Al Khazneh, Petra cover

Al Khazneh, Petra

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There are hundreds of magnificent ancient cities around the world but none are similar to Petra. This amazing city was developed by the Nabateans in a labyrinth of narrow canyons with some of the most beautiful structures having been carved directly into the sandstone cliff.


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Al Khazneh, Petra

Petra

There are hundreds of magnificent ancient cities around the world but none are similar to Petra.

This amazing city was developed by the Nabateans in a labyrinth of narrow canyons with some of the most beautiful structures having been carved directly into the sandstone cliff.

Al  Khazneh, Petra

Al Khazneh, Petra

Sylvain L.

(CC BY 2.0)

Description

Petra is a wonderful and highly unusual ancient city that was built in the narrow canyons of Jebel al-Madhbah about 800 to 1500 m above sea level.

Here, across an area of some 20 km², remnants of approximately 1000 structures have been discovered. Only one fifth of these buildings have been explored thus far.

Trade City

The city was located at the crossroads of important trade routes - caravan paths between Egypt and Syria as well as Arabia and the Mediterranean (the legendary Incense Route).

Thus Petra developed as a rich trade city. In ancient times the city was, most likely, approached from the south. Nowadays tourists enter from the east through the impressive yet narrow Siq Canyon. This canyon is approximately 1.5 km long, some 70 m deep and just 2 m wide in the narrowest places

Rock Cut Buildings in Petra, Jordan

Rock Cut Buildings in Petra, Jordan

SeeTheHolyLand.net

(CC BY 2.0)

Water Supply

Having numerous inhabitants, Petra needed a great deal of water and in the desert-like climate this was a major challenge.

Nabateans created ingenious irrigation systems and as a result the city had a perennial stream and sufficient amount of water to create a desert oasis. This sophisticated system included water tunnels, pipes and more than 200 cisterns. Nabateans managed to collect water in the city from the surrounding area of up to 25 km away.

Water Supply (Cont.)

Frequently these desert mountains would receive sudden torrents of rain that would create flash floods endangering the city in its narrow canyons.

The Nabateans resolved this problem by building a series of dams and cisterns that stopped the excess flow of water, and saving it which provided water during the droughts.

However, after many centuries of poor maintenance, the water management system has gradually degraded and now leaves Petra, once again, threatened by the possibility of floods.

Siq Canyon

Siq Canyon

Al Khazneh seen in the background.

Flash Floods in such a narrow canyon can lead to catastrophic consequences.

Vyacheslav Argenberg

(CC BY 2.0)

History

The mountainous area around Petra has been inhabited for many millenia – a nearby settlement existed as early as 7000BC, now named Beidha. Petra, though, is much younger.

-Little is known about the beginnings of Petra, even its ancient name is not known.

The ancient Greeks gave Petra its current name. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus mentions a place named Petra, capital of Nabateans in 312 BC although there is some doubt as to whether this is the current Petra.

-It is possible that Petra developed around an important shrine during the 6th or 5th century BC.

-Around this time or somewhat later Petra became the main centre of Nabateans (an ancient Aramaic culture).

History (cont.)

The site is linked to events mentioned in the Bible. Some specialists consider that Jebel al-Madhbah is the fabulous Mount Sinai and thus the valley with the ancient Petra is named also Wadi Musa - Valley of Moses.

-Fast development of Petra started in the 1st century BC. At this time many structures here were built in a distinct Hellenistic style.

-Petra and lands around it were included into the Roman Empire in 106 AD and Petra was capital of the Roman province Arabia Petraea.

High Place of Sacrifice on the Summit of Jabal Attuf in Petra

High Place of Sacrifice on the Summit of Jabal Attuf in Petra

Ancient Sacred Place of Nabateans

Dennis Jarvis

(CC BY 2.0)

History (cont.)

In Roman times Petra flourished and had some 30 to 40 thousand inhabitants.

-Approximately 235 AD the construction activity in Petra came to a halt, most likely due to some catastrophe or conflicts. This contrasts with the comparatively near Palmyra, which during this time continued to flourish and in a way attracted the lost importance of Petra.

-After the decline Petra continued to serve as a comparatively important religious center.

History (cont.)

The ruins of Petra were well known to the people in the Near East and it was a tourist attraction.

-Europeans learned about this site only in 1812, when Johann Ludwig Burckhardt visited and described it.

-Today Petra has turned into a site of mass tourism, it is also a beloved place for the movie industry.

Byzantine Mosaic on the Floor of the Church

Byzantine Mosaic on the Floor of the Church

Institute For The Study Of The Ancient World

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Outstanding Buildings

Al Khazneh - the Treasury

As tourists enter Petra through the narrow canyon, Siq, they are greeted by one of the most impressive structures in this ancient city, Al Khazneh. It is also the most photographed landmark in Petra. Originally an elaborate tomb, this giant structure was carved out of the rock wall measuring approximately 40 m tall by 25 m wide and was created in the 1st century BC.

Local Bedouins believed that bandits were storing treasure in Al Khazneh inside an inaccessible stone urn (The Treasury in Arabic). The multiple bullet holes around the urn testify to the attempts to retrieve it. In reality there could never be any treasure, the urn is not hollowed out.

Al Khazneh - The Treasure

Al Khazneh - The Treasure

Vyacheslav Argenberg

(CC BY 2.0)

Outstanding Buildings (cont.)

Roman Theater

An enormous theatre is cut from the cliff behind Al Khazneh . This impressive work was done in Roman times in the 1st century AD, destroying previous rock-cut tombs. The theater had around 5 - 10 thousand seats with a 25 m tall wall separating it from the street.

An earthquake destroyed the theater in 363 and it was only rediscovered in 1961.

Roman Theater in Petra, Jordan

Roman Theater in Petra, Jordan

Roman theater with remnants of ancient tombs seen in the background.

Douglas Perkins

(CC BY 2.0)

Outstanding Buildings (cont.)

Royal Tombs

A majority of the ancient structures in Petra are rock-cut tombs. There are several distinct types of structures: Nabatean and Greco-Roman with various interim stages. The oldest Nabatean rock-cut tombs date back to the 6th century BC. Many of these tombs have elaborate facades, especially the earliest ones that copy the Roman style in architecture.

Outstanding Buildings (cont.)

Ad Deir (The Monastery)

Ad Deir, another rock-cut structure, is a Nabatean temple devoted to Obodas I, a holy Nabatean king who ruled in 96 - 85 BC.

Ad Deir was built in the middle of the 1st century AD with a façade measuring 39 m tall by 47 m wide. In the 4th century it was used as a Christian monastery.

North of the Roman Theater are located 13 enormous rock-cut grave temples.

The largest among these tombs is the majestic Palace Tomb having a 49 m wide and 45 m tall facade. Urn Tomb, another unusual grave temple with impressive arcades, was turned into a church in 447 AD.

Ad Deir in Petra, Jordan

Ad Deir in Petra, Jordan

The Monastery

Guillaume Baviere

(CC BY 2.0)

Outstanding Buildings (cont.)

High Place of Sacrifice

The High Place of Sacrifice, a sacred Nabatean site, is located on the summit of Jabal Attuf. The summit was leveled to accommodate a low sacrificial altar, flanked by two 6m solid rock obelisks. It is believed that the obelisks represent the Nabatean gods Dushara, and Al Uzza. Similar shrines can be found throughout the town.