Described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as “one of the most important cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”, Petra Jordan is a city of great mysteries and architecture unmatched anywhere else in the world. Petra was an ancient city in the country of Jordan which is sandwiched between the two great seas of the Middle East namely the Dead Sea and Red Sea. The city was a great destination in the famous silk routes that stretched from the Roman Empire to Central Asia during the Hellenistic and Roman times. Inhabited by an Arabian tribe known as Nabateans who were famous for their skills in trade, commerce, engineering and stone carving, the city is an undying tribute to the magnificence of Mankind’s abilities.
Petra, going by the archeological records, was built during the 3rd century B.C by the Nabateans who were masters at stone carving and established a whole city by carving through the sandstone desert cliffs and in the process building some of the greatest architectural marvels in the world. The city is half-built and half-stone carved through the surrounding mountains in the region connected through a series of passages and gorges. The ingenious water drainage and retrieval system established by the Nabateans allowed the city to flourish beyond generations, at its peak Petra was home to some 20,000 Nabateans. Petra was brought to the attention of the Western World by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
The Rose city so called due to the color of the sandstone available in the city, is one of the largest and most famous archeological sites in the world whose prominence rose to phenomenal levels post the declaration of the site as one of the Seven Wonders of the World which made it an instant attraction of millions of tourists from world over. Its great value lies in the numerous architectural marvels that have been carved into the stone mountains of the region including the tombs, the high temples, the stone-carved gods and goddesses which make for such an enchanting exhibition of mankind’s true genius and love for preserving its culture and heritage. A World Heritage Site Petra was also shortlisted by National Geographic magazine as one of the twenty-eight places to visit before one dies.
Lying between the West and the East, Petra’s architecture is hugely influenced by elements from both architectural styles of the western and the eastern civilizations which in itself is a unique artistic achievement for those times. The Nabateans were a genius tribe who were able to establish this mammoth city out of nowhere in the middle of the Arabian deserts and leave it to us to admire their brilliance. One of the greatest spectacles to be witnessed at Petra is the King’s Wall which has in itself three Royal Tombs carved into it, these tombs are imposing structures which lie north from the Kheznah in the massif of Jebel Khubtha.
First of these is the Urn Tomb, a grand structure opening to a terrace which is fronted with double rows of vaults. The elaborate façade, gigantic and intricate in its design, is a cover for a large single room where the only decoration comes from the different colors of sandstones in the ceiling, the walls and the floor. Second, is the Corinthian Tomb which is a smaller tomb to the Urn Tomb, this is followed by the Palace Tomb or Silk Tomb so called because of the chromatic effect of the rock. But the masterpiece among all these beautiful monuments is located north from the Royal Tombs which was built in 130 A.D for the Roman governor called the Khezneh el Faroun or the Treasury of the Pharoh.
The Khezneh is an amazing piece of stone carving and the only monument or architectural piece in Petra which doesn’t bear the mark of the Nabatean style of architecture and is dominated by Alexandrian style of architecture. The monument is an imposing figure whose façade stands tall at some forty meters carved directly out of the rock of the mountain side. The monument used to be the office of the Roman governor of the time and has some of the finest architectural and sculptural decorations to be found in the world. The large façade again covers a single large room inside with smooth walls and virtually no decoration this is a way of designing found in all monuments of Petra, Jordan.
The Petra, Jordan has been rightly dubbed as one of the greatest archaeological discovery of mankind; it is a testimony to the abilities, skills and artistic brilliance of our forefathers and a treasure that needs to be preserved in all its glory. Petra is a dream which was seen and actualized by the great Arabian tribe of Nabateans, it is a wealth that has been left to us to admire and preserve and surely an outrageous display of man’s abilities. One just can’t help him/herself from getting awestruck by the magnificence of Petra, Jordan.