When it was decided to vote in a new set of the Seven Wonders of the World, the lost city known as Petra in Jordan was one of the lucky seven to be admired and loved by visitors across the globe. Little is known about its exact origins as well as its history. However, more and more details are unraveled by the day historians. Remains from the Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods have been discovered at Petra, and the biblical Edomites are believed to have occupied the area about 1200 BC. Although it hasn’t been proven, Petra may also be the city of Sela mentioned in the Old Testament.

Little is known of the Nabateans before 312 BC but historical texts dictate Petra achieved its greatest importance under them. The Nabateans were an ancient people whose original homeland was located in Northeastern Arabia. They migrated westward in the 6th Century BC eventually settling in Petra. As the Seleucid kingdom weakened in the 2nd century BC, the Nabataean kingdom increased in strength as they monopolized the caravan trade moving incense, myrrh, spices, gold, copper and possibly slaves which involved such places as China, Egypt, Greece, and India and passed from the Arabia to the coast. By the 1st century BC the Nabataean kingdom extended from Damascus to the Red Sea. Petra inhabited as many as 30,000 people. During this period, impressive structures of Petra were built, including the Treasury, the Great Temple and the Qasr el-Bint el-Faroun. Conduits and the remains of terracotta piping can be seen along the walls of the Outer Siq, which was part of an elaborate system for channeling water around the city.

Roman general Pompey's appeared in Petra’s history in 64 - 63 BCE conquering the Nabataeans. Fortunate for them, he believed in retaining Nabatean as a buffer for desert tribes. In 105-106 AD the Roman emperor Trajan annexed the Nabatean kingdom as part of a major military campaign on Rome's eastern frontiers. The former Nabataean kingdom became the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. However, the final period of Nabataean history was one of peace as allies of Rome. Although, after Roman annexation, the Nabateans ceased to be an identifiable political group. In the 1st century AD, the Siq was paved and the impressive classical theater was added. A Nabataean-style tomb was built in Petra for the Roman governor of Arabia Sextius Florentius (127 AD), and a high-ranking Roman soldier was buried in another tomb. The Urn Tomb also dates around the 2nd-3rd century.

A Byzantine church was built around 450-500 AD. Various tombs and temples at Petra were also used as churches, including the Monastery and the Urn Tomb. Changing trade routes in the 2nd and 3rd centuries caused Petra's gradual commercial decline, and in 511, an especially bad earthquake sealed the city's fate. Islam arrived in the Arab invasion of the 7th century.  After the Crusades in the 12th Century, Petra became a "lost city," known only to local Arabs. It remained hidden for 500 years. 

The Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered Petra in 1812. Several years before, he was contracted by a London-based association to explore the "interior parts of Africa." Three years later, after intense study of Islam and Arabic, Burckhardt disguised himself as a Muslim scholar, took the name Ibrahim ibn Abdullah, and set out for Egypt. During his journey, he was lured by local tales of a lost city in the mountains. Under the pretence of a sacrifice to the Prophet Aaron, he convinced a guide to take him there. In 1812 he became the first modern Westerner to see Petra. He died in 1817 but his book - Travels in Syria (Jordaan) and the Holy Land (1822) - compiled from his papers revealed the existence of Petra to the western world. Several people visited the “lost city”, but Petra remained an inaccessible and inhospitable city where strangers were not particularly welcome until the 1920s.

In World War I, the British hero T.E. Lawrence, also known for penning Lawrence of Arabia, famously assisted Arab tribes revolting against Turkish rule, leading many Arab guerilla operations in the desert. In one such operation, he trapped Turkish soldiers in the Siq in Petra. Since then, excavations at Petra have uncovered many of its secrets as well as revealing several temples and monuments, providing insight in to the the ancient city’s political, social and religious traditions. Will all of Petra’s 9000+ years worth of history be recovered? Perhaps stories of Djinns will keep seekers at arms length.

Legend states Petra has long been haunted by a ghoulish spirit; one Bedouins have long feared in the night. Even American visitors have witnessed a ghostly spectre on top of the Red City. Many believe hidden in the dark recesses of ancient burial chambers lies ghosts with the taste of possessing humans, also known as Djinns. These beings have often been associated with powerful beings caged in lamps who are forced to grant wishes to their masters. Their folklore counterpart is anything but that. The Treasury Tomb has become the symbol of the mysterious ancient city as well as a hot spot for paranormal activity. Are the Djinn protecting all those buried within Petra’s stone walls or looking for a way out?


Elizabet said…
Interesting post
I would love to visit Petra & God willing, one day will
Had not heard of the ghost story before - interesting!
Valeria said…
I would like to know more about ghosts in Petra because in november I was there for a tour and once at home looking at the picture that I took that day I found two of them where there is something like a ghost, so now I wondering who is.
hello from Clifford D.Cope, Petra is a really cool place. That is wher I got the idea to write GHOSTS OF PETRA. soon to be followed by GHOST OF MACHU PICCHU. and OTHWRLD. Check out my GHOSTS OF PETRA or my facebook, or

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