The Rediscovery of Petra By a Masquerading Explorer

By | February 12, 2019

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View of Al Khazneh, the Treasury, Petra, Jordan, engraving by Lemaitre from Arabie, by Noel Desvergers, Freres, Paris, 1847. Source: (

Chances are, your first introduction to the ancient city of Petra was when it was featured in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The incredible city carved out of the face of a sheer cliff wall inside a slot canyon, may have looked like a movie set designed just for that action movie, but Petra is, in fact, a very real place. Built eons ago, Petra was once a thriving city along trade routes, but it was abandoned and forgotten until its rediscovery in 1812 by a Swiss adventurer who was traveling in disguise. Here is the incredible story of the uniquely beautiful ancient city of Petra and how it was found again by an undercover explorer. 

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No One Knows When Petra Was Built

Located south of the capital city of Amman in Jordan, Petra is a very old archaeological site that has become Jordan’s number one tourist attraction. Yet no one knows for sure when the ancient city was built. There are existing records that have shown that the city was a thriving stop on the spice trade routes and the capital of the Nabataean Empire by the first century BC. The Romans took control of the city and included mentions of it in their writings. But Petra failed to fully bounce back from an earthquake in 363 AD that caused widespread destruction. Changes in the trade routes meant that visitors were no longer flooding into the city. By the middle of the 7th century AD, the city was abandoned and largely forgotten. Only the nomadic Bedouins occasionally stopped at the ruins.