The splendid site in Jordan looks rock solid, but UNESCO and others are worried about its stability
Petra, an ancient Nabatean site in southern Jordan, had been on my bucket list even before Indiana Jones visited on horseback. Sculpted sandstone, slot canyons and spectacular structures carved into the pink-hued rock. The most spectacular façade is The Treasury, made famous in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” an unreal story filmed in a very real place. One of my motivations for signing up for the recent Society of American Travel Writers Freelance Council meeting in Israel largely so that I could also visit Petra, once the crossroads of the Nabatean kingdom and now a splendid, captivating archaeological site in southern Jordan.
I spent a few precious hours in Petra, like many tourists, on a day trip from Eilat or from a cruise ship calling on Aqaba on the Jordanian side of the border. For visitors like me coming from Eilat, there are border formalities, both Israeli and Jordanian, so that officials can do whatever with passports and collect exit fees ($55 when leaving Israel, $8 when leaving Jordan on the return). Then there’s the bus ride over the mountains, which had a dusting of snow in January, an obligatory stop at a barely heated gift shop and finally, to the entrance to the site on the outskirts of the town of Wadi Moussa. Petra was an important as crossroads for camel caravans that traveled the trade routes linking it with China, India, southern Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. The Nabateans established it sometime around the 6th century B.C., with golden age of construction between the 2nd century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. Problems came first when the Roman Empire swallowed all and then when the Crusaders had their turn at invading this land.
Petra had long been considered a “lost city” from antiquity. It was discovered — or rediscovered — in 1812, just 200 years ago. It has since become a UNESCO World Heritage site, is listed on the “new list” of seven wonders of the ancient world (the new list being of wonders that still exist) and is Jordan‘s #1 tourist attraction. As Petra Archaeological Park, it is now managed by an autonomous authority. Continue reading Petra Threatened? Hard to Tell in a Few Hours