Petra, the lost pink city of the Nabataeans of the Jordanian desert

Petra, the lost pink city of the Nabataeans of the Jordanian desert

It is one of the great Wonders of the Ancient World, one of those places that if you can afford it, you must visit at least once in your life.

I’m talking about Petra, a historical enclave of Jordan that I have had the opportunity to visit, and that still surprises you live with what you can imagine seeing photos of its famous corners, especially the Treasury.

Petra, why lost city

Petra is known as the lost city because although its history dates back to the time of the Nabataeans, in the 7th century BC, in the Middle Ages it was completely abandoned and was not «discovered» by Westerners until the early 19th century.

Specifically, it was the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt who in 1812 got the local inhabitants to take him to know that lost city that was talked about.

An enthusiast of Arab culture, he previously converted to the Muslim religion and changed his name to Ibrahim Ibn Abd Allah, which allowed him to gain the confidence to be taken to Petra.

Sculpted, not built

Contrary to what many believe, the city of Petra was not built in stone but carved and sculpted in the rock, forming a unique monumental complex that earned it to be included in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1985.

And the work must have been very arduous, because in this city more than 30,000 people lived.

The Siq, a gorge to reach Petra

The main reason Petra became the lost city is its unique location in a valley surrounded by high rocky mountains whose entrance is the deep gorge known as the Siq.

With a length of a kilometer and a half, the gorge reaches a minimum width of just over two meters in some of its sections.

For this reason, it became a totally hidden and impregnable enclave.

Who were the Nabataeans?

It was an Arab town that reached its maximum splendor between the 4th centuries BC. and I AD, which spread through the lands of Palestine dedicating itself to trade.

It was founded as a funeral city

Although it was enlarged during its heyday, it is believed that Petra was born to the Nabataeans as a funerary city, as they themselves baptized it as «the city for tomorrow.»

At the beginning of time, according to some experts, the inhabitants of Petra lived in jaimas, since the buildings excavated in stone are, for the most part, tombs from the 3rd century BC, which vary in size, design and ornamentation depending on the position social security of the deceased.

It became a commercial city

From the 4th century BC Petra flourished as a commercial city thanks to its location at the confluence of up to seven trade routes between East and West, between Arabia and the Mediterranean.

After the establishment in Petra of the Nabataean people, an Arab nomadic people accustomed to the looting of caravans, it became a prosperous and wealthy city thanks to looting during the first years and, later, to the high tolls they charged for the security of its walls.

How Petra had water

One of the keys to the rise of Petra was the availability of water, always scarce in these Middle Eastern lands.

Due to its location among rocky mountains, and thanks to the construction of complex networks of channels, Petra had enough water for its population.

It has a theater, renovated by the Roman Empire.

One of the most surprising finds when visiting this marvel is the theater, an architectural wonder carved out of the rock.

At first it was believed that this 1st century construction was of Roman origin, but what they did was remodel and perfect what the Nabataeans had already built.

The most surprising thing is its bleachers, perfectly carved into the foot of the mountain and where an estimated 5,000 spectators gathered.

Why was Petra abandoned

In the year 363 there was a major earthquake, which caused a large part of the city’s buildings to be destroyed.

And since it no longer had the commercial importance of then, they were not rebuilt and little by little the city was abandoned.

In the later Middle Ages, there was a time when Petra was occupied by the Crusader Knights, until 1187 when they were defeated by Saladin.

From then on, Petra was practically abandoned until the Swiss explorer rediscovered it in 1812.

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