Known as the “Rose City”, the prehistoric city of Petra was carved into the red, white pink and sandstone cliff faces in an area between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans, a nomadic desert people who accumulated great wealth through the trade of incense, gold, silver, brass, iron, saffron, sculpture, paintings and garments.  The city linked camel caravans between the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas, from Egypt to Syria and on to Greece.  The riches eventually caught the attention of the Roman Empire, which annexed Nabataea in 106 B.C.  Petra’s significance in international trade began to decline in subsequent centuries and its deterioration began, assisted by earthquakes and the development of the sea trade.  It lay in ruins for centuries, until a Swiss explorer visited the area in 1812 disguised as a Bedouin, it being too dangerous to be a foreign Christian inside the Ottoman Empire.


Petra, half-built and half-carved into the rocks, is a maze of caves, temples, churches, tombs and copper mines.  The Nabataeans developed a complex water management system, carving channels, tunnels and diversion dams through the rock to collect winter rain in massive cisterns for use in the dry summer, and enabling the city to support 30,000 people.  Used to living in tents, the Nabataeans had no building traditions, and so they constructed in styles obtained from Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia and India.


Archeologists claim that only 15% of Petra has been uncovered; 85% is underground and untouched.  Its beauty and significance was recognized in 2007, when it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world.




Comments are closed.