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Brief history of Petra and the ancient tribes spices route

Petra, recently defined as one of the modern wonders of the world and a world heritage site by UNESCO, has long roots in the history of mankind.

Petra is an ancient site located in Wadi Musa, about one hundred kilometers northern to Aqaba, South Jordan. Petra is surrounded by mountains, therefore accessible only from the east side, the “Siq” canyon. The first settlers were the Edomites, around the 7-9th centuries. Then the Nabataeans came along at the third century BC, conquering it from the Edomites and declaring Petra as their capital.

The interest that the ancient tribes had in Petra was due to three reasons. First of all – location. Petra was a junction between the Mediterranean sea, Egypt, Eilat, Arabian Peninsula and Syria. Secondly, it was a trading center for spices and goods which were made in the Arava region, such as incense and metal. The third reason was strategic. Defending Petra was easy. All needed to be done was blocking the Siq canyon.

From the 1st century AD, Petra became helenistic, then roman. The relics of the spectacular monuments at the site indicates their influences. At 106 BC, right after the Romand conquered Petra from the Nabataeans, it became the capital of Arabea Petraea and held a senate and an archive.

The fall of Petra had begun when Basra became the capital of the province, and completed when the city of Tadmor Syria took over the Syrian trade, and the route to Yemen and India had switched to the red sea. On the 4th century AD Petra became the capital of Palestine III, and for a while it was run by a bishop.

The arab conquest had eventually erased Petra, until it was rediscovered by the swiss explorer J.L Burckhardt on 1812.






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