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Petra: Jordan’s Historic City of Rose-Colored Stone, Part 1 of 2

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The unique historical city of Petra lies within desolate desert canyons, hidden behind the rugged mountains of Jordan. Adjacent to the Jebel al-Madhbah mountain, the city is located in southwest Jordan, between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. The city is famous for its rock-cut architecture and sophisticated water system. Due to the color of the stone from which it is carved, Petra is also known as “Rose City.” The raw beauty of Petra draws in visitors, making it one of the greatest tourist attractions in Jordan.

Inhabited by ancient civilizations, Petra has been home to some of the oldest known farming communities. In the third century BC, the rich and powerful Nabataean empire was formed. The Nabataeans were exceptionally proficient in developing effective ways to collect water in the arid deserts.

“Bab Al Siq” is the gateway road towards the city center. Three massive square-shaped tombs carved out of solid stone can be seen along the way. These are known as “Djinn” blocks, as they were believed to be dwellings of djinns, or spirits. The Obelisk Tomb also sits along the road, with four pyramids and four statues above it. For passionate hikers, Petra has eight official trails leading through the ancient city. The locals say the Siq was formed by the water Moses released. The town around Petra is named Wadi Musa, which means the “Valley of Moses” in Arabic.

While the Siq gets shorter and darker in the last few meters, a magnificent, rock-cut temple at the end of the passage suddenly springs to life, lit up by the sunlight. Standing in front of the Al-Khazneh’s awe-inspiring façade are elaborate sandstone pillars. Al-Khazneh’s interior consists of a central chamber with three interior portals connecting to three antechambers. The interior measures approximately 2,000 cubic meters. Stairs lead to Al-Khazneh’s underground crypt.

Only 15 percent of the site of Petra has been excavated so far, leaving the rest buried underground. To close today’s program, let’s enjoy a poem entitled “Petra,” written by English Biblical Scholar John William Burgon in 1845.
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