A rose red city half as old as time.
January 3, 2006 2:10 PM Subscribe
A rose red city half as old as time. Petra, which means "stone" in Greek, is perhaps the most spectacular ancient city remaining in the modern world. The city was the capital of the Nabateans - Arabs who dominated the lands of Jordan during pre-Roman times - and they carved this wonderland of temples, tombs and elaborate buildings out of solid rock nearly 3000 years ago. By the end of the Byzantine Empire (circa A.D. 700), the once dignified and gracious buildings in the center of town had deteriorated to near ruins. For centuries, Petra fell into the mists of legend, its existence a guarded secret known only to the local Bedouins and Arab tradesmen. Finally, in 1812, a young Swiss explorer and convert to Islam named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt heard locals speaking of a "lost city" hidden in the mountains of Wadi Mousa. Burckhardt disguised himself as a pilgrim seeking to make a sacrifice at the tomb of Aaron. He managed to bluff his way through successfully, and the secret of Petra was revealed to the modern Western world.
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