place.

Roman rule

In 106 CE, when Cornelius Palma was governor of Syria, that part of Arabia under the rule of Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Petraea, becoming capital. The native dynasty came to an end. But the city continued to flourish. A century later, in the time of Alexander Severus, when the city was at the height of its splendor, the issue of coinage comes to an end. There is no more building of sumptuous tombs, owing apparently to some sudden catastrophe, such as an invasion by the neo-Persian power under the Sassanid Empire. Meanwhile, as Palmyra (fl. 130–270) grew in importance and attracted the Arabian trade away from Petra, the latter declined. It seems, however, to have lingered on as a religious centre. A Roman road was constructed at the site. Epiphanius of Salamis (c.315–403) writes that in his time a feast was held there on December 25 in honor of the virgin Khaabou (Chaabou) and her offspring Dushara (Haer. 51).[]

Religion

The Nabataeans worshipped the Arab gods and goddesses of the pre-Islamic times as well as few of their deified kings. One, Obodas I, was deified after his death. Dushara was the main male god accompanied by his female trinity: Al-‘Uzzá, Allat and Manāt. Many statues carved in the rock depict these gods and goddesses.

The Monastery, Petra's largest monument, dates from the 1st century BCE. It was dedicated to Obodas I and is believed to be the symposium of Obodas the god. This information is inscribed on the ruins of the Monastery (the name is the translation of the Arabic "Ad-Deir").

Christianity found its way to Petra in the 4th century CE, nearly 500 years after the establishment of Petra as a trade center. Athanasius mentions a bishop of Petra (Anhioch. 10) named Asterius. At least one of the tombs (the "tomb with the urn"?) was used as a church. An inscription in red paint records its consecration "in the time of the most holy bishop Jason" (447). After the Islamic conquest of 629–632 Christianity in Petra, as of most of Arabia, gave way to Islam. During the First Crusade Petra was occupied by Baldwin I of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and formed the second fief of the barony of Al Karak (in the lordship of Oultrejordain) with the title Château de la Valée de Moyse or Sela. It remained in the hands of the Franks until 1189. It is still a titular see of the Catholic Church.

According to Arab tradition, Petra is the spot where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth, and where Moses' brother, Aaron, is buried, at Mount Hor, known today as Jabal Haroun or Mount Aaron. The Wadi Musa or "Wadi of Moses" is the Arab name for the narrow valley at the head of which Petra is sited. A mountaintop shrine of Moses' sister Miriam was still shown to pilgrims at the time of Jerome in the 4th century, but its location has not been identified since.

Decline

.]] Petra declined rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed many buildings, and crippled the vital water management system. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the end of the 13th century. The first European to describe them was Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

Because the structures weakened with age, many of the tombs became vulnerable to thieves, and many treasures were stolen.

Qur'an

It has been mentioned in the Qur'an, sura Al-Fajr where it is called Thamud.[]

Threats to Petra

The site suffers from a host of threats, including collapse of ancient structures, erosion due to flooding and improper rainwater drainage, weathering from salt upwelling, improper restoration of ancient structures, and unsustainable tourism. The latter has increased substantially ever since the site was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

Petra today

Tourism Board calling to cast a vote for Petra in the poll for the so-called "New Seven Wonders of the World".]]

On December 6, 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site.

In 2006 the design of a Visitor Centre began. The Jordan Times reported in December 2006 that 59,000 people visited in the two months October and November 2006, 25% fewer than the same period in the previous year.

On July 7, 2007, Petra was named one of New Open World Corporation's New Seven Wonders of the World.

In popular culture

Petra was the main topic in John William Burgon's Poem Petra. Referring to it as the inaccessible city which he had heard described but had never seen. The Poem was awarded the Newdigate Prize in 1845 :

It seems no work of Man's creative hand,

by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;

But from the rock as if by magic grown,

eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!

Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,

where erst Athena held her rites divine;

Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,

that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;

But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,

that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;

The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,

which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,

match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,

a rose-red city half as old as time.

The site is featured in films such as: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, Passion in the Desert, ', Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, the Sisters of Mercy music video "Dominion", and '. It was recreated for the video games Spy Hunter (2001), ', Lego Indiana Jones and Sonic Unleashed and appeared in the novels Left Behind, Appointment with Death, The Eagle in the Sand and The Red Sea Sharks, the nineteenth book in The Adventures of Tintin series. It featured prominently in the Marcus Didius Falco mystery novel Last Act in Palmyra.

Ancient Megastructures: Petra - a television series from National Geographic - We travel back through time to reveal how human resourcefulness and courageous endeavour would create one of the ancient world's most magnificent ancient megastructures, the Khazneh.

See also

  • Ancient Towns in Saudi Arabia
  • List of colossal sculpture in situ

Notes

References

External links

  • PetraNationalTrust.org, Preservation Projects Petra National Trust
  • Smartedaleel.com, Interactive map of Old Petra
  • Bib-arch.org, "Solving the Enigma of Petra and the Nabataeans", Biblical Archaeology Review
  • Opencontext.org, "Petra Great Temple Excavations (Archaeological Data)", Open Context Publication of Archaeological Data from the 1993-2006 Brown University Excavations at the Great Temple of Petra, Jordan
Post a comment
Tips & Hints
Arrange By:
The White House
26 March 2013

President Obama viewed the area near the Treasury during a tour of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

Nidal Sadeq
16 October 2012

Don't forget carrying water and a hat, or you get burned! Climb up to the Al-Deir, very exhausting, but unforgettable!

