Travel Destination Petra, Jordan

Published: 07/17/2013

Have you ever watched Indiana Jones, The Holy Grail and wondered where on earth that amazing stone structure carved into the side of a mountain is? Well, it’s Petra in Jordan. Jordan borders Egypt and enjoys the same stiflingly hot climate and similar religions, cuisines, landscapes and history. In fact, Jordan is like a smaller, tidier version of Egypt. The people are very talkative and friendly and there is an immediate sense of pride that these people take in their city.

Petra is considered to be the most awe-striking, beautiful structure in Jordan. It is hidden behind and almost unpassable range of rugged rose-red mountains. It is carved into the rock and captures the imaginations of all who enter it. Located about 260 kilometres south of Amman (Jordan’s capital) and 133 km north of Aqaba, Petra is the legacy of the Nabataeans. They were an industrious Arab people who settled in Jorden over 2000 years ago.

When you arrive at the mountains where Petra is nestled, you have to walk for up to a kilometre through a long, deep chasm. Once you arrive at Petra, the chasm opens out into a large square seated at the foot of Petra and extending out to a radius of about 50kms of crude ancient homes (caves) carved into the walls of the surrounding mountains. The Natbataeans made Petra their capital and the love of their city is seen in the numerous and seemingly endless beautiful facades carved into the rocks for miles. In all, over 800 individual monuments (including tombs, baths, halls, buildings, temples, gateways and streets) are scattered around the basin of rock that is Petra. If you’re planning a visit, try and get there around sunrise or sunset to enjoy the different rosy shades that the sunlight bathes the structure in.

It is called the Lost City of Stone as it was built some 2000 years ago (when it was home to about 20,000 Nabataeans) and only rediscovered in 1812. Archaeologists today are still unearthing clues as to how life played out there 2,000 years ago.

In the Bible it was in Petra that King Aretas ordered the Apostle Paul to be arrested. Arab tradition states that Petra was the site where Moses struck a rock with his staff and drew water.

Petra means ‘rock’ in Greek and ‘Petra: Lost City of Stone’ was first coined in 1994 by the Cincinnati Art Museum when it joined the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in a ten year-long effort to gather the 200 objects that make up the exhibit. Reliefs and sculptures of stone, ceramics, metalwork, inscriptions, paintings, drawings and prints are part of this display.

If you’re visiting Petra, you should consider adding more of Jordan to your travel plans. Since 1994 when the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Israel signed a peace agreement ending a 46 year long war, the Kingdom of Jordan has experienced a wave of international and Israeli tourists.

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