Petra, in western Jordan, was built in the first century BCE by the Nabateans, who made it the capital of a prosperous mercantile empire. The city remained well preserved largely because it was forgotten. Petra fell into decline following earthquakes in the fourth and sixth centuries CE and was not even on Western maps until it was rediscovered in 1812. Nowadays, Petra once again bustles with human activity. Tourists began flocking there in greater numbers after it was featured in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Today, as then, visitors approach the city through the Siq, a twisting gorge so narrow in some places that only two camels can pass at a time. Suddenly visitors behold a stunning metropolis carved from sandstone; One of the first sights is the Treasury, Petra’s most recognizable building. After the Treasury, the rocks open out into the plain and the site of the city is revealed with striking effect.