Feb 19, 2010

The Petra Jordan

Petra is a historic and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that has rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourism attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor[2] in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and a World Heritage Site since 1985. Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of “the 10 places you have to see before you die”.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a Newdigate Prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.

Evidence suggests that settlements had begun in and around Petra in the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. It is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir. Though the city was founded relatively late, a sanctuary existed there since very ancient times. Stations 19 through 26 of the stations list of Exodus are places associated with Petra. This part of the country was Biblically assigned to the Horites, the predecessors of the Edomites.

The habits of the original natives may have influenced the Nabataean custom of burying the dead and offering worship in half-excavated caves. Although Petra is usually identified with Sela which means a rock, the Biblical references refer to it as “the cleft in the rock”, referring to its entrance. 2 Kings xiv. 7 seems to be more specific. In the parallel passage, however, Sela is understood to mean simply “the rock” (2 Chr. xxv. 12, see LXX).

In 106 CE, when Cornelius Palma was governor of Syria, that part of Arabia under the rule of Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Petraea, becoming capital. The native dynasty came to an end. But the city continued to flourish. A century later, in the time of Alexander Severus, when the city was at the height of its splendor, the issue of coinage comes to an end. There is no more building of sumptuous tombs, owing apparently to some sudden catastrophe, such as an invasion by the neo-Persian power under the Sassanid Empire.

Meanwhile, as Palmyra (fl. 130–270) grew in importance and attracted the Arabian trade away from Petra, the latter declined. It seems, however, to have lingered on as a religious centre. A Roman road was constructed at the site. Epiphanius of Salamis (c.315–403) writes that in his time a feast was held there on December 25 in honor of the virgin Khaabou (Chaabou) and her offspring Dushara

The Nabataeans worshipped the Arab gods and goddesses of the pre-Islamic times as well as few of their deified kings. One, Obodas I, was deified after his death. Dushara was the main male god accompanied by his female trinity: Al-‘Uzzá, Allat and Man?t. Many statues carved in the rock depict these gods and goddesses.



The Nabataean Kingdom was at its peek in the 1st centuries BC and AD. In this period, the Nabataeans held sway as far north as Damascus in Syria, as far south as Northern Arabia and also over parts of the Sinai and Negev deserts.
In 64 BC, Pompey arrived in the area with his Roman legions. He established the Roman province of Syria and encouraged the formation of the Decapolis league of city-states, which contained any further expansion by the Nabataeans.




the Aaron's Tomb Of the mountains that encircle the great bowl of Petra, none is more commanding than Aaron's Mountain (Jabal Harun). At 1350 meters above sea-level it is the highest peak in the area; and it is a place of great sanctity to the local people for here, it is believed, Moses' brother Aaron (pbut) died and was buried. A 14th century mosque stands here with its white dome visible from most areas in and around Petra.

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