The Discovery of Petra



The city of Petra, the capital of the once great Nabatean civilization until the end of the 1st century CE, when it had lost its importance on the trade routes, lay deserted and forgotten until Johann Burckhardt rode through a narrow canyon to rediscover its true magnificence.


Whilst in the Wadi Mousa, the Valley of Moses, Burckhardt the Swiss adventurer, heard that there were some interesting ruins nearby His guide took him through the narrow gorge which grew steadily narrower. As he rode through the gorge he grew more excited by the minute until, emerging into the dazzling sunlight, he stared with amazement at what lay before him. He noted, "The ground is covered with heaps of hewn stones, foundations of buildings, fragments of columns and vestiges of paved streets, all clearly indicating that a large city once existed here."


At the time Burckhardt was not entirely sure what he had found although he thought it was Petra, but he had to control his excitement as Arabs believed that the “Pharoah’s Treasury” contained the wealth of ancient Egyptian rulers which they guarded against Western “magicians” who would spirit it away.


Burckhardt wrote "the antiquities of Wadi Mousa will be found to rank amongst the most curious remains of ancient art."












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