Facts about Petra
The mysterious city of tombs
Petra is an amazing, old necropolis carved into the rock in ancient times. A narrow ravine, which can only be crossed on foot or on the back of an animal, leads to an open space, full of ancient templates. After exiting a narrow passage, a rock-cut, Nabataean temple of Al-Khazneh, the most recognizable Petra relic, emerges. Petra is one of the greatest Jordanian tourist attractions, alluring many visitors every year.
1Petra is located within the territory of Kingdom of Jordan.
It is situated to the east of the great valley connecting the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, 190 km (118 mi) southwest of Amman.
2It is a residue of the ancient Nabataean kingdom's capital that flourished between the 3rd century BC and 1st century AD.
The Nabataeans were an ancient Arab people of herding origin. They came from northwestern Arabia, and since the 5th century BC, continuously extended their rule northward. During six centuries of prosperity, Nabataeans spread their influence up to Damascus.
This civilization carved their city in rocks, developed own architectural style, unique, delicate ceramics, and the water engineering system crucial to Petra's prosperity. They were people with great ambitions, drawing what was best from other cultures.
3Petra lies at the crossroads of trade routes from India to Egypt and southern Arabia to Syria.
The location made Petra an important communication and commercial hub in the region. The Nabataeans supplied the caravans with water and other necessary travel supplies, conducted trade, and collected merchant fees for services and passage. The city's safe location among the rocks was also an important factor for further city development.
4Petra was built on a previous, Edomite settlement.
Edom means "red", and it's the biblical name for the Middle East ancient kingdom.
5In 106 AD, Petra became a part of the Roman province of Arabia Petrea.
Even though the Nabatean dynasty fell, the local population coexisted peacefully with the Romans for over a century.
6In Petra's bloom, about 20,000 people lived in the city.
7In the 4th century, Petra was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire.
One of the largest Nabatean tombs was transformed into a church, and the city itself became the bishopric seat.
8In the Middle Ages, Petra was occupied by the Crusaders, who built two citadels there.
9The conquest and occupation of the city by Saladin destroyed Petra, which fell into ruin.
Petra never recovered from the Egyptian occupation, and subsequent earthquakes sealed its fate.
10The city was discovered by Western civilization in 1812 thanks to the Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Arab and Western scholars have identified more than 800 historic sites in the area of Petra. Most of them have been carved into the red walls of the bluffs.
11Nabatean architecture is immanent to all buildings within Petra.
Hellenistic and Egyptian architectural influences blend with local, Arab and Semitic influences. This interpenetration and ideological inspiration characterize the Nabatean architecture and culture.
12Among Petra's monuments, there are Nabatean tombs, temples, theaters, waterworks.
The Petra Basin covers almost 100 km² (38.6 sq mi). It is full of limestone mounds, undulating sandstone hills, cut by narrow valleys and broad plains.
13The most famous monument in Petra is Al-Khazneh, called by the Bedouins "Treasury of the Pharaoh."
The name is derived from a local legend about a pharaoh's treasure. According to tales, the pharaoh placed an urn filled with treasure on the Al-Khazneh facade's top.
According to historians, the tomb was erected for the Nabatean king Aretas III in the 1st century BC, long after the last native pharaoh died.
14Al-Khazneh was used in the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" as a shelter and temple of the Holy Grail.
15The Royal Tombs compose a great complex of over a dozen of large tombs that may have been built for the rulers.
This complex includes a tomb with underground vaulted corridors and a spacious inner chamber containing the urn. In Byzantine times, that tomb was converted into a church.
16The Temple of Winged Lions was dedicated to the wife of the highest Nabataean male deity, Dushara - Lord of the Mountains.
17The ruins of Petra are the backdrop in Agatha Christie's crime story "Appointment with Death."
18In 2007, Petra was declared one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.
19The Nabataeans' descendants exist to this day, inhabiting caves and tombs.
Jordan runs a special program that encourages them to live in adapted to modern times settlements, but not everyone is interested.
20Jordanian Bedouins have been telling legends about Petra for centuries. It is a haunted place, the dwelling of djinns as they relate.
Djinns are ghosts from desert folklore, invisible demons that haunt lonely places and tormenting careless people.
21According to the Bedouins, Petra is where the biblical Moses split a rock from which water gushed out.
It was believed that the narrow ravine leading to Petra was a crevice made by the staff of Moses, and Al-Khazneh was the work of Moses' greatest enemy - the Pharaoh of Egypt.
22Bedouins also explain why Perta was a secret for so long.
The Nomads' descendants, who guarded the city's secret location, killed all foreigners who wandered into their land, and that is why the West never heard about Petra.
23No written sources about everyday life in Petra have survived.
Few inscriptions and ancient texts tell of mighty kings, lovers of democracy, gods and feasts, great victories, and women's right to possess assets.
24Archaeologists discovered ancient roads in Petra. Ones for pedestrians, others for camels, and wheeled vehicles.
Roads diverged in all directions of the world.
25There was a well-developed network of aqueducts in Petra.
Aqueducts network provided water even to the homes of individual citizens.
26The Nabataean script gave rise to the Arabic alphabet used today by millions of people from Morocco to the Persian Gulf.