Petra: The ancient city in the heart of the rock. np
The natural beauty and splendid ancient architecture of the rock-carved city of Petra in Jordan attracts tourists from all over the world.
About 185km southwest of the Jordanian capital Amman, Petra is an ancient city carved in the rock. The natural beauty and splendid ancient architecture of the city attract tourists from all over the world.
Petra gained more attention after some scenes from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” were filmed here.
The temples, mausoleums and halls of Petra are scattered throughout 400 square miles.
Before being annexed by the Romans in 106 AD, Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans, a people who used the Aramaic script and controlled caravans through the region.
The people were first known in 312 BC when they survived the conquest of Antigonus, one of Alexander the Great’s successors.
During these years, the Nabataeans are said to have lived a nomadic life and Petra was probably the site of tents and simple structures.
Change took place as trade developed. Petra became the center of commerce between Arabia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean.
The city’s prosperity took place about 2000 years ago with a population forecast at 20,000.
The Romans annexed this land and gradually gained dominion over the precious trade route. The city was devastated by a series of earthquakes and was eventually abandoned.
The Siq, a narrow alley, is the passageway to the hidden city of Petra.
Johann Ludwig Burckhardt discovered the city in 1812 and today Petra is one of the main tourist attractions.
In the plot of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, Petra is set in the “crescent moon canyon” and is the land of the Holy Grail.
Houses and water sources
Analysis of the surviving houses at ez-Zantur in Petra shows that the houses were carved in the rock about 2,100 years ago, the beginning of a period of urbanization when people left the tents to live in the house carved in stone.
Petra’s main street, known today as the colonnade, was built to the south of the town of Wadi Musa. The walls built to the north and south of the town, combined with the quarries at Petra, make the city difficult to invade.
A sophisticated water pumping system has also been built with canals, pipes and tanks to bring water to the people. Recently, archaeologists found evidence of this system during a biophysical survey in the vicinity of Petra’s main street.
However, these developments are today overshadowed by the city’s mausoleum and temple architecture.
Petra contains a multitude of mausoleums, most of which were built on the edge of the city, above the main street. Some tombs are simply designed, containing numerous burial pits in an unadorned stone mausoleum, while others are elaborately designed.
Petra’s most famous tomb is Khazneh, Arabic for “Treasure”. So called because locals once believed that the tomb contained secret treasures. Today, archaeologists call it a two-story high mausoleum. The size of the facade is measured with a height of 39 meters and a width of 25 meters.
Khazneh, or Treasure is a splendid mausoleum at Petra.
Designed mainly in Greek structure, the columns are built in Corinian style, the walkway is vertical with images depicting the legendary twin brothers Castor and Pollux.
Above the center is a woman who may be an imitation of Isis, an Egyptian god. Also shown there are six legendary female warriors from the ancient world.
The illustrations also include the griffin, the eagle, two winged animals that are considered symbols of victory, and images of plants such as poppies, grapes and pomegranates. A rose, the symbol of royalty, is also shown here, indicating that this is the tomb of a king.
Inside the tomb is designed quite simply with a corridor leading to three rooms, the largest room is in the center with 12.5 meters long, 11 meters wide and about 10 meters high. The three rooms show that there were three coffins in the past.
There is no description as to who was buried in the tomb nor exactly when it was built. Researcher Andrew Steward in the book “Discovery of Petra” says that it may be the tomb of King Aretas IV, who died in AD 15 and had two wives.
The ancient inhabitants of Petra maintained a rich religious life. It is believed that the three temples located near the main road were built during the prosperity of the city about 2000 years ago.
One of them is Oasr al-Bind. The wall of the temple is still preserved with a height of 23 meters. One will have to climb 19 steps up to the stop and then 8 more steps through 4 pillars to reach the temple corridor before coming to a main hall with the size of each side of the hall about 28 meters. At the end is the Most Holy Place. The image depicted in the temple suggests that this structure may have been built for the lord Dushara.
The image depicted in the temple suggests that this structure may have been built for the lord Dushara.
Another structure, called the “Great Temple” by archaeologists, contains a small hall with the same design as an existing symphony hall. Large enough to hold 600 people, this hall can be used for religious ceremonies. Among the motifs in the temple are images of elephant heads carved in limestone.
The third temple, partly located on the hill, is the temple of winged lions. So called by the image of these beasts with wings found near the altar.
The temple itself is quite small in size. However, as researcher Phillip Hammond points out in his book “Discovering Petra”, the temple is full of supporting buildings, “which are home to temple staff, pilgrims waiting to enter the temple, metal and oil production areas, catering equipment and even antique imitations for tourists!”