Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Petra - Wonders of the World

Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Nabatean city of Petra is considered among the Seven Wonders of the World. 

In the description of the “universal outstanding value” of this World Heritage Site, UNESCO describes the ancient city as a “major caravan centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India, a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.”


Petra, a world hidden within the mountains of Jordan, was built several centuries ago. This ancient "caravan city" was the capital of the Nabataean Arabs, an ancient Semitic race of people who inhabited Jordan. They were mostly traders and agriculturists.

Tombs, caves, temples, monasteries, amphitheatres, gates, street facades – you need at least a couple of days to explore Petra.

The rock-cut architecture takes your breath away. Animals, deities and mortals, mostly carved in rock, greet you everywhere in this World Heritage Site. The architecture is heavily influenced by Assyrian, Egyptian, Hellenistic and Roman styles.

Perhaps the most stereotyped image of Petra is Al Khazneh or the Treasury. Entry is through the Siq, a long narrow gorge, no more than 3 meters wide in some places, which gives the impression that the mountain has parted ways to allow you to enter it. Back in the day, caravans made their grand entry to Petra via the Siq.

The Treasury or Al Khazneh is one of Petra’s most recognizable monuments and one celebrated in Hollywood classics such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Tintin fans will also recognize the monument for its appearance in the Red Sea Sharks.

The Street of Facades in Petra is lined with rock-cut tombs in sandstone. Bodies were interred in chambers carved on the rocks.

The Royal Tombs, much larger in scale, and Urn Tombs lead to a single chamber, which was probably an ancient Byzantine church.

Petra is not just a city of tombs and rock cut temples. Meet the Bedouins here, stay in a cave, ride a horse up to the monastery, or watch craftsmen create sand art in bottles. Petra, as the BBC says, is one of the places you must see before you die.