Petra was established by the Nabateans, acting as an important stop on the caravan trading crossroad between Asia, Arabia and Europe. The city was once home to an estimated 30,000 people, but after the necessity of caravan routes began to fade with the increase of sea travel, and an earthquake destroyed many of the buildings, Petra was abandoned. The only visitors to the site for hundreds of years were nomadic Bedouin tribes, and the ruins soon became nothing more than rumour to the outside world.
However in 1812, after hearing the rumours of an ancient city hidden within the depths of Jordan, Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt decided to investigate. Disguised as an Arab scholar, and already fluent in Arabic, Burckhardt devised a ruse, claiming he had vowed to make a sacrifice at the resting place of the Prophet Haroun, which was said to be in the ancient city. This was enough to secure him a local guide, and so Burckhardt was able to enter Petra, where he was astonished by the ruins and dramatic scenery. However his ruse was uncovered, and so Burckhardt was forced to make a rather swift exit, with official excavations of Petra only starting over a century later.
Whilst the entirety of the Petra site is extraordinary, the most well-known sites are the Siq, the winding canyon featured in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade', The Treasury, which is the first historical building within the site, and The Monastery, a huge carved temple reached by 800 steps.