So much has been written about Petra that it would be fruitless attempting to add anything to it. I wish there was more about the Nabeteans in the history books, where they learned their skill for architecture, why they chose to bury their dead inside the gorge, what was inside Al Khazneh and what eventually led to their disappearance. It is this sense of mystique that draws millions of visitors to Petra each year.
Petra reached its zenith in 64BC before this little understood culture was annexed by Emperor Trajan in 106AD; a number of its buildings were used as Byzantine Churches. It was totally abandoned following an earthquake and became no less than a village by 1000AD. After Saladin defeated the crusaders in 1187, Petra came under Islamic occupation, by which time, it was being used only by Bedouins who kept the place a secret. That was until Swiss Explorer, Ludwig Burckhardt uncovered this mysterious city hidden behind the “Siq” or shaft and opened it up to us all to behold what is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The two things that struck me was just how dry and arid the gorge was and how windswept the rocks were. The Nabateans were phenomenal architects and built a sophisticated system of irrigation using reservoirs and collected water using canals built in the rocks. Imagine a lush and thriving metropolis inside the rose pink rock and desert!
The biblical story of exodus in which Moses is believed to have struck the rock with his staff to make water flow, is set in Petra. The rocky place is called Wadi Musa or Valley of Moses – Petra being the city surrounding the pink city.
Freshwater made Petra habitable and the rocks protected the inhabitants from invasions. It would have quenched the thirst of so many weary travellers who came to trade silk, tea and spices though of course, finding water in the desert would be the most priceless thing.