Petra. Wonder in the Desert at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden

A spectacular exhibition on Petra, Jordan’s hidden desert city. Petra, capital city of the ancient Nabataean people, is one of the wonders of the ancient world. With its monumental structures, temples, royal tombs and luxurious villas all hewn from the red rock, Petra is among the world’s finest in cultural history and archaeology.

Petra. Wonder in the Desert at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden
Siq with a view of al-Khazneh temple [Credit: Jane Taylor]
150 archaeological and architectonic highlights

The exhibition displays over 150 archaeological and architectonic highlights from Petra, showing you the most stunning locations in the city. The siq, a narrow canyon, gives way to the city. Inside, we find buildings such as sanctuaries, villas, the treasury of al-Khazneh and a luxurious residence, all built on the slopes of the Umm al-Biyara massif. The exhibition’s displays exude the atmosphere of the awe-inspiring ruins and the desert to introduce visitors to the Nabataeans and their architecture, culture, art and religion. Never before have so many objects from Petra been on display in The Netherlands.

Eye-catchers: detailed sculpture from Petra

The eye-catcher of the exhibition is the collection of detailed sculpture decorating the city’s buildings. You will see reliefs with animals and plant motifs, portraits of gods, goddesses and mythical animals, life-size statues and gracefully carved columns. You will also find frescoes and pieces of finely painted Nabataean pottery. A 3-D installation brings the city back to life before your eyes, based on results from the most recent archaeological excavations.

A flourishing capital in the desert

In antiquity, Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans, who were nomadic in origin. Around two thousand years ago, they settled in an area corresponding to Israel, Saudi-Arabia and Jordan. Their awe-inspiring capital arose at the desert edge: Petra.

Petra. Wonder in the Desert at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden
Lmestone winged sphinx found near the Temenos Gate, 1st century BC–1st century AD
[Credit: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden]
Desert Capital

In antiquity, Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans, who were nomadic in origin. Around two thousand years ago, they settled in an area corresponding to present-day southern Jordan, southern Israel and northern Saudi-Arabia. Their awe-inspiring capital arose at the desert edge: Petra.
Trade hub and metropolis

Petra quickly became one of the major hubs on the trade routes of the Near East. Here, the cultures and products of the Western world, the Far East and the Near East met. Through trade in incense and spices, the Nabataeans acquired great wealth. Around the beginning of the Christian era, Petra became a flourishing metropolis characterised by its temple facades, elaborate villas and monumental buildings hewn from the red desert rock.

Destination

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Rooms :
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Adult(s)

The Nabataeans were excellent engineers. They succeeded in providing their desert city with fresh drinking water by means of an ingenious system of canals. In 106 AD Petra was conquered by the Romans. After two devastating earthquakes in 363 and 551 the city lost its supremacy. From that time on, the trade route was overseas. After the Arab conquest in 663, Petra was abandoned and forgotten. It was not until 1812 that its ruins were discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Burckhardt´s information was based on the maps of Dutchman Adriaan Reland.

Petra rediscovered

In 1812 Petra was rediscovered by Swiss explorer and orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Ever since, Petra has inspired countless travellers, scholars, artists and adventurers. Nowadays the city is visited by around 700.000 tourists every year. In 1985 Petra received UNESCO World Heritage status.

Source: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden [October 17, 2013]

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