City carved in the rock: 12 mysteries of the amazing Petra
Petra is an ancient rock-cut city. It is located in Jordan, a country which is occupied by a large part of deserts. It is only possible to get to this unique site through a narrow canyon, and it is not easy to do. Still, this does not stop tourists.
Who and when built this city?
Petra has been abandoned for many hundreds of years, but thousands of years ago it flourished. It was a major trading hub, located right at the crossroads of silk, spices and incense being transported from India to Arabia, Africa, Egypt and back. This allowed the locals to bathe in gold. It is not entirely clear when the city was built, but it is known to have been before our era. Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom. According to some estimates, in its best years there were about 20,000 people living there.
How is it even possible to carve a city in rock?
The facades of the buildings were carved right into the canyon walls, and they are striking. The exquisite carvings attest to the high level of development of this civilization and the skill of the builders. The main entrance to the city is called El Khazneh, or the Treasury. It was nicknamed so by the local Bedouins, who really believed that countless riches were kept there. The gate is carved out of beautiful pink sandstone, which is why Petra is also called the Pink City.
The builders definitely had a hard time. To erect such structures, they had to have considerable knowledge and skills. The ancient craftsmen managed to create buildings that were not inferior to the Greek and Roman sites neither in decoration, nor in architecture.
How they managed to carve such a high building in the rock is not clear. There are absolutely no trees in the area that could be used for scaffolding. As scientists suggest, the construction began from above: on the raw rock you could stand, gradually descending, floor by floor. And, using only chisels and hammers, the local engineers achieved a stunning result.
Did the rocks save them from their enemies?
Other nations were jealous of the Nabateans’ wealth, and the city had to fight off the Greeks. Petra won. But when the Roman conquerors came, she had to surrender. For many more years Petra flourished, but already under the rule of the Roman Empire. In the IV century AD an earthquake destroyed most of the city and caused irreparable damage to many areas. The Romans decided to leave the damaged city. It was later seized by the Byzantine Empire.
Why was Petra lost and where did people disappear to?
With the development of technology came the sea trade routes, and Petra lost its strategic importance and remained abandoned to its fate and hidden in the sands. Thus it became a lost city. But it should be noted that Petra was lost only to Western civilizations, because the locals knew about the hidden pearl of the desert. A tribe of Bedouin Bedouls lived in the caves of the city. They called themselves descendants of the Nabateans and did not want anyone else to know about Petra, for they feared that people would come there in search of treasure and destroy the remains of the structures. So they kept the location of the city in the strictest secrecy for many years.
How did the Europeans learn about Peter?
It was discovered on August 12, 1812. Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a young Swiss, heard talk of the mysterious city during his trip to Cairo. And then he even had to disguise himself as an Arab to convince his guide to take him to this mysterious place. Johann could not stay long in Petra, for he was not a local. He could not even declare with certainty that it was the city he was looking for, for there was no clear evidence of this around him. Nevertheless people in Europe knew about Peter, and after Johannes there followed other explorers who made accurate drawings. Yet the first excavations here began only in 1929, and it has been more than 100 years since the discovery of the lost city.
Why the Treasure Trove?
Archaeologists do not fully understand what the Treasury was built for. Some believe it was the tomb of a Nabatean king. Others say it was a place of storage for documents or even a kind of temple. What is known about the Treasury is that it was one of the last to be built when the city was already rich and prosperous.
How did people survive in the desert and cliffs without water?
The people of Petra were experts in water-related technology. They built cisterns, dams, tunnels and reservoirs, and the city was a kind of oasis for weary travelers. Greatly developed technology allowed the locals to stay in the city even in a drought. At certain times there were floods in the area, but the Nabataeans coped with that as well. They built dams and aqueducts that redirected the flow of rainwater into the city so that the people could exist.
How did people even live in the rocks? And did they live inside?
Petra was a major religious center and presumably was home to clergy, merchants, sculptors, and service people. There are over 1,000 tombs in Petra, and many of them are designed for families or even entire tribes. It is likely that many of the townspeople were involved in the funeral business in one way or another. Interestingly, it is difficult to answer the question of whether all 20,000 people (and according to some reports, 30,000) lived inside Petra. Based on rough calculations, even if each household had an average of 10 people, there should have been 2,000 spacious dwellings in the city. But there are far fewer. Probably some of the inhabitants were housed in tents behind stone walls.
