Six Reasons to Visit the Ancient City of Petra

The ancient city of Petra has long held the intrigue and imagination of many intrepid travelers. From the allure of its architectural beauty, to the opportunity to play archaeological explorer for the day, even the most jaded of tourists can find something to inspire them in Petra. Leafcanoer, grassrootsnomd, recently shared her visit to Petra in her leaf entitled “Petra“. It’s full of interesting tips and insight about the ancient city. For those interested in their own adventure, here are six reasons to visit the ancient city of Petra:

The city of Petra

Its Rich Cultural History
Petra was established around 312 B.C. as the capital of the Nabatean kingdom. The Nabateans, a people of Arabic roots, had settlements throughout the Middle East, but most were centered around Jordan. Early mention of Petra can be found in ancient Egyptian texts, as well as references to the city in the Bible, particularly in Exodus. Over time, Petra has been influenced by many different cultures, including Egyptian and Greek cultures. The city has fallen under both Roman and Byzantine rule, which also greatly influenced the architecture of many of its buildings.


Its Structural and Architectural Marvels
The city of Petra is best known for its architecture, as it is one of a few cities in the world that is carved directly into the side of a cliff. The city is also famous for its system of pools, dams, and water channels, a technology that was extremely advanced at the time of the city’s establishment. The most well-known structure in Petra is the Treasury, also known as Al-Khazneh, which was carved directly into the sandstone rock that surrounds it. The architecture is heavily Greek influenced, and was originally built as a mausoleum and crypt. Petra has been called the Rose City, due to the distinctly red color of its sandstone.


An Opportunity to Visit a World Heritage Site
Though the ruins of Petra were known during the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until the 1800’s that the first European actually visited and described the city of Petra in great detail. This was in 1812, and the European was a Swiss traveler by the name of Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Due to its importance in ancient history, Petra was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. As a way to preserve the structural integrity of the ancient city, the Bedouin communities who lived near Petra were resettled elsewhere around Jordan. However, despite these preservation efforts, Petra continues to be considered a threatened landscape by UNESCO, mainly due to the sheer number of visitors who flock to it on a daily basis.

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Petra at Night
One of the most beautiful ways to view Petra is at night. On Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, the city is adorned in over 1,500 candles. For a nominal fee, visitors are welcome to walk through the city as it is illuminated by candlelight.


A Chance to Channel Indiana Jones
Perhaps one of the most well-known facts about Petra is that it was featured as the backdrop to the final scenes of the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. If you’re a film buff, you can reenact the scene in person as you walk through the Siq, the winding narrow passage that leads you to the Treasury. Though many of the interior scenes were filmed in a soundstage, the exterior scenes of the movie were filmed on location. Petra has also been featured in other films, such as Arabian Nights, The Mummy Returns, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.


Bragging Rights
Arguably the best reason to visit Petra is for the bragging rights. This city is rich in history, and is equally fascinating and breathtaking to see in person. Though the Middle East can be a relatively unstable region politically, the country of Jordan is a safe place for tourists to visit.


For ideas of what to visit in Petra, or to find inspiration for travel to other places around the world, download the LeafCanoe app.

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