Hidden amongst the towering jagged red sandstone peaks between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in Jordan is Petra, a distinctive ancient capital city, skilfully built and carved into the rock face by the ancient Nabataeans (Nabataens).
The Nabataeans were a dynamic North Arabian nomadic people who settled at Petra over 2200 thousand years ago (possibly as early as the 6th century BC). During their time, Petra prospered as an important caravan trade crossroad that linked the near East, Africa, India, with the Mediterranean.
Despite being set in one of the world’s harshest environment Petra, which means ‘stone’ in Greek, endured as a liveable city. Its longevity was mainly because of the brilliance of the ancient Nabataeans who were able to engineer advanced complex hydraulic water systems that would harness and conserve precious water from the seasonal flash floods.
Rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer John Lewis Burckhardt after being lost to the World for hundreds of years, Petra is one of the world’s most famous, richest and largest archaeological sites.
The splendours of Petra’s architecture are a fusion of Greek, Syrian, Arabian and Roman elements and a walk through the city will reveal of hundreds of rock carved tombs, elegant Hellenistic temple facades, funerary halls and rock reliefs and even a classical style theatre.
It is a UNESCO world heritage listed site and UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”.
The Greco-Roman ancient city of Jerash in Jordan is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman provincial towns in the Mediterranean.
Located 48 kilometres north of Amman (capital of Jordan), Jerash (also known as Gerash) existed as a small insignificant settlement before the Greeks founded the city during the Hellenistic period after the conquest of Alexander the Great in the 3rd century. As the city grew into an urban centre, it became part of the Decapolis, a federation of Greek cities founded in the Hellenistic era within the region.
After the Roman conquest of the region in 63 BC, the city was absorbed into the vast Roman Empire and grew prosperous as more trade flowed through it. Emperor Hadrian even visited the city during 129 AD. Jerash reached its zenith and golden age during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, when a building frenzy took place mainly because of the generous donations of the city’s wealthy residents.
Jerash has several outstanding and ornate architectural remnants of its past. Among the more spectacular remains are a striking oval forum, the Cardo with its flanking colonnaded triumphal arches, food market, hippodrome, two theatres and temples of Zeus and Artemis.
Jerash Archaeological City is on the Unesco Tentative List, which is a list of properties considered being cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the Unesco World Heritage List.