Few places on earth have captivated humanity as much as the ethereal city of Petra, which is located in present-day Jordan. Constructed by the Nabataeans–ancient traders who dominated the export of frankincense, myrrh, balsam, and spices from Arabia to the Greco-Roman world–Petra was a beautiful desert metropolis of theaters, temples, palaces, and immense markets. ‘Rediscovered’ in 1812 by an eccentric Swiss adventurer, Johan Ludwig Burckhardt, Petra is the focus of a new show at the Antikenmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Opened last fall by HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, Petra: Wonder in the Desert. In the Footsteps of J. L. Burckhardt alias “Sheikh Ibrahim,” showcases nearly 150 artifacts, demonstrating the power, prestige, and sophistication of one of Antiquity’s most alluring cities.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia converses with Mr. Laurent Gorgerat, a Co-Curator of the exhibition, and learns how a mysterious kingdom of former nomads created a luxurious, urban oasis in an inhospitable climate.