Hatim AT 💫
10 August 2013

It's a great adventure to go to !

stacy
4 November 2011

Sacrifice point (trail behind the Amphitheater) is completely worth it. Walk down other side to soldier's tomb & garden to trail head to monastery. LONG hike (10+mi). One of best days of my life.

@JaumePrimero
15 October 2011

established around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans. On the BBC's list of the top 40 places to see before you die.

Mss Kate ConBotas
2 September 2013

Rich food at good prices. near the entrance to Petra. They have free wifi, and computers to connect to the internet and pass cards photos to cd

Michelle Garcia
3 July 2010

Definitely stay two days. Lookout point past the monastery and sacrifice point are worth the hike.

Majd S.
30 July 2014

Worth visiting if you are ever in Jordan .. Best time to go is either in autumn or spring ..lots of walking so don't forget to wear your running shoes

Gato Monge
28 December 2013

PETRA - JORDAN - World Heritage UNESCO Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabataean caravan-city, between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria

Javier Hernandez
8 March 2013

Go to: High point of Sacrifice and the Monastery. Getting to the top of the latter won't take you more than 45min from the last cafeteria. Monastery to the visitors' centre: 1:30 at steady pace

Anouk
6 March 2013

Leave the main road and get lost in this wonderful place!

Hot Sand
7 May 2014

If you need a good workout💪. This is it. Wear closed shoes, hat,sunscreen, long sleeves & don't forget your water. Start early in the morning, if your walking. Toilets are available through the route

Aastha Chopra
31 March 2014

Best to go around 8:30am to njoy without getting burnt.only snacks available so better take lunch along or fruits since it's a Gud 4-5 hr tour.toilets available so keep sipping water.

Mss Kate ConBotas
2 September 2013

Very pretty! recommended to wake up early to see it at the sunrise and not be surrounded by bustling tours

DidiTH Ad! W!jaYa
26 March 2013

Been here a long long time ago (on my 1st Umra and my 1st time visiting middle east w/ my fam),, Awesome place and Historical Places at Amman, Jordan. #mustvisitplacesbeforeyoudie

Travel + Leisure
12 September 2012

Jordan: Come celebrate a culinary legacy that spans millennia while contemplating the engineering feats of Petra—an ornate city carved into sheer red cliff faces 2,000 years ago.

VacazionaViajes
29 August 2012

Caminar mucho en Petra tiene premio.. y vaya premio!! Te recomendamos la "Petra by night" para que te sorprenda aún más esta maravilla del mundo

David Atabekyan
5 December 2014

Замечательно место. Пешком до Эль Хазне(на фото) идти около 2.5 километров, можно доехать на повозке или гольфкаре но лучше пройти пешком, так как эта дорога и есть самое красивое в Петре

Alena K.
16 November 2013

Три дня в неделю идет ночное представление со свечами - Petra by night, стоит 12 JOD.

Abdulsamet Aslan
16 May 2013

Dünya'nın yedi harikasından biri.Kesinlikle gelip görmelisiniz.Ayrıca burada Türkseniz halk çok seviyor.İşiniz çok basit.Allah razı olsun.Çok seviyorlar bizi.Kısacası herkesin görmesi gerek burayı.

Load more comments
foursquare.com
Location
Map
Address

6.8km from 35, Jordan

Get directions
Open hours
Sat 8:00 AM–7:00 PM
Sun 11:00 AM–Noon
Mon 9:00 AM–9:00 PM
Tue 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
Wed 7:00 AM–9:00 PM
Thu 6:00 AM–7:00 AM
References

Petra (البتراء) on Foursquare

Petra on Facebook

Hotels nearby

See all hotels See all
Movenpick Nabatean Castle Hotel

starting $85

Movenpick Resort Petra

starting $146

Petra Moon Hotel

starting $50

Edom Hotel

starting $36

Venus Hotel

starting $21

Petra Bedouin house 1

starting $23

Recommended sights nearby

See all See all
Al Khazneh
Jordan

Al Khazneh ('The Treasury'; Arabic: الخزنة‎) is one of the most el

Montreal (Crusader castle)
Jordan

Montreal is a Crusader castle on the eastern side of the Arabah,

Negev
Israel

The Negev (also Negeb; Hebrew: נֶגֶב‎, Tiberian vocalization: Néḡeḇ)

Makhtesh Ramon
Israel

Makhtesh Ramon (Hebrew: מכתש רמון‎; lit. Ramon Crater/Ma

Mount Sodom
Israel

Mount Sodom (Arabic: جبل السدوم‎, Jabal(u) 'ssudūm; Hebrew: הר

Similar tourist attractions

See all See all
Machu Picchu
Peru

Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu, 'Old Peak', pronounced ]) is a

Avebury
United Kingdom

Avebury is the site of a large henge and several stone circles

Yungang Grottoes
China

The Yungang Grottoes (Шаблон:Zh-stp) are ancient Buddhist temple grott

Taxila
Pakistan

Taxila (اردو. ٹیکسلا, संस्कृतम्. तक्षशिला Шаблон:IAST2, Pali

L'Anse aux Meadows
Canada

L'Anse aux Meadows (pronounced ; from the French

See all similar places