Petra is one of the world’s greatest, early stone cities, an artistic stone complex of indescribable magnitude and beauty. It has endured numerous conquests and occupants, but none have dared destroy or deface its compelling architecture.
Known as the Rose City “half as old as time” it began as the stronghold of the Nabataen Arabs two thousand years ago. Threatened by an expanding Roman empire and a growing power by the Christians in what is now Jordan, the Arabs were desperate to retain their hold on the lucrative caravan routes that delivered precious materials like salt from the African deserts to the Mideast.
Near an important desert highway, the Nabaaeans found a narrow kilometer long fissure leading into a sandstone canyon that provided sanctuary and a good defense were they attacked. They created one of the most spectacular cities in antiquity. Beautiful facades, meticulously hand-carved walls from the solid sandstone, and numerous fixtures and interior accents produced a virtual metropolis of art intended as a secret from the powers that threatened them.
Ultimately Petra was conquered by the Romans, later ruled by the Byzantine emperors, then lost and hidden from civilization when the caravan routes suddenly changed towards the end of the first millennium. The city then lay hidden in its remote canyon for almost another millennium until the Swiss explorer John Burchhardt rediscovered it in the 19th century.