Petra - A City Carved In Stone (Middle East)
Petra, which means rock, was described as a rose red city that is half as old as time. It was carved more than 2,000 years ago and is now one of the most famous attractions in the Middle East.
Over 500 tombs, temples, and houses were cut into the pinkish sandstone cliffs where it is located in the desert of southern Jordan.
Petra was once the capital city of the Nabataeans, an Arab tribe. Approximately 10,000 Nabataeans lived in Petra over a period of approximately 700 years, starting the the fourth century B.C.
Petra flourished because of it's location, being on the routes of two major trade routes. Because of this locations, travelers would come through Petra with their camel trains to rest, buy food and water as well as sell their goods.
Unlike other ancient cities, Petra was not destroyed or built upon. It was merely forgotten about. Slowly, the trade routes shifted, leaving Petra on a rather unbeaten path.
For that reason, along with the fact that it was built inside a narrow canyon and virtually invisible until you enter the city, it's ruins are incredibly well preserved, providing a breathtaking view of it's original splendor.
The Romans took control of Petra before being passed through countless hands until it was completely forgotten about by everyone except a handful of local Arabs.
The city was not rediscovered until 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt heard about the city. He disguised himself as an Arab in order to travel through the area and eventually discovered it's location.
He wrote in his journal that when he walked through the narrow canyon entrance and came upon the first temple glittering in the sunlight, he was overcome when he realized he had found ancient Petra.
The city itself is approximately 17 square miles. Considering that it was carved from the faces of the cliffs, it is a pretty impressive size. In the middle of the city, a huge theatre was carved out of a hillside.
It was first built by the Nabataeans then repaired by the Romans. It is estimated that it could easily hold as many as 4,000 spectators.
As you can see from the picture below, the detail that was originally carved out of the soft sandstone is still vivid and elaborate.