Source: UNESCO website:
Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabataean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.
Outstanding Universal Value
Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and inhabited since prehistoric times, the rock-cut capital city of the Nabateans, became during Hellenistic and Roman times a major caravan centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India, a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. An ingenious water management system allowed extensive settlement of an essentially arid area during the Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine periods. It is one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites set in a dominating red sandstone landscape.
The Outstanding Universal Value of Petra resides in the vast extent of elaborate tomb and temple architecture; religious high places; the remnant channels, tunnels and diversion dams that combined with a vast network of cisterns and reservoirs which controlled and conserved seasonal rains, and the extensive archaeological remains including of copper mining, temples, churches and other public buildings. The fusion of Hellenistic architectural facades with traditional Nabataean rock-cut temple/tombs including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Deir (“monastery”) represents a unique artistic achievement and an outstanding architectural ensemble of the first centuries BC to AD. The varied archaeological remains and architectural monuments from prehistoric times to the medieval periods bear exceptional testimony to the now lost civilisations which succeeded each other at the site.
Criterion (i): The dramatic Nabataean/Hellenistic rock-cut temple/tombs approached via a natural winding rocky cleft (the Siq), which is the main entrance from the east to a once extensive trading city, represent a unique artistic achievement. They are masterpieces of a lost city that has fascinated visitors since the early 19th century. The entrance approach and the settlement itself were made possible by the creative genius of the extensive water distribution and storage system.
Criterion (iii): The serried rows of numerous rock-cut tombs reflecting architectural influences from the Assyrians through to monumental Hellenistic; the sacrificial and other religious high places including on Jebels Madbah, M’eisrah, Khubtha, Habis and Al Madras; the remains of the extensive water engineering system, city walls and freestanding temples; garden terraces; funerary stelae and inscriptions together with the outlying caravan staging posts on the approaches from the north (Barid or Little Petra) and south (Sabra) also containing tombs, temples, water cisterns and reservoirs are an outstanding testament to the now lost Nabataean civilization of the fourth century BC to the first century AD.
Remains of the Neolithic settlement at Beidha, the Iron Age settlement on Umm al Biyara, the Chalcolithic mining sites at Umm al Amad, the remains of Graeco-Roman civic planning including the colonnaded street, triple-arched entrance gate, theatre, Nymphaeum and baths; Byzantine remains including the triple-apses basilica church and the church created in the Urn Tomb; the remnant Crusader fortresses of Habis and Wueira; and the foundation of the mosque on Jebel Haroun, traditionally the burial place of the Prophet Aaron, all bear exceptional testimony to past civilizations in the Petra area.
Criterion (iv): The architectural ensemble comprising the so-called “royal tombs” in Petra (including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb and the Corinthian Tomb), and the Deir (“monastery”) demonstrate an outstanding fusion of Hellenistic architecture with Eastern tradition, marking a significant meeting of East and West at the turn of the first millennium of our era.
The Umm al Amad copper mines and underground galleries are an outstanding example of mining structures dating from the fourth millennium BC.
The remnants of the diversion dam, Muthlim tunnel, water channels, aqueducts, reservoirs and cisterns are an outstanding example of water engineering dating from the first centuries BC to AD.
All the main freestanding and rock-cut monuments and extensive archaeological remains within the arid landscape of red sandstone cliffs and gorges lie within the boundaries of the property that coincide with the boundaries of the Petra National Park. The monuments are subject to ongoing erosion due to wind and rain, exacerbated in the past by windblown sand due to grazing animals reducing ground cover. The resettlement more than twenty years ago of the Bdul (Bedouin) tribe and their livestock away from their former seasonal dwellings in the Petra basin to a new village at Umm Sayhun was aimed in part at arresting this process.
They are also vulnerable to flash flooding along Wadi Musa through the winding gorge (Siq) if the Nabataean diversion system is not continually monitored, repaired and maintained.
The property is under pressure from tourism, which has increased greatly since the time of inscription, particularly congestion points such as the Siq which is the main entrance to the city from the east.
The property is also vulnerable to the infrastructure needs of local communities and tourists. A new sewerage treatment plant has been provided within the property to the north with the recycled water being used for an adjacent drip irrigation farming project. Further infrastructure development proposed inside the boundary includes electricity supply and substation, a community/visitor centre, an outdoor theatre for community events, picnic areas, camping ground and a new restaurant near the Qasr al Bint temple, all of which have the potential to impact on the integrity of the property.