Who is buried in the tombs of Petra?
No researchers have not made any assumptions about this. We can say with certainty that the niches were carved in different historical periods, because they differ very much in appearance. The inhabitants of Petra, unlike the rest of the Nabataeans, did not make inscriptions on the tombs to understand who was buried in them. However, they believed that the deceased could eat and have a good time in the other world, since they left food and all sorts of household items with their bodies. It is interesting that at first, because of the incredible number of tombs, Petra was thought to be one huge necropolis. And only later, scientists have found out that it was still a well-developed city.
What is there in Petra besides the beautiful gates, against which everyone takes pictures?
One of the most impressive buildings in Petra is the amphitheater. It is located almost in the center of the city and can hold up to 8,500 people. Other striking sites in this city include the Street of Facades with its many tombs and the Ad Deir Monastery. It is a beautiful monumental structure, the purpose of which modern researchers can only guess.
In 1985, Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2007 – one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. An agreement was made with the Bdul tribe to move it some distance from the city, and now the Bedouins live in a specially built settlement for them. One of their main occupations is the tourist business.
There are monumental “cubes” scattered outside the gates of Petra. What are they for?
Many things in Petra are still a mystery. For example, it has huge stones – square monuments scattered behind the walls of the city. No one knows why they were put up and what they represent. According to the legend, there were genies inside them to guard the ancient capital.
Will we ever be able to solve all the mysteries of Petra?
Discoveries are still being made in Petra. In 2016, archaeologists discovered a ceremonial site of incredible size. And now researchers are still trying to figure out what it is. In 1993, scrolls dating back to the Byzantine period were found. Their contents are still a mystery. Archaeologists estimate that only 15% of the city is now discovered and the remaining 85 are underground and remain untouched for the time being. So we still have much to learn about this lost treasure.
The Middle East is not particularly popular with tourists. Despite this, however, more than 1,000,000 people visited Petra in 2019. It is one of the most visited excavation sites in the world. The movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was filmed here, iconic photo shoots were held, and people from all over the world want to get here.
Sometimes tourists are allowed into Petra at night, and then the road to it and the main entrance to the lost city is decorated with candles and lanterns.
Well, if you can’t go to this ancient city, you can use the offer from Google – a tour with an audio guide.
5 curious facts about the pink city of Jordan that you didn’t know
1.Jordan is a small country in the Middle East.
2.The official name of the country is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
3. Until 1950 Jordan was called Transjordan.
4. officially, Jordan was under British control until 1946.
5. A small Arab state, Jordan is located next door to Israel. Many tourists annually come here attracted by the local beaches and coral reefs. Besides a large number of architectural monuments remained here.
6. The border between Jordan and Israel runs along the Jordan River, which gave its name to the state. It is mentioned in the Bible.
7. The Jordan River is world famous; Jesus Christ was once baptized in it.
8. Of all the Middle Eastern states, Jordan boasts the greatest number of interesting cultural and historical heritage along with Israel.
9. At various times modern Jordanian land has changed hands many times. It has been ruled by the ancient Greeks, the Romans, various Arab caliphates, and the Ottoman Empire.
10. Moscow has about one and a half times as many people as all of Jordan.
11.There are four times as many olive trees in this country as there are inhabitants.
12. Jordan only has access to the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, but the latter is strictly speaking a salt lake, not a sea.
13. About half of the residents of Jordan have Palestinian roots.
14. About 6% of Jordan’s population is Christian, two-thirds of whom are Orthodox.
15.The state language is Arabic, but English is also widely spoken in business, government, and among the educated.
ROMAN THEATER IN JORDAN
16. Approximately 90% of all Jordan is hot and arid deserts and semi-deserts, scarce for water and vegetation.
17.Less than 1% of this country is covered by forests, and water accounts for only about 0.01%.
This ancient land is steeped in history and the plethora of monuments of the ancient world is a great tourist attraction.
KOUSSEIR CASTLE – AMRA
One of the most interesting sights in Jordan is Kousseir Amr Castle, built at the beginning of the 8th century. Although a large part of the monumental structure lies in ruins, there are still some fascinating mosaics and frescoes in some parts of the castle, which will fascinate any history buff.
