Petra, Jordan

Glimpse of the Treasury through the colorful rock formations of the Siq, Petra. Photo Creative Commons License Didier Baertschiger.

Petra is a spectacular Nabatean city in western Jordan. With massive façades that have been carved entirely out of the existing red sandstone, Petra's magnificent temples and tombs are like no other religious buildings in the world, and the surrounding rugged landscape dotted with historical sites are a hiker's paradise.

Petra has been a city of great religious significance since ancient times. First, it has a number of connections with the Old Testament: the nearby Ain Mousa (Spring of Moses) is believed to be where Moses struck a rock with his staff to extract water; and Aaron is said to have died in the Petra area and been buried atop Jabal Haroun (Mount Aaron).

Later, the Nabateans built a city packed with tombs, temples, sanctuaries and altars to their gods. Finally, in its last years, Petra was the home of at least one Byzantine church. This section explores the many wonders of Petra in articles and pictures, from its dramatic history to its fascinating sights that awe modern visitors - up to 3,000 of whom visit Petra each day.

Believed by the Bedouin to contain a pharaoh's treasure, the Treasury is a beautiful Nabatean temple carved entirely out of the living rock.
Misleadingly named based on crosses scratched on the wall, this is a huge, rock-carved Nabatean temple built around the 1st century BC.
Great Temple
This temple ruin in the city center is one of the largest structures in Petra. It was built in the late 1st century BC and is still being excavated.
Visitors to Petra begin their exploration with a walk (or donkey ride) through this dramatic sandstone canyon dotted with Nabatean carvings and monuments like the Obelisk Tomb.
Byzantine Church
Among Petra's ancient temples is a Byzantine church dating from the 5th and 6th centuries. Still being excavated, Petra Church contains some extraordinary Byzantine mosaics.