Jordan's most impressive offering, however, is the ancient city of Petra, an archaeological marvel on par with the seven wonders of the world. A lost city for almost 700 years, Petra was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812, but it was not officially excavated by archeologists until 1924. Known as the "red rose city," this secret and sacred place was hewn out of pinkish-red mountains more than 2,000 years ago.
Just as a sculptor creates art from a slab of stone, the ancient Nabatean people moulded huge architecture out of colossal mountains. From sheer stone, they carved temples, tombs, stadiums, monasteries, homes, irrigation systems, cliff staircases and roads. Construction took three centuries and borrowed designs from Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman styles.
An eternal tribute to a lost civilization, Petra is the legacy of the industrious and ingenious Nabatean people. At the height of its power, the city housed 30,000 citizens and controlled most of the ancient Arabian trade routes. Eventually, Petra's increasing influence and prosperity began to concern the Roman Empire.
In 106 AD, the Romans overtook the city, shifted the trade routes and brought about Petra's economic downfall. In the centuries that followed, two major earthquakes wiped out the Nabataen culture and further diminished Petra's worth until it became a ghost town, concealed from the rest of the world.
In modern times, this ancient attraction has been made internationally famous as the exotic setting of the Hollywood blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indeed, exploring Petra goes a long way to fulfilling my childhood fantasies of being Indiana Jones and experiencing his adventures.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
ANOTHER PETRA TRAVELOGUE, this one in the Montreal Gazette. Excerpt: