Petra is without a doubt one of most fascinating places in the world and is Jordan’s most important symbol and tourist attraction. It is located about 113 km north of Wadi Rum (or 235 south of Amman) and is about a 1 ½ car drive (or 3 hours from Amman). The views from the walking journey into the city of Petra is simply magnificent. You need at least 3 hours to tour this ancient site.
Petra is a historical and archaeological city famous for its red-rose rock-cut architecture, as well as its water conduit system. It is also often referred to as the Rose City. Built possibly around 312 BC, it was the capital city of Arab Nabataeans and a major trading hub. The Nabataeans were famous for their efficient water-collecting methods in the deserts and carving structures into solid rocks.
Petra is located on the slope of Jebel-al-Madhbah, also known as the biblical Mount Hor. It was unknown to western world until 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt re-discovered it. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1985, it was described as one of the most precious properties of mankind. In 2007, Petra was classified as one the New 7 Wonders of the World.
The earliest recorded settlement in the area was in 2010 BC, though the city was founded much later. It flourished under the Roman rule, but declined rapidly after the devastating earthquake in 363 and another one in 551. The inhabitants abandoned the city when the Arabs came to conquer the region in 663. Due to the weakened and aging structures, several of the tombs became vulnerable to thieves and many of the treasures were lost or stolen.
In 1985 and prior to the UNESCO designation process, the Bidoul, or Bedouin tribe of Petra- the last inhabitants, was forced by the Jordanian government to resettle from their cave dwellings and relocated to six communities in the Petra region, the largest being Wadi Musa village and the smallest is Umm Sayhoun where it gives access to the back and pedestrian route into this site.
This magnificent site suffers from threats of collapse and erosion due to among others: flooding and unsustainable tourism. Several projects are underway, such as the Petra National Trust, with the mission of restoring and maintaining the ancient structures of this remarkable city.