The 200th Anniversary of Petra’s Rediscovery

Walking through the siq—Petra’s narrow, winding gorge—anticipation builds. Then, suddenly, there before you lies the magnificent two-story Treasury, carved into the sandstone mountain and believed to be the tomb of an ancient Nabataean king.

The rose-red city of Petra, Jordan was built around the first century BCE on a site that was inhabited as early as the sixth century BCE. Occupying a coveted location between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, the city was a vital crossroads on trade routes linking Asia to Arabia, Egypt, Syria and beyond. Once inhabited by 20,000 people, Petra held its position for centuries and was occupied by Romans and Bedouins, but eventually declined due to trade route changes and an earthquake. It was lost to most of the world until 1812, when this ancient metropolis was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

The Treasury is only the beginning of this extraordinary archaeological site. There are approximately 500 tombs, a 3,000-seat theater, obelisks, temples, colonnaded streets and the commanding Ad-Deir “Monastery” (most likely built for religious purposes but not as a monastery), reached by climbing 800 steps. To ease travel through this amazing and large site, there are donkeys and camels available for hire.

In addition, Petra is thought to be where Moses produced water from a rock and where his brother, Aaron, is buried.

No wonder it makes everyone’s list of “places to see before you die!”

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