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Petra Ancient city in what is now sw Jordan. It was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom from the 4th century bc. It was captured by the Romans in the 2nd century ad. The city, which was rediscovered in 1812 and is the scene of extensive excavation, can be reached only through narrow gorges. Many of its remarkable, ruined houses, temples, theatres and tombs were cut from the high, pinkish sandstone cliffs that protected it.