Petra, Arabic Baṭrā is the ancient city. Which is in the centre of an Arab kingdom in Hellenistic and Roman times. the ruins of which are in southwest Jordan. The city was built on a terrace, pierced from east to west by the Wadi Mūsā (the Valley of Moses). According to tradition, one of the places where, the Israelite leader Moses struck a rock and water gushed forth. The valley is enclosed by sandstone cliffs veined with shades of red and purple varying to pale yellow.  For this reason English biblical scholar John William Burgon called petra a “rose-red city half as old as Time.” The modern town of Wadi Mūsā, situated adjacent to the ancient city. It chiefly serves the steady stream of tourists who continue to visit the site. In this section, Pritish Kumar tried to give a brief description of the ancient city of Petra.



The Greek name Petra (“Rock”) probably replaced the biblical name Sela. Remains from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods have been discovered at Petra, and Edomites occupied the area about 1200 BCE. Centuries later the Nabataeans, an Arab tribe, occupied it and made it the capital of their kingdom. In 312 BCE the region was attacked by Seleucid forces, who failed to seize the city. Under Nabataean rule, Petra prospered as a centre of the spice trade that involved such disparate realms as China, Egypt, Greece, and India, and the city’s population swelled to between 10,000 and 30,000.

When the Nabataeans were defeated by the Romans in 106 CE, Petra became part of the Roman province of Arabia. But continued to flourish until changing trade routes caused its gradual commercial decline. After an earthquake (not the first) damaged the city in 551, significant habitati\n seems to have ceased. The Islamic invasion occurred in the 7th century, and a Crusader outpost is evidence of activity there in the 12th century. After the Crusades the city was unknown to the Western world. Later it was rediscovered by the Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

Petra is an ancient Arab state that grew rich due to its control of the Spice Road. The main caravan trading route that brought spices, incense, and textiles from Arabia, Africa, and India to the West. The carved rock faces of Petra were a testament to the civilization’s prosperity and grandeur that has lasted to the present day.

More than history

Some more interesting facts are there about petra you should definitely know

  • To enter Petra, you need to go through a narrow gorge called the Siq, which is around 1km long. It is bound by cliffs each side which are around 8 metres high.
  • Petra is home to roughly 800 tombs, therefore known as the “Royal Tombs”, with the most renowned being The Treasury. The Treasury was originally built as a mausoleum and crypt, and is estimated to be over 2,000 years old.
  • Petra Archaeological Park became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 due to its historical important and delicate structure. Furthermore, Petra is half-built, half-carved into rock. It is also one of the seven wonders of the world.
  • It wouldn’t have been possible for Petra to exist if it had not been for the water channel system that was constructed to offer storage and supply for its people.  As a result, there was apparently enough water to support the 30,000 citizens that are believed to have occupied Petra.
  • The Mummy Returns, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are the most noteworthy movies that were filmed at Petra. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade amplified awareness of Petra and therefore an increase of tourism to the site occurred.
  • Between 1BC and 8AD Petra experienced harsh earthquakes. An earthquake which occurred in 363AD ruined numerous of the structures in Petra and furthermore, majorly damaged the water system.
  • The area of Petra was inhabited in 3 different periods; the Edomites from 18th– 2nd century BC, the Nabateans from 2nd century – 106 BC and the Romans from 106 – 395 BC. The remains left is mainly from the Nabateans period. The Nabateans were extremely skilled water engineers, traders, builders and carvers.


Excavations from 1958 on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and, later, the American Center of Oriental Research added greatly to knowledge of Petra. The ruins are usually approached from the east by a narrow gorge known as the Siq . Among the first sites viewed from the Siq is the Khaznah , which is actually a large tomb. Al-Dayr  is one of Petra’s best-known rock-cut monuments. It is an unfinished tomb facade that during Byzantine times was used as a church. Many of the tombs of Petra have elaborate facades and are now used as dwellings. The High Place of Sacrifice, a cultic altar dating from biblical times, is a well-preserved site. To support the ancient city’s large population, its inhabitants maintained an extensive hydrological system, including dams, cisterns, rock-carved water channels, and ceramic pipes. Excavations begun in 1993 revealed several more temples and monuments that provide insight into the political, social, and religious traditions of the ancient city. The ruins are vulnerable to floods and other natural phenomena, and increased tourist traffic has also damaged the monuments. In 1985 Petra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. See also Iranian art and architecture: Petra and Palmyra.