The city was the capital of the Nabateans, Arabs who dominated the land during pre-Roman period of Jordan. They carved this wonderland of temples, tombs and elaborate buildings out of solid rock. The Victorian traveler and poet, Dean Burgon gave Petra a description, which holds to this day, "Match me such a marvel save in Eastern clime, a rose-red city half as old as time." Yet words can hardly do justice to the magnificence which is Petra. In order to best savor the atmosphere of this ancient wonder, visit Petra in the quiet of the early morning, or late afternoon, when the sandstone rock glows red with quiet grandeur.
For centuries, Petra fell into the mists of legend, its existence, a guarded secret known only to the local Bedouins and Arab tradesmen. In 1812, a young Swiss explorer who converted to Islam, named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt heard locals speaking of a "lost city" hidden in the mountains of Wadi Musa. In order to find the site without arousing local suspicions, Burckhardt disguised himself as a pilgrim seeking to make a sacrifice at the tomb of Aaron, a mission which would provide him a glimpse of the legendary city. He managed to bluff his way through successfully, and the secret of Petra was revealed to the modern Western world.