Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Zain. Zain Wonders, “What is Petra” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Zain!
Have you ever hiked through a cave? Exploring caves is a common hobby. Some people travel to places like Mammoth Cave or the Grand Canyon for unique experiences. Others travel all the way to Jordan to visit caves in the city of Petra.
Are you WONDERing what's so special about Petra?
Petra is one of only a few cities in the world that are carved from stone! Until the late 20th Century, people still lived in Petra's man-made caves away from the rest of the world.
People settled in Petra as early as 9,000 BCE. Around the year 400 BCE, the Nabataean Empire made the city its capital. The Nabataeans were the ones who carved most of the city's buildings from the nearby sandstone.
The Nabataeans chose Petra as their capital because it was in the perfect place to become a center of trade. Many trade routes ran through Petra, so merchants from around the world traveled through the city. People met in Petra to trade goods from every corner of the globe.
Around the turn of the first century C.E., the Roman Empire took over Nabataean lands, and trade in Petra slowed. It wasn't long before merchants stopped traveling through the city altogether. Soon, Petra was all but forgotten.
For the next several hundred years, the only people to enter Petra were those who lived there. Called the Bedouins, the cave city's citizens sought to keep it a secret from the rest of the world. European explorers whispered rumors of the stone city, but none of them had seen it. They called it the "Lost City."
In 1812, Swiss scholar Johan Burckhardt wanted to see Petra. In disguise, Burckhardt found a local guide to lead him to the village. When he finally saw Petra, Burckhardt was in awe. He returned to Europe and later brought others to the city.
For over a hundred years after Burckhardt arrived, the Bedouins continued living in the caves of Petra. Then in 1985, the UN named Petra a World Heritage Site. To protect the site, they decided no one could live there anymore. The Bedouins moved from their cave homes, even though many of them wanted to stay. Today, many Bedouins live near the city and work as tourist guides.
Today, hundreds of modern tourists visit the sandstone city of Petra each day. Visitors walk or ride camels to protect Petra from automobile pollution. They visit sandstone structures like the Monastery, the Roman Theater, and the Treasury.
Is the Treasury full of riches? No, and experts believe it never was! Sill, no one can say for sure what lies in all the caves of Petra. We have only explored around 15% of the ancient city. What discoveries are yet to come?