Articles > Petra, Jordan

by Alexis Ulrich  LinkedIn

Discover the magnificent city of Petra, Jordan, and initiate yourself to Arabic with the meaning of its most prestigious structures.

Petra (Al Batrāʾ, اَلْبَتْرَاء‎)

Royal Tombs


Al Batrāʾ


Located in the south east of actual Jordan, Petra is an archaeological city, ancient capital of the Nabateans established circa 312 BCE. Their shrines were carved in the sandstone rock and their city was accessible through a narrow gorge (the Siq). It was a natural fortress where this once nomadic people settled down, leaving their previous lifestyle for agriculture and camels and sheeps rising. The city was set on the caravans routes between Yemen and the Mediterranean sea, an oasis with many huge cisterns of water.

The Siq (Al Sīq, السيق‎‎)

The Siq


Al Sīq

The Shaft

With a length of about 1.2 kilometres (0.75 miles), the Siq is a narrow gorge that meanders between two natural cliffs. Once a paved road, it also presents two water channels carved in the rock. The height of the walls, which can be as high as 182 metres, gives the impression of a processional route with its sacred stones, niches and sculptures.

The Treasury (Al Khazneh, اَلْخَزَنَة‎)

The Treasury


Al Khazneh

The Treasury

Originally built as a mausoleum and crypt at the beginning of the 1st century CE, this temple takes its name from the legend bandits or pirates hid their loot in a stone urn high on the second level. Another legend explains its Khaznet Far’oun name, or Pharaoh’s Treasury: a treasure was concealed there by a powerful black magician identified as a pharaoh. This is why the urn at the top, which is in fact made of solid sandstone, has been shot many times through the ages.

The word Khazneh is based on the K-N-Z root (kāf nūn zāy, ك ن ز ), such as treasure (كَنْز).

The Monastery (Ad Deir, اَلدَّيْر‎)

The Monastery


Ad Deir

The Monastery

Dated to the mid-1st century CE on stylistic grounds, this temple takes its name from the belief that it served as a church during Byzantine times. Christian crosses have been carved on the back wall of the alcove in the interior, and on some of the roundels of the Doric frieze during the fourth or fifth centuries. However, it is yet unknown which type of worship was practiced by the Nabataeans there.

Photo credit: Mirror of Ashes