Petra is a famous city carved out of stone, hidden by towering sandstone mountains in Jordan. It was an important city, and was the main city of an ancient people called the Nabataens, who lived in southern Jordan, Canaan and the northern part of Arabia, and created a kingdom with its capital at Petra.The facade, carved out from the sandstone canyon wall, is 120 feet high. It is the best preserved of the structures in Petra. The name Khazneh, which means "treasury" comes from the legend that it was used as a hiding place for treasure. It was likely either a temple or tomb, possibly both.
Petra has been a city of great religious significance both in ancient times and today. First, it has a number of connections with the Old Testament: the nearby Ain Mousa (Spring of Moses) is believed to be where Moses struck a rock with his staff to extract water and Aaron is said to have died in the Petra area and been buried on what is today the sacred site atop Jabal Haroun (Mount Aaron). Later, the city built by the Nabataeans was packed with tombs, temples, sanctuaries and altars to their gods. And in its last years, Petra was the home of several Byzantine churches.
The name Petra, which means "rock" in Greek and Latin (derived from the word petrae), is actually a modern name for the place. This is because the city was carved from the friable sandstone cliffs of the area. The rocks take on a multitude of hues ranging from cream to orange, to red, and to dark brown. Layers of these rocks form whorls of colours which were incorporated into the Nabatean architecture.
The Petra Church seems to have first been built over Nabataean and Roman remains around 450 AD. 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 AD earthquake.
When first constructed around 450, the church had only one apse and an entrance porch. The Mosaic of the Seasons in the southern aisle is from this period. In 500-50 AD, the church was remodeled. Two side apses were installed and the two-story atrium built. The nave was paved and the chancel screens, a pulpit, and wall mosaics were installed, as were the mosaics of the northern aisle and the eastern end of the southern aisle.
The Petra region has been the site of some of the most important cultural developments in the history of humankind. Early agriculture and metallurgy were practiced here, and links were forged in a trading network that stretched from East Asia to Europe.
These events are remembered in sacred stories, and today the region is a part of what adherents to the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religions consider their homeland. Limestone highlands, the purple area in the lower right, were forested areas before the trees were cut down. The center area (green and orange) is a region of canyon-cut sandstone steppes. Important sources of water originate in the bright band that forms the boundary between these two geological regions.
Petra was recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site since 1985, and was described as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage." On 7 July 2007, it was voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.