Sunday, August 24, 2003

Treasures include 800 monuments

The Petra basin holds more than 800 monuments dating back to the Neolithic Nabataean, Roman, Assyrian, Egyptian and Greek cultures. The region is "dramatic testament to the art, wealth and technological skills shared between great ancient civilizations," the Petra National Trust says.

The basin's treasures include:

The Siq - Imagine entering the city by way of a 11/2-mile-long winding ravine between rock faces towering 150 to 250 feet high and in some places only 15 to 20 feet wide. Your first view stepping out of the rock cavern is a 131-foot-tall tomb etched into the red rock.

al-Khazneh - The most impressive of Petra's monuments. A grand example of Hellenistic architecture with ornate pillars supporting a portico with a 10-foot tall stone urn, it was known as "The Treasury" because of a pirate legend that claimed the pharaohs' treasure was hidden in the urn. The Bedouins periodically shot at the urn hoping to free the treasure. Bullet holes are still visible on the building's fa┴ade.

The Amphitheater - An 8,000-seat stadium created around the time of Christ from multicolored stone.

Qasr Bint al-Faroun - The "Palace of the Pharaoh's Daughter" was created in 30 B.C. and is also known as the Temple of Dushara (chief male deity). Carved from yellow sandstone blocks, it was the main place of worship and the only freestanding structure in Petra.

Petra Church - A well-preserved Byzantine church paved with 348 square feet of disk-shaped mosaic depicting native, as well as mythological, animals and personifications of the seasons. The tiles date back to the fifth and early sixth centuries. In 1993, 152 papyrus scrolls dating to the sixth century in Byzantine Greek and late Arabic were found in the basilica. They constitute the largest group of ancient texts found in Jordan.

al-Deir - "The Monastery" is similar in appearance to the Khazneh but much larger. Carved out of the rock face sometime between the first and third centuries B.C. (but never completed), it received its name from the crosses on the inside walls.

- Marilyn Bauer

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