Pliny the Elder, and other writers, identified Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans and the center of their caravan trade
. Enclosed by towering rocks with a constant source of water, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress, but controlled the main commercial routes. Archaeological excavations indicate that the Nabataeans had the ability to control the water supply that led to the growth of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area has regular flash floods and archaeological evidence shows the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns, and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought and enabled the city to prosper.
When entering Petra, through the Siq, few tourists realize that among these relics of ancient people are those who still live in the area and maintain the traditional nomadic way of life. The Bedouin community has been drifting across the sand since long before Jordan existed. The name in their native tongue of Arabic literally means "desert dwellers," and for centuries they have cared a life in this harsh landscape. Despite being isolated from what we consider civilization, the Bedouin people are known for their hospitality to travelers and are often happy to share a meal with visitors they come across.
"Indiana Jones" introduced this beautiful area to the world. I wonder how many of us knew of Petra before the movie. I didn't. We had our own Indiana Jones in the guise of our guide, Samir. Petra is more amazing than we ever imagined! Inhabited since prehistoric times, it became a bustling metropolis of about 30,000 with the arrival of the Nebateans. They built this trading empire between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE. In 106 CE, Petra was annexed by Rome; Christianity arrived in the 4th century, the Muslims in the 7th century, and the Crusaders in the 12th. Petra was then deserted and forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1812 by J. L. Burckhardt.