Petra is located in the modern-day governorate of Ma’an in Jordan. It’s a spectacular example of human determination to create monumental architecture, made more challenging by the lack of available construction material.
Not to be thwarted by nature, enterprising people long ago carved Petra from the living rock. What does that mean, exactly? A staggering amount of labor, an intense understanding of the geology of the landscape, and perseverance.
Along with numerous other amazing prehistoric achievements, the ruins of Petra number among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you aren’t familiar with this organization, UNESCO serves as an acronym for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The folks on the World Heritage Committee strive to catalogue and conserve special places around the globe – both natural and human-formed.
While most of the viewing public recognizes Petra from the cinematic adventures of Indiana Jones, this city was once a powerful arbiter of trade in the region. Situated between towering cliffs of stone and supported by a reliable water source, Petra controlled and managed all the main commercial caravan routes.
Though the site functioned as an oasis of sorts, it was the ability to manipulate water as a resource that turned Petra into a significant locale some 2,500 years ago. The site is predated by earlier occupations but it is the rock-cut architecture of the city itself, carved into rose-colored stone, that captures the interest of tourists today.
Don’t miss this beautiful audio-visual tour of Petra: (4:49)
(if the link doesn’t post properly – click HERE to visit)
Like most ancient sites, Petra and the surrounding region suffer from a host of threats. The collapse of structures built millennia ago is an inevitable part of the aging process. Erosion due to natural flooding and improper drainage are particularly detrimental in arid locations. Weathering and other depositional forces, including well-meaning but poorly executed restoration attempts, compound the problems. Of all the risks, it is the unsustainable tourism that brings much-needed commerce to the region that results in the greatest damage.
Appreciating our collective human achievements and seeing the wonders of the ancient world with our eyes should be experienced. Just remember, please tread lightly so that future generations may rediscover these incredible places too. Where do you dream of visiting? What special place tops your must-see-it list?
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