JORDAN – The discovery of Petra

JORDAN – The discovery of Petra

Giordania Petra

Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage City and has been declared one of the seven wonders of the world. It is certainly the most renowned and visited site in Jordan and the main reason for the trip to the destination.

It is also very interesting to know how this beauty was discovered and delivered to the knowledge of the whole modern world. In fact, after the end of the Nabataean kingdom, the pink city (as Petra is also recognized) remained in the shadows for centuries and was only rediscovered about two hundred years ago, in 1812, by a young Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

His great ambition was to discover the source of the Niger river. He prepared the shipment carefully, studied Arabic, medicine, chemistry and astronomy, getting used to sleeping outdoors and feeding only on fruits and vegetables. He wanted to pass himself off as a Muslim, so he also studied Quranic law and Islamic culture. In 1809 he left for Cairo, passing through Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

To tell the truth, he never arrived to West Africa and the great Niger River, in fact, during the journey he learned of a wonderful ancient city, forgotten by all and feared by local Bedouins, hidden in the impenetrable mountains. This legend excited him to the point that he organized a search. He hired a local guide and as a motivation to justify the trip he pretended to want to sacrifice a goat in honor of Aaron, brother of Moses, being the valley close to the tomb.

He left Damascus in the direction of Aqaba, along the Dead Sea. Two days on horseback from the coast, he found the narrow passage that led him into the canyon, right where the city of Petra stood. Burckhardt immediately understood the importance of his discovery, but had to remain silent to prevent the population from accusing him of being an unfaithful and only a treasure hunter. He then made the sacrifice of the unfortunate goat and returned.

He then told the discovery in his travel diary published in 1822.

Today Petra is one of the most popular archaeological sites in the world and its visit, from walking the Siq up to the climb to the Monastery is an unforgettable experience and must be done at least once in a lifetime.