The historical and archaeological site of Petra is a treasure trove of human history and culture. The city of Petra was established at around the 6th century BC by the Nabateans as the capital city of their empire. Petra which means “the rock” in Greek, is a true architectural marvel hidden amidst the impregnable mountains to the east of the valley, further linking with the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. It is a deserted necropolis of tombs and of temples which have been cut into large cliffs of orange, pink, and red coloured sandstones. Petra was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985 and has since come into major limelight in global tourism. Recently it was also voted and declared as one of the 7 New Wonders of The World.
The city came into being thanks to the ability of the Nabateans to control water and build dams and water conduits; they created an artificial oasis in the region which helped the city flourish. Their dams and conduits also helped the city be protected from the flash floods that this region experiences. The ‘rose red city’ of Petra is located about 260 km south of Amman and can be approached through a narrow gorge in the rocks called the ‘Siq’. The Petra basin boasts of over 800 structures all carved into the rocks there, these monuments included the ‘Urn Tomb’, ‘the Theatr’, a monastery among other structures.
The region was rediscovered by the west in the 19th century after having been lost for over 300 years since the 16th century. At its time of splendour, Petra not only held the advantage of being like a fortress but also enabled the dynasty to control the trade route passing through Gaza in the west to Damascus and Aqaba on the Red Sea. With all the prosperity that came along the city survived for very long and eventually was captured by the Romans.
Petra’s decline came about around the 4th century when an earthquake destroyed many of its buildings and played havoc with its water management system. Today Petra is one of the most visited sites in the world but it faces a lot of problems that need to be addressed, the aging has weakened the structures and many of the tombs and catacombs are now in a dangerous state. It also suffers weathering from salt upwelling and improper restoration. None the less even today the imposing structures are one of their kinds, and inspire awe and admiration in the hearts of all for the Grandeur that the city once commanded. It has been said “perhaps there is nothing in the world that resembles it” and it might actually be true.