The caravan and royal city of the Nabataeans was once an important intersection between Arabia and the Mediterranean. The city was founded in the 2nd century BC. Founded in AD and conquered by the Romans in AD 106. The buildings with their magnificent facades were carved directly out of the rock. Outstanding are the 42 m high facade of the Ed-Deir burial temple as well as the block graves in Bab es-Sik, the “treasure house of the Pharaoh”, and the 23 m high main temple Qasr al-Bint Firaun.
|Official title:||Rock necropolis and ruins of Petra|
|Cultural monument:||Stone evidence from the heyday of the Nabatean Empire such as the remains of the aqueduct leading from Ain Musa to the Petra basin, the 42 m high facade of the burial temple ad-Deir, the block graves in Bab es-Sik, the “treasure house of the Pharaoh” iron-bearing sandstone “broken” and crowned with a 3.5 m high urn, the theater necropolis, probably Petras oldest burial place, the Corinthian grave, the palace tomb and the mausoleum of Sextius Florentinus as well as in the center of the ruins the 23 m high main temple Petras, Qasr al -Bint Firaun (“Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter”)|
|Location:||Petra, south of Amman|
|Meaning:||the caravan and royal city of the Nabataeans as an important intersection between Arabia and the Mediterranean|
|312 BC Chr.||Campaign of the Diadoch Antigonus Monophthalmos against the Nabataeans|
|around 169 BC Chr.||King Aretas I.|
|around 120-96 BC Chr.||King Aretas II|
|87-62 BC Chr.||under King Aretas III. temporary expansion of the “caravan state” to Damascus|
|62 BC Chr.||Nabataea vassal of the Roman Empire|
|70-106||King Rabel II|
|106||under Emperor Trajan establishment of the Roman province Arabia Petraea with the capital Bosra|
|663||Surrender of the city after the Arabs conquered the region|
|1170-88||Eviction of crusader fortresses such as al-Wueira|
|1217||last occidental visitor|
|1812||“Rediscovery” of Petra by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt|
|2011||In May, German and English archaeologists discovered a luxurious bathing complex on Umm al-Bijarea, the city’s highest mountain|
A city made of red stone
In the early 19th century, a troop of Arab horsemen roamed the scorching East Bank. Even if you couldn’t tell by looking at it: one of the “Arab” riders was a European. Johann Ludwig Burckhardt was the young man’s name. The son of a Swiss colonel was just 27 years old and had learned the Arabic language in Syria. When his companions, with whom he was on the way to Cairo, told him about the grandiose ruins in the nearby mountains, Burckhardt pricked up his ears. On August 22, 1812, he rode through Petra, the “pink city, half as old as time”, as J. William Burgon would later call it, as the first modern visitor to see it.
According to ehistorylib, Petra was a main base and later the royal city of the Nabataeans, a north Arab desert people whose caravans transported the goods of South Arabia and India, aloes, cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh, which were highly sought after in antiquity. Since the fourth century BC, the Nabataeans controlled the northern part of the legendary Frankincense Route; they alone knew the few watering holes and were able to hold their own in sandstorms.
In the 2nd century BC, the Nabatean Arabs lived in tents made from goat hair. Up until then they had not produced any architecture in stone. The rich trade profits and the encounter with the Hellenistic, later the Roman culture had an effect, and in the valley basin of Petra, hidden in the sandstone wilderness between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, a peculiar pompous architecture emerged – an architecture of the gods and the dead.
The fascinating route to the city center of Petra first leads through the Sik, a gorge more than a kilometer long with meter-high, vertical walls. Occasionally, simple reliefs emerge in the rock from a deepened ground. If they are rectangular, they represent the main Nabatean god Dhushara, the “god in the stone”; if they are in the shape of an obelisk, they are monuments of the commemoration of the dead. The expectations that the mysterious canyon awakens are not disappointed when the monumental facade of the Khazne Firaun, the »Pharaoh’s treasure house«, with its two-storey column front and polished sculptures becomes visible at the exit of the Sik. This probably the oldest and most beautiful monument of Petra is probably the last resting place of one of the early kings of the Nabataeans and testifies to the building traditions of Alexandria, the Hellenistic metropolis in the Nile Delta. Other royal tombs with their huge facades overlook the actual urban area of Petra. Baths, grammar schools and marketplaces lie hidden beneath its sand-covered waves. A paved road marks the city axis. In the center of Petra rises the temple of Qasr al-Bint Firaun with high ashlar walls. It was dedicated to the Dhushara, who was worshiped here first in the form of a stone pillar and later a figurative cult image.
This change of representation corresponds to the change in Nabataean society: tribal leaders became kings, from Aretas I to Rabel II, the main god Dhushara was identified with the Greek Dionysus, and “classical” rock structures such as the royal tombs or ad-Deir replaced them older crenellated and staircase graves. The Nabataean leadership also demonstrated with the impressive theater, whose rows of seats were carved out of a cliff, that they did not want to lag behind the cultural achievements of their ancient trading partners. The independence of the masters of the Weihrauchstrasse ended, however, when they became citizens of the Roman Empire in 106, who later accepted the Christian faith.