Jordan abounds in archaeological rich, from
Neolithic ruins to the desert castles of Umayyad
princes. The greatest among the national treasures
is the soul -stirring, rose-red city of Petra.
Petra is the legacy of the Nabateans, an
industrious Arab people who settled in Southern
Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. From a hidden
staging post, they dominated the trade routes of
ancient Arabia, levying
tolls and sheltering caravans laden with Indian
spices and silks, African ivory, and animal hides.
The Nabatean Kingdom endured for centuries, and
Petra became widely admired for its refined culture,
massive architecture and ingenious complex of
dams and water channels. Ultimately, however, the
Roman Emperor Trajan annexed the kingdom, and
myriad rulers followed in his wake.
By the sixteenth century, Petra was completely
lost, and so it remained for almost 300 years. In
1812, a Swiss adventurer named Johann Burkhardt
persuaded his guide to take him to the site of the
rumored lost city. Secretly making notes and
sketches, he wrote, "It seems very probable that
the ruins at Wadi Musa are those of ancient Petra".
Much of Petra's appeal comes from its spectacular
setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. From
the main entrance, you walk into the chasm, or
Siq, that ripped through the rock in a prehistoric
Threading your way between the cliff walls as they
soar to 200 meters, you pass inscriptions in
ancient languages and rock-cut chambers carved
into the whorls of sandstone.
Petra's most famous monument, the Treasury,
appears dramatically at the end of the Siq. Used in
the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this
towering façade is only the first of Petra's secrets.
Various walks and climbs reveal literally hundreds
of buildings, facades, tombs, baths and haunting
rock drawing and reliefs- enough to keep you here
for many days. You find a 7,000-seat theatre form
the time of Jesus, a place Tomb in the Roman
style, a modest tomb was built by the Mamluke
sultan in the 13th century of Aaron, brother of
Moses, high atop Mount Aaron in the Sharah
These sights are at their best in early morning and
late afternoon when the sun warms the multicolored
stone, and you can view the majesty of Petra as
Burckhardt saw it in 1812. When he made his
journey, the road was long and arduous. Now three
hours from Amman by the Desert Highway, or five
hours by the scenic Kings' Highway, brings you to
this unforgettable destination.