Who were the Nabataeans?
Imagine what would happen if a bunch of wheeler-dealer nomads, with some seriously incredible ideas about hydraulics, decided to create a capital city amid a hidden canyon to protect and run their spice trading empire from.
Think about the work it must have taken to chisel 40m-high facades into sheer stone and the engineering wizardry of the channel system of terracotta pipes that brought water into the city.
Remember that what you see today is just the monuments, temples and tombs that have withstood 2000 years. This was once a living, breathing empire’s capital that managed to maintain its independence even as the might of the Roman Empire gobbled up the Middle East.
That was who the Nabataeans were.
For more information on visiting Petra you can read my recent story on hiking Petra’s Bedouin back trails for BBC Travel.