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The city of Petra

Petra, nestled in the slopes of Mount Hor, is an ancient city carved out of the same mountains it lives in. Petra was called the pink-red city because of the color of the stone rocks surrounding it, and it has been classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was initially built in the sixth century BC as the capital of the Nabataean people. They created an advanced water control system and an artificial oasis to fuel this wonderful desert city. The city has remained independent for centuries, naturally protected from the surrounding rock formations. But even the Nabataeans fell to the Romans in AD 106, after their waters were poisoned.

Traces of this occupation can still be seen surviving to this day, with Roman ruins and a Byzantine church mixed with the remains of Petra. An earthquake in 363 AD crippled Petra’s buildings and water system, leaving much of the city in ruins. The amazing rock structures remained hidden for centuries until a Swiss explorer discovered them in 1812. Since then, they have become the most visited attraction in Jordan and were designated a World Heritage Site in 1985.

• Ad-Deir

It is the largest carved monument in Petra, with dimensions of 47 x 48.3 meters and is in the style of the treasury, but the prominent carvings have been replaced by niches to place the statues, and in front of the facade was a square around the columns, inside the room two seats on the sides and then a cubic platform on which the monument of the gods was used, the monastery was used A bureau honoring the god-king Ubada I, and the Byzantine Roman governorate later on to a monastery for the monks, and they painted the cross in white over the podium, and it was called a monastery.

The monastery served as an important stop for pilgrimage processions, and the open porch in the foreground was used to accommodate large gatherings of people. During the Byzantine era, the monastery is believed to have been used as a church where you can find remains of crosses carved on some interior walls.

• As-Siq

The most beautiful of Petra’s buildings carved into the rocks is the Al-Khazneh building, which is a sight that no other in the world can compare with its aesthetics, prestige and astonishment.

It was called this name because the local Bedouins previously believed that the jar at the top of the façade contained treasure, so they shot it in hopes of punching it and getting what was inside, but it is in fact a royal mausoleum. The facade consists of two floors with a width of 30-25 m and a height of 39.1 m, where the facade became its final position after about 750 thousand cubic meters of sandstone were emptied from the slope of the mountain and 800 thousand cubic meters of internal chambers, and it appears the Nabataeans have carefully chosen its location as the first landmark. He faces the visitor after entering the city.

• Al-Khazneh

When you emerge from As-Siq, you are immediately confronted with the dazzling immensity of Al-Khazneh, or the Treasury. This is easily the most beautiful and best-preserved monument in Petra. With a unique mix of Hellenistic and Nabataean architecture, it was intended as the tomb of a prominent Nabataean king but scholars believe it was later used as a temple.

Careful observers will notice bullet holes in the upper urn. Bedouin tribes regularly fired at the urn in an attempt to break it, believing it to be hollow and filled with treasures. As the day wears on, the Treasury’s decorative face changes color. In the morning, Al-Khazneh is often described as having a rich peach tint, which darkens to rose in the afternoon and is blood red by sunset. Getting your picture taken atop a camel in front of Al-Khazneh will complete your visit to one of earth’s manmade wonders.

• Byzantine Church

Interestingly, the Byzantine church was most likely built in the 5th or 6th century, after an earthquake degraded many of Petra’s free-standing structures. The church was remodeled twice in the following years until a fire and several earthquakes caused it to be abandoned. It is believed that the materials used in the construction of the church came from other destructive effects.

In 1993, more than 150 rolls of papyrus were discovered inside the church, the largest discovery of its kind in Jordan. The writing on the scrolls deteriorated due to a fire in the 7th century, but if deciphered it could provide a glimpse into the Petran society during its final years. The church also has some great mosaics and highly ornate sidewalk designs.

• Colonnaded Street

This is a beautiful colonnaded street that winds its way through the city. On each side are temples, public buildings and shops. A nymphaeum, a monument dedicated to nymphs, once graced the street but all that remains is a marble pavement.

• High Place of Sacrifice

The only way to access this area is to take a long hike up a flight of steps carved into the mountain. But at the top, visitors are rewarded with a spectacular view of Petra in an especially well-preserved area. This spot was most likely used for religious ceremonies to honor the gods and for performing funeral rites for the dead.

• Obelisk Tomb

On the road into Petra, visitors will begin to notice tombs carved into the surrounding rock, the most famous of which is the Obelisk Tomb. This tomb showcases a unique mix of Egyptian and Greco-Roman architecture. The obelisk itself is clearly Egyptian in origin, while the niches between the obelisks are Greco-Roman. The upper floor contains the actual tomb and lower floor was used as dining hall for funeral rites. This formal dining room, referred to in Roman as a triclinium, contains three benches that were used during the yearly celebrations and feasts to honor the dead.

• Palace Tomb

This magnificent tomb greatly resembles a palace, with its multiple levels and ornately decorated columns and pillars. Despite being badly eroded, it is still a sight to behold.

• Qasr al-Bint

Qasr al-Bint is the only freestanding building left in Petra, having withstood centuries of earthquakes and floods. This 76-foot structure is thought to have served as the main temple in this ancient Nabataean capital. The temple and the altar inside were reserved exclusively for priests making public sacrifices, but commoners were allowed onto the paved precinct. Archaeologists have confirmed that the outer walls of Qasr al-Bint were once stuccoed in bright colors and its friezes were adorned with carvings of the busts of gods.

• Roman Theater

The Roman Theater is located on the Street of Faces, named for the rows of intricate tombs that line its sides. Despite the Roman architecture, the Nabataeans built it in the 1st century AD, when Roman influence had seeped into the Middle East. It is for the most part carved into the rock, except for a front portion that is free standing. It was originally built to house 3,000 people but was later expanded to house 7,000 people. Recently, a marble statue of Hercules was discovered in the rooms beneath the stage and was relocated to a museum.

• Royal Tombs

The Royal Tombs in Petra used to rival the beauty of Al-Khzneh, but time and erosion have worn away much of their grandeur. Across the Wadi, they were originally built to house the bodies of Nabataean dignitaries. The unmistakable Urn Tomb is the largest tomb, with a recessed façade and a two-tiered vault below that is believed to have been a prison once. It was originally built for the Nabatean King Malichus II in the 1st century AD but was converted to a church some 400 years later. A Greek inscription on one of the walls describes the conversion process.

The Palace Tomb, also known as the Tomb in Two Stories, was named as such due to its overall resemblance to a royal palace. To complete this tomb, workers had to attach preassembled stones to the upper left hand corner. The Tomb of Sextus Florentinus belonged to a Roman governor who grew so enamored with Petra that he asked his sons to bury him there. In essence, the Royal Tombs were altered throughout the years, but served a similar purpose for various civilizations that inhabited Petra.

• Urn Tomb

The Urn Tomb is the largest of all the royal tombs. Carved in 70 AD, the tomb features an enormous courtyard and a main chamber. Directly above the doorway are three chambers, but a stone with a drawing of a buried man blocks the central one. In the 5th century, it was consecrated as a church and underwent renovations.

• Petra by Night

Visiting Petra at night offers a completely different experience. Upon arriving to the stoned city, visitors will find the walkway softly lit by candles. Follow the path to arrive at the Treasury, where hundreds of candles glow alongside a group of Bedouins. Sit down, accept their herb tea offering, and enjoy the traditional sounds of Bedouin folklore music. Petra by night offers a unique glimpse into the lifestyle of this rugged, but gentle culture. Be sure to arrive early as seating is limited and the music can last upwards of two hours. Evenings in the desert can be chilly, so be sure to bring a sweater or jacket.

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