Petra, the National Treasure of Jordan

PetraFabled as "The Rose Red City, half as old as time," Petra (an archeological park in Jordan) has been welcoming a sudden throng of visitors from all over the world after being recognized as a World Heritage Site, as well as being included to the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Located on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains that form the eastern side of Arabah, Petra has been well-known for its buildings and tombs that have been cut out of solid sandstone. The designs of these buildings have classical Roman influences, the most popular of which is "Al Khazneh" or The Treasury, which was originally built as a royal tomb. It was named as such because of the legend of bandits or pirates who hid their stolen goods in a stone urn high on the second floor. However, it turns out that the urn is made from solid stone.

During ancient times, Petra was the capital city of a kingdom belonging to a group of Aramaic-speaking Jews called Nabateans. This kingdom was then absorbed by the Roman Empire in 106 AD, which the Romans expanded. Petra was an important center for trade and commerce until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed many of its buildings and has crippled the very vital water management systems at about 663 AD. After several invasions, Petra was eventually abandoned in 1189.

It has long being forgotten by the West, until a Swiss explorer named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguising as an Arab Scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin territory in 1812. This has inspired many explorers, including Scottish artist David Roberts, who created a number of accurate and detailed illustrations of the ruins in 1839. After several years of excavations, as well as the growing number of international tourists flocking to the site, Petra has become Jordan’s largest tourism attraction.

Because of its popularity, it is no surprise that entrance fees to Petra are steep compared to other attractions around Jordan. Travel experts recommend purchasing a two-day pass, but do not to buy them from dubious scalpers. You can either hire a Bedouin guide at the Visitor Center and take advantage of their knowledge about the park, or rent a portable audio guide for commentary in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish.

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