An ancient city in Jordan, Petra was once the capital of the Nabatean people, a race who dominated international trade relations in the Middle East more than 2000 years ago. They experienced a meteoric rise to power, but after succumbing to the might of Rome, they faded from history completely. Today the city of Petra is often included in an Israeli tourism package, attracting thousands of sightseers on a trip to Israel each year.
History of Petra
The Nabateans were originally Arabian nomads who gave up traveling in favor of charging merchants for a safe passage through Petra, their power base. Petra stood at the pivot of trade between Asia, Arabia and the Mediterranean, and merchants had to travel through here to deliver items such as the highly expensive Frankincense and myrrh from Yemen, as well as pepper, sugar, cotton and ginger for trade with India.
When Roman general Pompey arrived to attack Petra in 62 BC he was bought off by the wealthy Nabateans. By the first century AD the city was home to as many as 35,000 people, described as being a cosmopolitan, elegant place which was taken over by Rome in 106 AD. Over the subsequent centuries trade declined, and in 749 an earthquake destroyed almost all freestanding buildings. Petra then remained deserted until Swiss explorer Jean-Louis Burckahrdt persuaded local Bedouins to lead him there in 1812. The city was rediscovered and there was a surge of interest in the ruins, an interest that remains to this day.
Petra is home to some magnificent sites. The Nabateans blended classical design with Assyrian and Egyptian elements, lining the valley with architectural splendor below 1000 meter high crags. The Treasury is a building featuring an iconic façade of sculptures carved into the sandstone cliffs. Created in the first century AD the structure is believed to be the tomb of a Nabatean king as well as a temple.