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The troglodyte city of Petra is the ancient capital of the Nabataean Kingdom having prospered in the region for 1,000 years. These nomadic and caravanner people found this remote site at the gates of the Wadi Rum desert between the 4th and 2nd centuries before our era, halfway between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. Jewel of the Old World, the city of Petra knows its peak in the 1st century BC. It amazes its visitors both by the inventiveness of its constructions sculpted on the rock almost 2,500 years ago and for the natural beauty of its sandstone cliffs with reddish colours.
Over the centuries, Petra (“rock” in ancient Greek) takes advantage of its geographic position to become an economic capital in the region with the Nabataean city of Hegra, in Saudi Arabia (Mada’in Salih). The city thrives in the centre of a crossroads of luxury goods trade routes (myrrh, incense, aromatics, spices, perfumes, silk and precious stones) between Egypt, the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Petra was annexed by the Romans in the year 106 (as a Roman province of Arabia) then declined before being curiously deserted in the 8th century. Fallen into oblivion in the Western world, it was not until 1812 that the Swiss explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt discovered this marvel of architecture hidden in a mountainous and desert region. Its location on an active geological area (the Dead Sea Transform) of the eastern Mediterranean exposes the city of Petra to many earthquakes in its history. Quakes, inundations linked to flash floods or the modification of trade routes could be at the origin of the abandonment of the site by its inhabitants.
Hidden by the Arabah mountains, the pink city of Petra is accessible via a narrow canyon (the Siq). This spectacular access route stretches over 1.2 km in length to reach the sumptuous Al-Khazneh monument. Meaning “treasure” in Arabic, this building shines by its richly decorated facade. Its columns, capitals and bas-reliefs, cut in the rock, would house the tomb of King Aretas IV Philopatris and Queen Shaqilath (1st century BC) or would be dedicated to the three female deities of the Nabataeans (Uzza, Al-Lat and Manāt). The Petra archaeological park covers more than 260 km² of area. It contains a total of 2,700 monuments such as funeral temples, royal tombs, places of residence and sacred buildings in the image of the Ad Deir (“The Monastery”). Dug, cut and carved in the sandstone cliffs, these vestiges form a historical and heritage whole without equivalent in the world. Due to its gigantism and the density of its riches, a tiny part of the Petra site has been the subject of in-depth studies by archaeologists. There is clearly a large area of research, exploration and investigation in future years.
Wadi Musa, Petra, Ma'an 71882, Jordan
+962 (0)3 215 7093
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