By Hanan Rawashdeh
Petra, “the rose city” or the “red city’’, like how the Arab call it is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan, in the governorate of Maan. This famous rock cut architecture has earned the position of one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and was listed in the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “28 places to see before you die”. It is the symbol of tourism for the country Jordan, the middle east.
There are many architectural elements and systems in this historical city that make it remarkably unique. The path that leads to it, the embedded water system, the bulk and size of the cut out structures, the amount of detail in the sculpturing of the elevations and many more.
The Nabataean kingdom, also named Nabatea, was the Arabic political state of the Nabataeans. Petra city was made by them and was their capital during their period, the classical antiquity, which is possibly around the 300 BC. Te Arab Nabataeans controlled vast expanses of desert in Jordan and with Petra’s highly strategic natural resources and location in a position that controlled the caravan routes that crossed the Arabian Peninsula from the ports of both the Persian Gulf and the red sea, Petra was marked as a center for trade where caravan’s could stop trade change currency and take rest.
The path leading to the hidden valley city between the high mountains is of approximately 1.2 kilometers with a narrow width that at some points reaches only 9.8 ft wide. This narrow path is carved into the rocks surrounding the city. With the sunlight refractions on the colored rock changing amongst the hour of the day the journey to the hidden city becomes a beautiful and interesting experience for any visitor . And right before one reaches the entrance of the city, at the end of the siq, a glimpse of the “Treasury” or “Al Khaznah ahead then quickly disappears to continue the siq for a couple of minutes, thus the iconic picture of the red city. The siq’s end opens suddenly to the great façade of the treasury. The facade is a beautifully ornate tomb. It is the most impressive and grandest hand carved Structure in the red sandstone mountain of all Petra’s tombs.
Another impressive element which could be easily noticed the moment one enters the siq of Petra is the carved open channels that flake either side of the siq. Like a perennial stream, this distribution system and water supply of the Nabataean city of Petra had exploited all possible water resources using management techniques that balance reservoir storage capacity with continuous flow pipeline systems to maintain a constant water supply throughout the year. The ancient City development was influenced artistically, culturally and technologically from Seleucid, Syro-Phoenician, Greek and Roman civilizations. Hydraulic technologies derived from these contacts as well as original technical innovations helped maintain the high living standard of city dwellers throughout the centuries. A demonstration of engineering capability that indicates a high degree of cognitive skill which the Nabataea Arabs had in solving complex hydraulic problems and ensuring a stable water supply.