Reportage II – Petra’s History

Petra the magical place in the world

by Haneen Aweis

Petra (rock in Greek) is an archaeological site in Arabah, Aqaba Governorate, Jordan, lying on the slope of Mount Hor, in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is renowned for its rock-cut architecture.

Archaeologists believe that Petra has been inhabited from prehistoric times. Just north of the city at Beidha, the remains of a 9000-year-old city have been discovered, putting it in the same league as Jericho as one of the earliest known settlements in the Middle East. Between that time and the Iron Age (circa 1200 BCE), when it was the home of the Edomites, virtually nothing is known. The Bible tells of how King David subdued the Edomites, probably around 1000 BCE. According to this story, the Edomites were enslaved but eventually won their freedom. A series of great battles were then fought between the Judeans and the people of Edom.

In one of these, the Judean King Amaziah, who ruled from 796 to 781 BCE, “defeated ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt, and captured Sela in battle” (2 Kings 14: 25). The summit of Umm al-Biyara mountain, in central Petra, is often identified as the Sela of the Bible. However, Sela is also sometimes identified as the mountaintop stronghold of Sele’, near Buseirah, one of the Edomite capitals north of Petra.

Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1 kilometre in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80 metres high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).

It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2000 years ago, turning it into an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

This is an awe-inspiring experience. 30m wide and 43m high, carved out of the sheer, dusky pink, rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. It was carved in the eary 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people

Petra is one of the most magical places I have ever had the opportunity to visit. We (the Euro-Mid Journalist) spent an entire day there, starting off with a tour guide, who was an archeologist and took us as far as the Treasury. Catching a glimpse of the Treasury for the first time was incredible. I climbed to the highest point and saw the sacrificing area before heading back down past tombs and rock/sandstone formations with the most incredible colour’s you could imagine. I then walked up to the Monastery – incredible, as was the view down.

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