I had taken the bus from Amman to the town of Wadi Musa, a few kilometers from Petra. The night before I ventured to Petra, we watched the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at my hostel. Petra is featured in the movie, near the end. It was my favorite of the Indiana Jones movies and was all the preparation I needed to get pumped up for my visit.
I have had the opportunity to be "wowed" by many things over the past seventeen months so I didn't think that I would be as moved by seeing another UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Petra is something to behold. The intricacy and the scale of the temples and building carved into the mountain is mind blowing. I am still in awe as I write about it today. Part of the allure of the site is getting there. You have to walk about 25 minutes through a natural gorge that winds through the area before you get to a clearing. As you exit the gorge, this is the site that you first see.
Petra was the impressive capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC. The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans continued to expand the city. An important center for trade and commerce, Petra continued to flourish until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled vital water management systems around AD 663. After Saladin's conquest of the Middle East in 1189, Petra was abandoned and the memory of it was lost to the West.
The ruins remained hidden to most of the world until the Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin-occupied city in 1812. Burckhardt's accounts of his travels inspired other Western explorers and historians to discover the ancient city further. The most famous of these was David Roberts, a Scottish artist who created a number of accurate and detailed illustrations of the city in 1839.
The first real excavations of the site were in 1929 after the forming of Trans-Jordan. Since that time, Petra has become by far Jordan's largest tourist attraction, partially due to the exposure by the Steven Spielberg movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in 1989. Due to the fantastic engineering accomplishments and well-preserved dimension of Petra, the archaeological site was chosen in July 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. (Wiki Travel- Petra Travel Guide.)