City of Petra

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The ancient city of Petra, known as Rekem in ancient times, was the metropolitan area of the larger archaeological site. It was established possibly as early as 312 BCE as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.

Petra was home to roughly 30,000 people and was abandoned in the year 106 CE because of reasons unknown. The city proper had a siq, walls, towers, water conduits, and cisterns. In ancient times, Petra might have been approached from the south on a track leading across the plain of Petra, around Jabal Haroun ("Aaron's Mountain"), where the Tomb of Aaron, said to be the burial-place of Aaron, brother of Moses, is located. It was also an important stop along the Incense Trade Route.

Notable Remains

circa 100 CE

Great Temple of Petra

Great Temple
The remains of the Great Temple of Petra represents one of the major archaeological and architectural components of central Petra. One of the largest Nabatean complexes in Petra, the Great Temple is a two-level structure dating from the 1st century BCE. Based on the style of fragments found at the site, archaeologists believe the Great Temple was built in the last quarter of the 1st century BCE and further enlarged in the 1st century CE. It continued to be used until the Byzantine period (5th century).

circa 200 CE

Qasr al-Bint
The Qasr al-Bint Far'un (قصر بنت الفرعون) was Petra’s main temple. The name was given to it by the Bedouin, meaning "Castle of the Pharaoh's Daughter," and derives from a local legend. It was probably built during the second half of the 1st century BCE, during the reign of Obodas III, consecrated to the main Nabataean god Dushara, or center of a joint cult of Dushara and the goddess al'Uzza. The temple sanctuary is divided in three compartments. The middle one protected an altar platform that housed images of the deity.

circa 100 CE

Colonnaded Street
The remains of colonnade street in city proper, Petra, looking towards the arched gate. From the Main Theater to the Qasa al-Bint is the Colonnaded Street. The ancient shops once flanking this avenue are gone or are in ruins. However, modern archaeological museum has been built along this pedestrian walkway. The Decumanus Maximus was built by the Romans after they took control of Petra in 106 CE. That year marked the end of the Nabataean Era. The city then became part of the Roman Empire’s Provincia Arabia.

circa 100 CE

Temple of the WInged Lions, Petra

Temple of the Winged Lions
The Temple of Winged Lions is an extemely enigmatic Nabataean religious building situated prominently on the north slope of the Wadi Musa (Moses’ Valley), overlooking the ancient city center of Petra. It is a large sacred complex with an ascending staircase, a grand entrance flanked by columns, and an inner cultic chamber with a raised podium. While most of the columns had Corinthian-style capitals, the dozen columns surrounding the main podium were adorned with the unique “winged lion” capitals that give the monument its modern name.

circa 100 CE

Nymphaeum (Roman water fountain) at Petra

The remains of the Nymphaeum, it was a grand public fountain along Petra's Colonnaded Street. Only the foundations remain today, standing in the shade of a tree. It was situated at the confluence of two watercourses, dedicated to the water nymphs and was probably one of the improvements made to the city after the Roman annexation. The Nymphaeum was a giant water fountain in the center of Petra - an extraordinary luxury in the middle of the desert.

circa 100 CE

Blue Chapel, Petra

Blue Chapel
The remains of the Blue Chapel, so named after its four blue Egyptian granite columns, topped with Nabataean horned capitals, that collapsed in an 8th-century earthquake but have been re-erected. The columns have been reconstructed along with the distinctive Nabataean flourishes at the top. It is one of the three Byzantine churches on the North Ridge of Petra, above the Colonnaded Street. The North Ridge churches are Byzantine (5th - 6th century), and have a complex history, involving several distinct building phases and the reuse of earlier Nabataean structures.

circa 100 CE

Petra Theater

Petra Theater (Arabic: مسرح البتراء) is a first century CE Nabataean theater situated 600 m from the centre of Petra. Substantial part of the theater was carved out of solid rock, while the scaena and exterior wall were constructed. Although Roman in design, being carved out opposed to being built is characteristically distinctive Nabataean. The theater was built in the cultural and political apex of the Nabataean kingdom under Aretas IV (9 CE-40 CE). The theater could accommodate a number of approximately 8500 people, more than the estimated number of Amman theater.

circa 100 CE


The Siq (Arabic: السيق‎, transliterated al-Sīq, transcribed as-Sīq,[a] literally 'the Shaft') is the main entrance to the ancient Nabatean city of Petra in southern Jordan. The Siq was used as the grand caravan entrance into Petra. Along the Siq are some underground chambers, the function of which has not yet been clarified. Also known as Siqit, the main entrance in Petra is a dim, narrow gorge (in some points no more than 3 metres (10 ft) wide) winds its way approximately 1.2 kilometres (0.75 mi) and ends at Petra's most elaborate ruin, al-Khazneh (the Treasury).

circa 100 CE

Dorotheos' House

Dorotheos House
A complex of ruined houses, rather than just one, this set of ruins earned its name as Dorotheos' House from the Greek inscription on the triclinium. The triclinium, a vast building intended for feasting, is easily identified by the three doors and windows. Dorotheus's name is incised twice in Greek. Complex was probably the private dwelling of this wealthy citizen and his extrended family.

circa 100 CE

Petra Church

Byzantine Church
The Petra Church is a Byzantine church in the ancient city of Petra, located a few hundred meters off the colonnaded street near the Temple of the Winged Lions. When first constructed around 450 CE, the church had only one apse and an entrance porch. The Mosaic of the Seasons in the southern aisle is from this period. The site was excavated in 1992-98 by the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR). It may have been a major 5th- and 6th-century cathedral, which is intriguing given the other evidence of Petra's decline after a 363 CE earthquake.

circa 100 CE

Temenos Gate

Gate of Emperor Hadrian
At the end of the Colonnaded Street, a monumental triple-arched gate, also known as the Temenos Gate, marks the access to the sacred open precinct of the Temenos. Probably built by Hadrian, this ceremonial entrance to the sacred section (temenos) of town once had three impressive arches. The square ornamental reliefs are Nabataean motifs and this suggests a period of architectural if not political compatibility between the two empires during the early 2nd century annexation of Petra to the Romans.

circa 100 CE

Tomb of prophet Hārūn
The small Islamic white-washed mosque (weli), believed to contain the tomb of prophet Haroun (Aaron) still can be seen on the top of the mountain is from the mid-14th century originally said to be built above the tomb of Aaron (illustration) and most probably on an earlier structure. Indeed, Josephus and Eusebius both describe its location above the city of Petra. This site at Jabal Hārūn (Aaron's Mountain) is occasionally visited by Jewish pilgrims as well as Muslims.

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