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Petra: A Wonder of the World

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The ancient city of Petra is an archaeological phenomenon wedged between the mountains of Jordanian desert. The city, once inhabited by the Edomites, is now a major tourist attraction in the Holy Land famous for its temples, tombs and towering pink and orange cliffs.

Most of Petra’s 800 staggering monuments were carved from the sandstone rocks. Petra, which means ‘rock’ in Greek, is comprised of tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways and colonnaded streets.

Because of the lighting of the sun and the desert heat, Petra is best visited in early morning and late afternoon. The city was rediscovered in 1812 and is now considered one of the Wonders of the World.

The city of Petra is situated at the beginning of Wadi Musa, the Valley of Moses, and this site had long been venerated as one of the traditional sites where Moses struck the ground and the water gushed forth.

History of Petra in the Holy Land

Petra was considered the commercial center of the Nabataean culture during the centuries before and after Jesus’ time. The region was previously inhabited as far back as the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, dating to around 10,000 BC. In Old Testament times, the Edomites settled the region.

The Nabataeans, a nomadic tribe from the northwestern part of Arabia, eventually displaced the Edomites and made Petra their capital. They are credited with building many of the current sites dating back to 300 BC with Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman architectural influences. The Nabataeans eventually developed their own distinct architectural style. The structures, cut into the sandstone rock, still stand today due to the low rainfall in the region.

The Romans took over the Nabataean kingdom in 106 AD and Petra continued to prosper under their rule. The Romans carved more buildings in the city including an amphitheater with a 3,000-person capacity. The city’s decline began under Byzantine control from 4th century for 300 years and later came under Islamic rule as did much of Arabia.

Earthquakes in the 7th and 8th centuries are believed to have destroyed many cities in the region and, with the exception of a Crusader fortress built in the 12th century, Petra was buried in obscurity until it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer, Johann Burckhardt.

Highlights of Petra in the Holy Land

Al Deir, also known as the Monastery, is the largest and most striking of all the structures in Petra. It dates from the 1st century BC and is carved entirely out of the red sandstone of a mountain wall.  Inside is an empty room. The structure, 50 meters wide by 45 meters tall and has an 8-meter tall entrance door, was not used as a monastery but some believe it served as a church during Byzantine times as small crosses carved on the interior walls show that the Christians occupied the building.

petra, wonder of the world, jordan, holy landAl-Khazneh, the Treasury, is the first sight visitors see after traversing the mile-long gorge called the Siq. The Treasury, also carved out of solid rock and towering more than 40 meters high, was probably constructed in the 1st century BC. The Treasury is generally believed to have been used as a temple or a royal tomb.

According to Arab tradition, Petra is where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth.  The narrow valley at which Petra is situated is named after Moses (Wadi Musa). Some traditions say that Miriam, the sister of Moses, and Aaron, Moses’ brother, were buried in this region.

The structures have weakened with age and since the tombs have become vulnerable to thieves many treasures have been stolen.

Petra is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of The New 7 Wonders of the World.

Don’t miss this wonder of the world - Book a Petra tour from Israel today!

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