Petra: history, what to see, Byzantine church, the tomb of Aaron

petra jordan
petra jordan

Information for visiting Petra, where it is, history and places of interest to visit, including the main attractions not to be missed.

Petra Travel Guide

Jordan is Petra, the ancient city and splendid archaeological site, located halfway between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, 250 km. South of Amman. The city was created by digging into the rock to the east of the Wadi Araba, the mountains in a place inhabited thousands of years before the coming of Christ. The area was inhabited by the Edomites, a people specialized in the manufacture of ceramics, towards the end of the sixth century. BC came the Nabataeans, a nomadic Arab people who settled there gradually enticed by the good geographical position and the abundance of water resources in the area, obtained by retrieving and managing ingeniously rainwater.

In the second century BC, Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom, a major city located along the ancient incense route, a path along which occurred caravan trade in spices, silk, incense and exotic goods. A Petra caravans could do stop and find hospitality, security and water in exchange for a tax on goods.

With the Roman occupation, Petra experienced a remarkable development in terms of urban planning, but at the same time lost its importance from the commercial point of view, as the Romans took control of routes and caravans stopped to Petra declined considerably, to such point that even the Nabataean people lost power and wealth. In the fourth century AD, these events are also added a strong earthquake that partly destroyed the city and caused the beginning of a slow exodus of residents.

What to see in Petra

Excavations have unearthed some churches dating from the fifth century, evidence of the spread of Christianity in Petra, while the Islamic conquest, which took place in the region between 629 and 632, did not score particularly the city as reduced to an isolated village center of power. The area was conquered by the Crusaders Franks, in 1187 was reconquered by Muslims.

The city gradually abandoned, was occupied by local Bedouins and forgotten by the Western world, until its rediscovery took place August 22, 1812 for about Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Petra, an extraordinary work of human ingenuity and nature, has been declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

Byzantine Church: This church building little remains, above which there is now a modern building. In its original form, the church had been built by the Nabateans, later redesigned and enlarged by the Byzantines around the year 530 AD. It was a single nave, decorated with geometric designs and with a single entrance in front.

Have followed several renovations, mainly because of the damage sustained from the building during periodic earthquakes. Thanks to an American Center, which specializes in research and studies on Eastern religions, the church was restored perfectly. Much of the ancient remains were reused, arranging them around a quadrangular courtyard with perimeter formed by 12 columns and a well in the center.

On the opposite side the entrance of the place of worship is the baptistery, on the south side of the courtyard, the floor around the altar and the nave is decorated with polychrome marble inserts, while the sides are mosaics attributed to the school of Gaza . Six columns dividing the aisles from the nave. The mosaic of the right aisle consists of 51 medals on three files depicting humans and the 4 seasons.

In the left aisle there are as many as 84 medallions, which are represented animals and plants. In the nave were discovered papyri of Petra, a series of 152 rolls of documents relating to contracts, loans and various topics of interest civil, dating back to the administration of the sixth century. At this discovery is given a great historical value as it is proven the continuation of the Nabataean culture during the Byzantine era.

Tomb of Aaron is a small building dating back to the thirteenth century, located on the Mount of Aaron, Jabal Harun, in the chain of Shara. To reach this place you must start from the lower city of Petra, passing on foot behind the Palace of Pharaoh’s daughter and going straight up to where the trail begins to climb.

Starting to count time from here, to be considered a time of over 4 hours to get to the funerary monument, a little less to get it back, a trip which therefore requires a whole day, starting early in the morning.