20. The Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum, known as the “valley of the moon” is the only UNESCO-protected desert in the world. Here filmed many Hollywood movies – “The Martian,” “Transformers,” “Last Days on Mars,” and other such sci-fi.
21. In spite of a rather arid climate, Jordan is quite prosperous under the king’s rule and can be safely classed as a prosperous country.
22. King Abdullah II of Jordan is a man of many talents. He is an accomplished parachutist, a rally driver, a diver and a qualified pilot. When his father was on the throne, Abdallah II served for a long time in the Jordanian Special Forces, transforming this army structure into one of the most professional in the world.
23.Queen Rania of Jordan is officially recognized as the most beautiful queen on the planet. She is originally from Kuwait and met her future husband while working in a bank. Shortly after their first meeting, Abdallah II proposed to her.
24.One day the Jordanian royal family invited Ukrainian designers for a fashion show as part of the Ukrainian Fashion Show event.
One of Jordan’s main attractions is the stone-cut city of Petra, some of whose buildings date back to the 18th century BC.
26. The ruins of the ancient city of Petra, which is about 3800 years old, are included in the list of modern wonders of the world. Each year they are visited by about half a million tourists.
THE CAPITAL OF JORDAN – THE CITY OF AMMAN
27. Almost all the buildings in Amman, the Jordanian capital, are covered with slabs of limestone, making them almost indistinguishable from each other.
28. The limestone figurines found in Jordanian lands were made by the ancient people who lived here some 7,000 years ago.
29. The highest point in the principality is Mount Umm al-Dami (1854 meters). And the lowest point is the Dead Sea (-427 meters).
30.Black Iris is considered the national flower of Jordan.
THE RUINS OF THE OLDEST CHRISTIAN TEMPLE IN AQABA
31. In Jordan, archaeologists have discovered the ruins of the world’s oldest Christian temple, which is about 1700 years old. They are located in Aqaba.
32. Despite the almost complete absence of trees and greenery, the air in Jordan is about 8% richer in oxygen than the rest of the world.
HOT SPRINGS IN JORDAN
33.Snowfall in this country is the official reason not to go to work. True, it snows very rarely, once or twice a decade.
34. This country is one of the few where polygamy is still officially allowed.
Jordanian families usually have many children, at least 5 or 6, and sometimes 10 or 14.
36.Due to the conservative nature of local traditions, it is almost impossible for Jordanian women to find a husband if they have not done so before the age of 25-26.
37. The Jerash Hippodrome periodically hosts lavish shows where spectators can watch staged gladiatorial battles and chariot races.
38. In Jordan it is customary to use only the right hand when eating. Left-handed people apparently have a hard time here.
39. Unlike most other Middle Eastern states, Jordan has a definite shortage of oil, which partly slows down the growth of its economy.
40.Since less than 10% of Jordan’s land is suitable for agriculture, the country is dependent on foreign food imports.
THE AKABA GULF.
41.Partly owned by Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba attracts huge numbers of divers because it is home to about 230 different kinds of coral and over 1000 species of fish.
42. Jordanian divers in 1999 sunk an American self-propelled anti-aircraft launcher, which now serves as an artificial reef. It has become home to a variety of marine life.
43. According to ancient Jordanian tradition, a guest, when invited to a table, must first refuse three times before yielding and agreeing to sit at the table.
44. Jordan is home to the world’s largest geological fault.
45. The famous Dead Sea, which Jordan shares with Israel, is another local attraction, a true natural wonder of the world.
THE DEAD SEA
46. The Dead Sea, located between Israel and Jordan, is not really a sea, but a lake whose water is more salty than any other body of water in the world. The local water and mud are widely known for their therapeutic properties.
47. According to local legend, the stone pillar standing on the shore of the Dead Sea is the stone-turned wife of Lot, who fled with his family from Sodom destroyed by divine wrath.
48. The prophet Moses is believed to have been buried on Mount Nebo in Jordan.
49. There is speculation that the biblical Eden, the “garden of Eden,” was located in present-day Jordan.
50. Jordan is one of the most prosperous and peaceful countries in the Arab world. There is a lot to see here, both for lovers of antiquity, and for those who like clean beaches and blue sea.