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A Brief History of Petra, Jordan

Picture of Ginin Dunia Rifai
Ginin Dunia Rifai
Updated: 24 March 2017

Jordan is by far one of the Levantine region’s most celebrated destinations. It all has started when the rose-city of Petra won as one of the new seven wonders of the world back in 2007. Yet, what makes this magnificent site an international phenomenon, is much more than meets the eye.

Thousands of years ago, between 400 B.C. and 106 A.D., to be precise, the now-abandoned rose-city was thriving as a trading centre and the capital of the glorious Nabateans empire.

For hundreds of year, the buried gem of Jordan was unknown to the West, it was only until a European traveller disguised himself as a Bedouin, and secretly infiltrated the city, that this mystery was revealed to the world.

Along the Siq © Allan Grey

Along the Siq | © Allan Grey/Flickr

The Nabateans inhabited Petra since 312 B.C., long before the emergence of the Roman empire. At that time, the Nabateans controlled the trading trail stretched from the West Bank to Jordan to the northern border of the Arabian peninsula, occupying the largest part of the Levantine area, and leaving behind a systemic technologies of transport and irrigation so ahead of their time that they still could be seen in full function today.

Petra is half built, half carved in stone. The awe-inspiring monuments of Petra are cut into cobblestone cliffs and mountains, that show a whole spectrum of colours at the rising and setting of the sun. At the thriving age of the Nabateans rule, Petra has a population soaring over 20,000 inhabitants.

Petra stood tall as the most successful crossroad of trail; camel caravans loaded with spices and textiles would pass through to the most distant regions of the Levant and back.

The decay of the rose city started as the Byzantine rule grew stronger, reaching its nadir as the Roman Empire folded the Nabatean page in the history books for good, around A.D. 700.

Petra By Night © ju.edu.jo

Petra By Night | © ju.edu.jo

Today, local Bedouins still inhabit the magnificent city, making their own living by guiding tourists, touring and selling souvenirs at ambiguous sights, such as one in which, legend tells, Moses struck his staff to the ground exploding a water fountain.

Petra still perches the throne of magnificence throughout the pages of history. Although the “Lost City” has been found, yet, it still conceals secrets so deep mankind is yet to discover them.