Dates: June 16 - 18
This was my second time visiting the ancient city of Petra, a decision that, en route to Jordan, Bianca, my Australian travel companion, described as, "just greedy;" but I'm sure that Bianca came to understand why I jumped at the opportunity for a repeat visit to this wonder of world, as soon as she sunk her first footprint into the dusty floor of the narrow Siq—the mile-long gorge, which serves as the tourist entrance to the 102 sq. mi Petra Archeological Zone, renowned for its red sandstone landscape studded with ancient Nabatean tombs and other ancient monuments.
The Nabataeans, nomadic Arabs, are believed to establish the trade-settlement the would eventually become known as Petra as early as 312 BC. The inhabitants of Petra were continually influenced by the culture of the successive conquering powers of the region. The proximity of Petra to trading routes, along with its sophisticated water networks, established Petra as a hub of culture and trade throughout the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. Accordingly, the architectural ensemble at Petra, fusing Hellenistic architecture with eastern traditions, bears an impressive testimony to the cultural influences of the successive civilizations colonizing the region. Nevertheless, Petra began to decline in the centuries after the Roman takeover in 106 AD, as the Romans shifted trade routes away from Petra. An earthquake in 383 AD crippled Petra's vital water management system, leading to its ultimate abandonment by the end of the 7th century. For 500 hundred years thereafter, Petra was a "forgotten" city known only to the semi-nomadic bedouins inhabiting the region's caves and tombs. Petra was "rediscovered" 1812 by a 27-year-old Swiss explorer, Johann Burckhardt, who pretended to be Arabic so that the Bedouins would grant him access. Bedouins continued to inhabit the area in and around the ruins until the mid-1980s when most of the Bedouins were forcibly relocated to the nearby, purpose-built settlement of Umm Sayhoun. The Bedouins still feel a strong sense of proprietary in the site and many spend their days in Petra trying to eke out a living, acting as tour guides, offering camel rides, or selling trinkets from stalls embedded among Petra's network of craggy paths.