Petra (from "petra", rock in Greek; Arabic: al-Bitra) is an archaeological site in Jordan, lying in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Wadi Araba, the great valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is famous for having many stone structures carved into the rock.
The descriptions of Strabo, Pliny the Elder, and other writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans , Arabic speaking Semetics, and the centre of their caravan trade. Walled in by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf.
Recent excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabateans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, in effect, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabateans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. Thus, stored water could be employed even during prolonged periods of drought, and the city prospered from the sale of same.
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