On top of giving you immersive digital tours of thousands of artifacts from museums around the world, Google has decided to cut out the middleman (read: gallery) and take you straight to the source if you're jonesing for something a little more cultural and a little more ancient: the company's Web-mapping service is letting users check out some of the ancient wonders of the world that are specifically located in the country of Jordan. It turns out that the Middle Eastern country has a lot of them.
Perhaps one of the more striking highlights of Google Street View's latest interactive online jaunt is the ancient city of Petra, considered the "seventh wonder of the new world" by Smithsonian Magazine. The size of the expanse of lower Manhattan, Petra is known for its monolithic, wondrous cliffs, which make up the infrastructure for the metropolis itself: the entire city is actually carved into the rock faces, accompanied by intricate designs, astonishing architecture and breathtaking terrain in its mix of the urbane and the natural.
Petra, located 240 miles south of Amman, Jordan's capital, and 98 km east of the Israeli city of Eilat, Petra was once the locus of the Nabatean empire, an Arabic people who dwelled in northern Arabia and the Southern Levant from right before the Common Era until around the 7th century. Petra itself acted as the main trading center for the Nabatean Arabs, who were widely known for their fine, artisan ceramics and their seafaring commercial ventures. Nicknamed the Rose City, Petra enjoyed a long period of prosperity from the 1st century CE — even under a period of Roman rule — until it was destroyed by an earthquake decimated the trading nexus, cutting off all points of entry into the Levantian hub.
By the 7th century, Petra was more or less abandoned — with the exception of its use as a temporary homestead for Bedouins in the area — until Swiss explorer Johannes Burckhardt disguised himself as a local and convinced a Jordanian guide to sneak him into the site in 1812, and from there, claimed to have "re-discovered" the ancient city, bringing Petra worldwide attention (fun fact: Petra was also featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).
Petra, of course, isn't the only historical site in Jordan that's getting the Google View treatment: users can take digital tours of over 30 significant landmarks, including Mount Nebo, Jerash and the infamous river Jordan.
"Not only does it connect millions of people from all corners of the world, it provides a lens on the past," said Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan about the intensive Street View add-ons in a press released issued by Google. "And when we understand more about each other's stories and cultures and histories, we realize that we are more alike than we are different.
"That's why we must preserve these treasures for future generations. They're a doorway to our shared narrative," she concluded.
You can explore the ancient city of Petra with Jordan's Queen Rania with help from Google Street Maps in the video clip below.