Royal Tombs

The King's Wall at Petra

North of the Khazneh lies the massif of Jebel Khubtha. Three large structures known as the Royal Tombs have been carved into the rock face, which is called the King's Wall. It is unclear which kings are referred to, or whether this is simply another popular name with no basis in historical fact.

The first tomb in line is the Urn Tomb, a well-preserved monument that faces out over an open terrace fronted by a double row of vaults. A colonnaded cloister runs along the northern side of the terrace. The elaborate facade fronts a single, unadorned room, this one measuring nearly 20 metres on each side. The walls of the room are smooth, the interior corners exact. The only decoration to be seen at present comes from the beautiful whorls of different-coloured sandstone in the walls, ceiling and floor of the chamber

After some smaller tombs, the next major structure is the badly-weathered Corinthian Tomb, which resembles a smaller version of the Khazneh, followed by the Palace Tomb which was built in imitation of a Roman palace. The facade of this tomb is also badly weathered, and the rooms behind are small and undecorated.

Some distance away from the Royal Tombs, to the north, there is one more tomb, which was built in AD 130 for the Roman governor of the city under Hadrian, the Tomb of Sextius Florentinus. This is a much more modest affair, a 6 metre facade in front of a small chamber in which the administrator was presumably buried. The facade is badly weathered, but the patterns in the exposed sandstone are striking.

Further north still, the rock walls of the Jebel Khubtha rise above the sandy scrub of the Wadi al-Mataha. During the Byzantine occupation of the city, defensive walls were built across the valley, and some excavation and reconstruction work is currently taking place, but little can be seen of the walls themselves. To the south-east lies the city center.

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